Angels with Dirty Faces (1938)

Approved  |   |  Crime, Drama, Film-Noir  |  26 November 1938 (USA)
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Ratings: 8.0/10 from 15,243 users  
Reviews: 128 user | 39 critic

A priest tries to stop a gangster from corrupting a group of street kids.



(screen play), (screen play), 3 more credits »
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Nominated for 3 Oscars. Another 1 win. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
The 'Dead End' Kids
Billy Halop ...
Bobby Jordan ...
Gabriel Dell ...
Huntz Hall ...
Bernard Punsly ...
Hunky (as Bernard Punsley)
Joe Downing ...
Edward Pawley ...
Adrian Morris ...


Rocky Sullivan and Jerry Connolly were tough kids who grew up together in the toughest part of New York --- Hell's Kitchen. Early on, Rocky gets sent to reform school, where he learns how to be a first class criminal. Jerry, who had escaped from the law, goes straight and becomes a priest. As adults, they reunite in the old neighborhood: Jerry works with the kids who, like he and Rocky, could end up on either side of the law. Rocky has returned looking for a safe place to stay till he can get back into his old racketeering organization -- something that his old partner isn't anxious to have happen. Lots of rapid fire wisecracks, roughhousing and gunfire ensues. Written by A.L.Beneteau <>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


The saga of America's dirty faced kids... And the breaks that life won't give them! See more »


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Parents Guide:





Release Date:

26 November 1938 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Battle of City Hall  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?


Some segments of this movie were remade and modified for the feature film Home Alone (1990) and its sequel. In the two movies, Kevin watches them as "Angels with Filthy Souls" and "Angels with Even Filthier Souls". See more »


Towards the end of the film, during the scene where Rocky is shooting it out with the police in the warehouse, watch the "concrete" pillar Rocky has taken cover behind. Seconds before a bullet impact appears on the pillar, a close up reveals a slight round indentation surrounded by a lighter coloring of paint, exactly where the bullet squib, which has been embedded in the pillar, explodes moments later. An immediate cut to Rocky's reaction has him bumping the pillar with his hands, at which point the entire "concrete" pillar wobbles slightly. See more »


[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.
See more »


Referenced in NCIS: Nature of the Beast (2011) See more »


From Me to You
Written by Fabian Andre, Wayne King and Nat Conney
Played from when Bim sinks the 3-ball in the corner to the end of the pool room scene
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

An absolute classic
3 January 2005 | by (Beverley Hills, England) – See all my reviews

Michael Curtiz has made some great films, yet the only one that tends to be well received among film fans is his contender for the best movie ever made - obviously Casablanca (and Robin Hood, to a lesser extent). However, the man has a wealth of other influential classics under his belt that don't tend to get the recognition that they deserve, and Angels With Dirty Faces is one of those films. To sum the film up easily, one would say that it is a crime drama. However; like the best crime dramas, this one has multiple themes that elevate it from being merely a film about crime, to being a character study, a portrait of what it is that makes a hero and a condemnation of criminals on the whole. The story follows Rocky Sullivan and Jerry Connolly; two young New York thugs, the former of which is caught by the police and sent to a reform school, where, ironically, he learns to be a criminal. The latter escapes punishment and goes on to become a priest. The story follows these two men as they meet up as adults and have an effect on the lives of the kids of their old neighbourhood.

The focus of the film is always centred on the neighbourhood. This allows Curtiz to show us the effects that Rocky's criminal endeavours have on the kids of the neighbourhood more effectively. This sort of narrative would be employed in later films, such as the critically acclaimed 'City of God', and works well here too. The way the film shows how impressionable young kids can be influenced by adults works brilliantly, and Curtiz is able to continue this theme up until the powerful ending. James Cagney would later go on to achieve major fame in the incredible 'White Heat', but here he shows us what the quintessential New York gangster would be like. His performance, in short, is incredible and easily ranks among the best gangster roles of all time. The rest of the cast do well in their roles, with distinct New York accents helping to firmly place the audience in the city that the film is taking place in. Furthermore, the film is economic in the way it's plotted and it's also very exciting, and therefore guaranteed to delight it's audience.

Angels With Dirty Faces is an absolute cinema classic and quite why it isn't more famous is anyone's guess. Although not quite as good as Casablanca, this is a major notch in Michael Curtiz's filmography and I wouldn't have any qualms with recommending this to film fans at all.

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