Never one to hide his talent under a bushel basket, director Rouben Mamoulien proudly proclaimed that, while there were ten killings in his 1931 gangster drama City Streets, the audience never sees any of them. This was not the only innovation in this fascinating early talkie, in which straight-arrow movie hero Gary Cooper is cast as a racketeer known only as The Kid. He has chosen a life of crime out of love for Nan (Sylvia Sidney), the daughter of mob henchman Pop Cooley (Guy Kibbee). Eventually railroaded into prison by her crooked cohorts, Nan implores The Kid to give up the rackets, but he refuses. Things go downhill very rapidly after that, culminating with The Kid and Nan being taken "for a ride" by rival thugs. Cast in a role originally intended for Clara Bow, Sylvia Sidney does a magnificent job and was soon typecast as a downtrodden Depression victim, born with two strikes against her. Conversely, Gary Cooper never again played anything quite like "The Kid."
by Hal Erickson synopsis