Hamline News

Historic Movie Event, November 18

Gangsterland Documentary Main 2

Hamline invites event-goers to the Gangsterland Movie Event, a night of music, dancing, and film screening of the documentary-style movie Gangsterland that will transport them back to the intriguing and controversial history of 1930s era Saint Paul. The event takes place Friday, November 18. Everyone is welcome.

The Gangsterland film recreates Saint Paul as it was in the 1930s, when police allowed criminals to find refuge on the condition that they didn’t commit any crimes within the city limits. The film explores how these gangsters turned to crime, in part, as a reaction to the nation’s economic difficulties during the Depression and people’s distrust of the banks and the government.

“Prohibition was conceived by a Minnesota congressman and only added to the woes of Americans during this time of record unemployment and criminal activity,” Gangsterland producer and director Bick Smith said. “Saint Paul was at the heart of the gangster era, as it was a city that allowed criminals in and helped to keep them safe from the FBI.”

To transport the audience to this bygone era, the Hamline Jazz Ensemble, directed by John Koziol, will perform a selection of historic pieces before and after the film screening. Also following the screening, Smith, his wife and local historian Cynthia Schreiner Smith, and other members of the Gangsterland cast of film actors will host a post-show discussion to answer questions about the making of the movie and its historical context. This time period has been a passion for the Smiths who have conducted countless hours of research on the topic and worked as historical tour guides for Down in History Tours in Saint Paul.

“There are many books written by experts, enthusiasts, and even the gangsters themselves. There is also a collection of documentaries about gangsters, but until now, none of them attempt to capture the personalities of these criminals,” Smith said. "Gangsterland offers the true history of Minnesota's most infamous during the Depression, told by the criminals themselves, such as Alvin Karpis, John Dillinger, Edna Murray, and Ma Barker's boys.”

A night in the 1930s wouldn’t be complete without dancing. Following the film’s post-show discussion, the Hamline Swing Dance Club will hold its annual fall dance. Even those with two left feet will be able to enjoy the music and dancing by taking part in the free dance lesson before the event.

The Gangsterland screening, jazz ensemble performance, and post-show discussion will take place on Friday, November 18 at from 7-8:15 p.m. in the Kay Fredericks Room, Klas Center.

The Hamline Swing Club’s annual dance will start with a free dance lesson at 8:30 p.m. in the Bush Student Center Ballroom.

The film screening is free for Hamline students (bring your ID!) and $10 for all others (part of the proceeds will be donated to the Saint Paul Police Historical Society). The dance is free for anyone with a Hamline ID and $2 for all others.