The famed genre of the 1930s gangster film left a strong mark on pop culture. Much like the western, it’s a uniquely American genre that’s entwined with both actual history and mythologizing. We all know its tropes: the shootouts, the booze smuggling, the style, the slang. And we know its classics: Little Caesar (1930), The Public Enemy (1931), The Petrified Forest (1936), Angels With Dirty Faces (1938).

But, like practically every trope in cinema, it all had its roots in the silent era, starting with simple police chase films, popular crime serials, short Biograph dramas, and eventually resulting in genre-defining works like Underworld (1927).

This February, Silent-ology will be taking a look at the earliest days of the gangster genre, from its vague origins in general “crime films” to its confident emergence at the beginning of the Great Depression. We’ll be looking at a few key films and personalities, and try to understand just where all the slang and natty suits came from.

I’ll be covering Silent-ology’s 9th (!) anniversary on February 2nd and then the series will begin. Please tune in as often as you like throughout the next month to see what’s new!

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