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The Guilty Generation (1931)

Approved | | Crime, Drama, Romance | 19 November 1931 (USA)
A Romeo and Juliet love story between the son of a brutal Italian bootlegger and the daughter of his bitter ex-partner, who is engaged in a blood feud with his one-time friend.


Rowland V. Lee


Jo Milward (from the play by), J. Kirby Hawks (from the play by) | 1 more credit »


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Complete credited cast:
Leo Carrillo ... Mike Palmero
Constance Cummings ... Maria Palmero
Robert Young ... Marco Ricca
Leslie Fenton ... Joe Palmero
Boris Karloff ... Tony Ricca
Emma Dunn ... Nina Palmero
James Wilcox James Wilcox ... Don Morley (as Jimmy Wilcox)
Elliott Rothe Elliott Rothe ... Benedicto Ricca
Phil Tead ... Skid
Fred Howard Fred Howard ... Bradley (as Frederick Howard)
Eddie Boland Eddie Boland ... Willie
William H. O'Brien ... Victor - Mike's Butler
Ruth Warren Ruth Warren ... Nellie Weaver


John Smith is a young architect who changed his name from Marco Ricca when he realized that being a notorious bootlegger's son was not likely to help his career. Maria Palmiero's father is also a bootlegger, and she's finding that the high society circles she wants to move in are not very welcoming to her. Naturally, John and Maria's fathers are waging a brutal gang war back in New York, and naturally John and Maria fall in love. The premise mirrors that of "Romeo and Juliet," but the plot doesn't, although the bodies do pile up. Written by Cameron Majidi <cmaj@prolifics.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Crime | Drama | Romance


Approved | See all certifications »





English | Italian

Release Date:

19 November 1931 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

A Culpa dos Pais See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Columbia Pictures See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.20 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


The play was copyrighted as "The Windy City" on 24 September 1928. No major performances are known. See more »


Mike Palmero: What these other girls got that Maria hasn't got?
Nellie Weaver: Respectable fathers. You think you can put Maria over like... tooth paste or chewing gum. You know, being your daughter is no cinch. I wouldn't want the job.
Mike Palmero: I don't wanta be your father either.
Nellie Weaver: Having me around is giving you a sense of humor, Mike.
Mike Palmero: Oh, yeah?
See more »


Referenced in Public Enemies: The Golden Age of the Gangster Film (2008) See more »


Pop Goes the Weasel
English nursery rhyme/folk song
[Played by party band]
See more »

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User Reviews

Now that's some odd casting...
9 May 2010 | by MartinHaferSee all my reviews

So, let's pretend you are a Hollywood producer back in 1931 and you are planning on making a movie about mobsters--Italian mobsters to be precise. So, for the roles of mobsters and family members of the Ricca and Palmero family, who would you pick? Well, unless you were insane, you probably wouldn't pick the British Boris Karloff, Hispanic-American Leo Carrillo or the Waspy Constance Cummings or Robert Young. And, oddly, these are exactly the actors chosen for this film that is a bit like "Little Caesar" and "Romeo & Juliet" merged into one. The only one in the cast that came off as Italian was the English actress Emma Dunn--now SHE seemed like she was cast well as she sounded Italian and was quite effective. Now I am NOT saying that the others were bad--they just didn't seem very Italian.

The film begins with nice-guy Young getting a surprise visit from his dad (Karloff). It seems Karloff is hurt because his architect son has changed his name and wants nothing to do with the family business of killing people and selling bathtub booze. But, despite his charming personality, Young is determined to make it on his own and tells his father to leave.

A bit later, the film shifts to another unhappy child of a different gangster. It seems that Constance wants to be accepted by high society but her thug brother and father (Carrillo) make it really tough. When she throws a fancy party, the brother starts acting tough by throwing people into the pool. When Young stops him, the brother is about to shoot him! Nice family, huh?! Well, it seems that Young knew Cummings when they were kids. This, combined with their angst about their mob families makes their falling in love natural...except the two fathers are rivals bent on killing each other as well as wiping out the other's family! As a result, the Romeo & Juliet angle enters into this fateful romance.

Overall, this is a low-budget but entertaining film from Columbia. It's well worth seeing and a nice reworking of Shakespeare--minus all the olde tyme dialog. However, for fans of Karloff, be forewarned that he's really not in the film that much and I assume he was billed as high as he was due to his recent appearance in "Frankenstein". Regardless, it's a tough little film that I enjoyed.

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