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Angels with Dirty Faces (1938)

Approved | | Crime, Drama, Film-Noir | 26 November 1938 (USA)
A priest tries to stop a gangster from corrupting a group of street kids.

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Nominated for 3 Oscars. Another 1 win. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
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The 'Dead End' Kids
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Swing
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Bim
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Pasty
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Crab
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Hunky (as Bernard Punsley)
Joe Downing ...
Steve
Edward Pawley ...
Edwards
Adrian Morris ...
Blackie
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Storyline

Two boyhood friends, Rocky Sullivan and Jerry Connolly have taken different paths in life. After Rocky is arrested he is sent to a juvenile facility and becomes a lifelong tough guy and criminal. Jerry on the other hand goes straight and becomes a Catholic priest ministering to people in the same neighborhood when he and Rocky grew up. When Rocky is released from prison he resumes his criminal lifestyle and becomes much admired by many of the local kids. Worried that the kids will follow Rocky into the criminal world, Jerry works hard to keep them on the straight and narrow. When Rocky is convicted and sentenced to the electric chair, Jerry asks him for one last favor. Written by garykmcd

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A Big Time Cast in a Big City Drama Destined to be the Biggest Hit in Years! See more »


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Release Date:

26 November 1938 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Battle of City Hall  »

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1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

This was the first of three movies James Cagney made with Humphrey Bogart. See more »

Goofs

When Father visits Rocky in prison, a chair for him to sit appears out of nowhere. See more »

Quotes

[first lines]
Jerry, As a Boy: Bulls eye!
William 'Rocky' Sullivan, as a boy: It's as dead as a door nail around here.
Jerry, As a Boy: Yeah.
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Soundtracks

In My Merry Oldsmobile
(1905) (uncredited)
Music by Gus Edwards
Lyrics by Vincent Bryan
Revised version sung a cappella by James Cagney and Pat O'Brien
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User Reviews

 
Post Production Code Gangster Classic!
12 February 2005 | by (Ottawa, Ontario, Canada) – See all my reviews

"Angels With Dirty Faces" was James Cagney's first film for Warner Bros. following his two year contract dispute. During that time he appeared in two films for the poverty row studio Grand National. With a few concessions to The Production Code (introduced in 1934) it is nonetheless one of the great all time gangster films. The touch of legendary director Michael Curtiz is evident throughout.

The story begins in the 1920s with two boyhood pals "Rocky" Sullivan (Frankie Burke) and Jerry Connelly (William Tracy) in the Hell's Kitchen Neighborhood of New York. Rocky gets arrested by the police and is sent to the reformatory after a botched break in while Jerry escapes. While in prison, Rocky learns the evils of gangsterism from within and forges a life of crime and growing up to be James Cagney. Meanwhile Jerry has become a priest in the Pierson of Pat O'Brien.

Rocky returns to the old neighborhood and becomes involved with a group of teenagers (The Dead End Kids) who are headed in the same direction as Rocky. Fr. Jerry prevails upon Rocky to help him straighten the boys out before its too late. Rocky also meets up with a girl from his childhood, Laury Ferguson (Ann Sheridan).

Meanwhile we learn that Rocky has served three years in jail to protect his former partner and lawyer Jim Frazier (Humphrey Bogart). He has also entrusted Frazier with $100,000 from an earlier caper. Rocky goes to Frazier to demand his money and learns that Frazier is now involved with crime boss Mac Keefer (George Bancroft) and that they plan to cheat him out of his money. Hey, nobody double crosses Rocky.

Cagney is typical Cagney, bold, brash and cocky as Rocky. O'Brien as the Irish priest was a role he was born to play. Sheridan looks lovely but has little to do. Bogart, who was still 3 years away from major stardom, does well as the yellow back stabbing lawyer. The Dead End Kids - Billy Halop, Bobby Jordan, Leo Gorcey, Huntz Hall, Gabriel Dell, Bernard Punsley) would move to a "B" series (without Hallop) after their Warner contract expired in 1939. The performances of Frankie Burke in particular and William Tracy as the young Rocky and Jerry are excellent.

"Angels With Dirty Faces" is probably best remembered for its ending. don't miss it.


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