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Angels with Dirty Faces (1938)

Approved  |   |  Crime, Drama, Film-Noir  |  26 November 1938 (USA)
8.0
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Ratings: 8.0/10 from 14,935 users  
Reviews: 127 user | 39 critic

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

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(screen play), (screen play), 3 more credits »
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Title: Angels with Dirty Faces (1938)

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

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
...
...
...
...
George Bancroft ...
The 'Dead End' Kids
Billy Halop ...
Bobby Jordan ...
Swing
Leo Gorcey ...
Bim
Gabriel Dell ...
Pasty
Huntz Hall ...
Crab
Bernard Punsly ...
Hunky (as Bernard Punsley)
Joe Downing ...
Steve
Edward Pawley ...
Edwards
Adrian Morris ...
Blackie
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Storyline

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 <albl@inforamp.net>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

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


Certificate:

Approved | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

 »
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Details

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

26 November 1938 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Battle of City Hall  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

 »
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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

To play Rocky, James Cagney drew on his memories of growing up in New York's Yorkville, a tough ethnic neighborhood on the upper east side, just south of Spanish Harlem.. His main inspiration was a drug-addicted pimp who stood on a street corner all day hitching his trousers, twitching his neck, and repeating, "Whadda ya hear! Whadda ya say!" Those mannerisms came back to haunt Cagney. He later wrote in his autobiography, "I did those gestures maybe six times in the picture. That was over thirty years ago - and the impressionists have been doing me doing him ever since." See more »

Goofs

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 »

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.
See more »

Connections

Featured in The Business End: Violence in Cinema (2008) See more »

Soundtracks

The Sidewalks of New York
(1894) (uncredited)
Music by Charles Lawlor
Played by the organ grinder during the opening panorama
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

 
Say A Prayer For A Kid Who Couldn't Run As Fast
2 June 2006 | by (Buffalo, New York) – See all my reviews

Angels With Dirty Faces is a milestone film for the careers of both James Cagney and Pat O'Brien. Up to now they had been successfully teamed by Warner Brothers in a whole series of buddy films. In fact it is my contention that they popularized that particular genre. Here they are childhood friends, but as adults, adversaries due to the course in life they took.

Cagney came off suspension from Warner Brothers and agreed to do this film as his comeback of sorts. At first glance it seems just like another gangster flick, just what Cagney had been trying to get away from. But by force of personality and a superior script, Cagney turned the role of Rocky Sullivan into a classic and got his first Academy Award nomination.

As for O'Brien, this was his first clerical role. Usually O'Brien is the fast talking manager, press agent,etc. When playing a priest Pat O'Brien slows the pace of the dialog down to a crawl and it works. He greatly expanded his range here and there were many other classic clerical roles to come.

Cagney's a notorious gangster who's just been let out of prison after a three year stretch, taking a fall for his crooked attorney, Humphrey Bogart. Bogart was supposed to guard his $100,000.00 Cagney had squirreled away from illegal activities in the Twenties. Bogart's got a new partner now in George Bancroft and neither of them wants to cut Cagney in on anything.

Let's just say that Cagney in the usual Cagney fashion makes both of them wish they'd played it on the square.

Father O'Brien's concern is that notorious criminal Cagney is becoming a hero to some of the neighborhood kids in his parish. But he also can't forget that the two of them had been boyhood pals and that Cagney's first brush with the law was over a petty crime that O'Brien was equally guilty of. This is shown in a small prologue with three players portraying, Cagney, O'Brien, and neighborhood girl Ann Sheridan as kids.

Young Frankie Burke is astounding in his portrayal of the young Cagney. He has him down perfectly, he becomes Cagney. Angels With Dirty Faces is worth watching for him alone.

Those other juvenile actors with Warner Brothers at the time, The Dead End Kids, play the kids from the parish who come to idolize and idealize Cagney. O'Brien has one tough time trying to make them see that Cagney's life is not the way to go in life.

Angels With Dirty Faces still has a powerful message for today and film aficionados should see it because of that and because it was a key turning point in the careers of James Cagney and Pat O'Brien.


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