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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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(screen play), (screen play) | 1 more credit »
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Nominated for 3 Oscars. Another 2 wins. 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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Bim
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Hunky (as Bernard Punsley)
Joe Downing ...
Steve
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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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Approved | See all certifications »

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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

Rowland Brown's story was revised a number times by John Wexley and Warren Duff. They provided "powerful treatments", but as with many of the "catch-as-catch-can" pictures of the time, the screenplay was "insubstantial". James Cagney later recalled: "the actors had to patch up [the script] here and there by improvising right on the set". See more »

Goofs

During the course of the final shootout, the pattern of broken glass changes. 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

Referenced in Who Wants to Be a Millionaire: Episode #8.125 (2010) See more »

Soundtracks

Shuffle Off to Buffalo
(1932) (uncredited)
Music by Harry Warren
Played at the beginning of the pool room scene
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Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

 
Say A Prayer For A Kid Who Couldn't Run As Fast
2 June 2006 | by 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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