Eugene Rosow makes the bald observation that ""Gangster movies recapitulate the events of American social history that produced them"" and proceeds not so much to substantiate as to decorate his thesis with analogies that are often specious or irrelevant--and only occasionally, as when they concern the movie industry, apt and well articulated. Most at ease with the evolution of the gangster-film genre from the 1912 Musketeers of Pig Alley through the classic 1932 Scarface, Rosow all but eschews aesthetic judgment to explore such broad themes as the shared cupidity of gangsters (actual and mythic), ""Robber Barons,"" various religious figures, and cinema tycoons at the beginning of the century. Solid plot descriptions and interesting trivia--the first allusion to ""gangster"" was in an 1896 newspaper article; armed robbery is the most popular movie gangster offense--are undermined by sweeping and often unfounded generalizations. For instance, ""Ultimately. . . the movie gangster, like the economic and social conditions that fostered gangster movies, is born to lose?"" And once the gangster film's peak (1934) has passed, the quality of both the genre (according to Rosow) and of the text quickly deteriorates, with only cursory observations apropos of the last 40 years.