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The Dead End Kids are introduced in their intricate East Side slum, overlooked by the apartments of the rich. Their antics, some funny, some vicious, alternate with subplots: unemployed architect Dave is torn between Drina, sweet but equally poor, and Kay, a rich man's mistress; gangster Baby Face Martin returns to his old neighborhood and finds that nobody is glad to see him. Then violent crime, both juvenile and adult, impacts the neighborhood and its people. Written by
Rod Crawford <email@example.com>
William Wyler originally wanted to film on location on the streets of New York, but producer Samuel Goldwyn insisted that it be made in the studio. Art director Richard Day was assigned to design the sets, and made one of the most convincing and elaborate sets in film history. See more »
In "Dead End" the nominal stars are Sylvia Sidney and Joel McCrea but it is the supporting players that steal the picture. Great performances are turned in by the Dead End Kids (Billy Halop, Huntz Hall, Bobby Jordan, Leo Gorcey, Bernard Punsley), Humphrey Bogart, Claire Trevor and Marjorie Main. It also benefits greatly from the direction of William Wyler who keeps the story moving and makes the characters interesting.
"Dead End" was originally produced on the Broadway stage. The Dead End Kids re-enact their Broadway roles. The story takes place on the banks of the East River in New York where posh apartment buildings co-habit the neighborhood with the tenement slums. The plot centers on the activities of the people of the neighborhood one summer's day.
Dave Connell (McCrea) is a struggling architect looking for his big break. Drina (Sidney) is a struggling shop clerk who is involved in a labor dispute and hopes one day to be able to leave the neighborhood. Gangster "Baby Face" Martin (Bogart) returns to his childhood haunts hoping to see his mother (Main) and hook up with his old girlfriend Francey (Trevor). Hanging around the wharf are a group of teenage toughs (The Dead End Kids) one of whom, Tommy (Halop) is the brother of Drina.
The boys taunt rich kid Philip Griswald (Charles Peck) and lure him down to the street. There he is beaten up by the boys. His father (Minor Watson) is highly influential man who insists on justice for his son. One of the boys, "Spit" squeals on his pal and Tommy is arrested after stabbing Mr. Griswald in the hand.
Meanwhile Martin goes to see his mother and is shocked when she slaps him and calls him a murderer. Martin's pal "Hunk" (Allen Jenkins) locates Francey and arranges for her to come meet "Baby Face". Martin is doubly shocked when he learns that his former love has pursued a career on the streets.
During an altercation with Dave over the influencing of the boys, Martin stabs him and throws him into the river, leaving him for dead. Martin then hatches a plot to kidnap the rich kid Philip Griswald. But Dave returns, confronts Martin and..............
This film is arguably Bogey's best film of the 1930s. Oddly enough, it was made on loan out to Samuel Goldwyn. His expressions of surprise and disgust after meeting with his mother and Francey are a treasure to watch. Trevor's performance, however brief, was moving enough to garner her a best supporting actress Oscar nomination. Marjorie Main also only appears briefly but evokes great sympathy in her role as the tragic Mrs. Martin.
The Dead End Kids to a man turn in what are the best performances in the film. They would go on to appear in a series of Warner Bros films in the next two years before moving into several "B" series in the 40s and 50s. Also, look for Ward Bond as the doorman to the rich apartment building and Don "Red" Barry as an abalones doctor.
An excellent film.
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