Claude Pierce is delighted to move in with his father, Jay Pierce, a struggling architect living in lower Manhattan, for the six months the divorce agreement of his parents specified. He's come at a particularly bad time for his classmate, Gig Stevens, whose father is to be executed that night for murder, so he's treated badly by Gig as well as Gig's pal, Buck Murphy, and their gang. But he takes boxing lessons and holds his own in a fight with the older and heavier Buck, so he is grudgingly accepted into the gang. Their chief interest is to get a proper tombstone for Gig's father, costing $80. When stealing and selling tires proves too slow, Claude suggests burglarizing some rich kid's home for his toys, and pawning them. Claude leads them to a house at night, where rich looking toys are found, stolen and pawned. However, a suspicious policeman has them brought before a judge where Claude eventually confesses they were his toys; he knew his mother was away and the house was ... Written by
Arthur Hausner <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Great opportunity to see three of the biggest child actors of the 1930s, at different stages in their careers. The 1930s started with Jackie Cooper on top; then, mid-decade, Freddie Bartholomew ruled; and, finally, Mickey Rooney reigned. This film was made during Mr. Bartholomew's peak of popularity.
After some promising scenes, it becomes obvious Bartholomew, Cooper, and Rooney are not being well served by the production. Some of their scenes appear rushed; at times, it looks as if they are rehearsing alongside each other, rather than acting together. Possibly, this is due to director W.S. Van Dyke being assigned to the film, after the firing of Rowland Brown. Mr. Van Dyke was known for his sometimes hurried direction. Still, the actors are professional, and earnest; and, some on-screen rapport is in evidence.
Rowland Brown's story is excellent - much more realistic than several similar 1930s "young hoodlum" dramas. Rooney gets the best part; and, naturally, he makes the most of it; scene stealers Bartholomew and Cooper wouldn't have missed a similar opportunity. This is one of Rooney's best-written, best-performed early roles; he is a terrific actor, and his portrayal of "Gig Stevens" should be more renown. Writer Brown, fired as the film's director, would go on to pen "Angels with Dirty Faces". With some more care, this film might have been as classic.
******* The Devil Is a Sissy (9/18/36) W.S. Van Dyke ~ Freddie Bartholomew, Jackie Cooper, Mickey Rooney, Peggy Conklin
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