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Angels with Dirty Faces
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Reviews & Ratings for
Angels with Dirty Faces More at IMDbPro »

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1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

A great film showing how delicate fate can be.

9/10
Author: ThMadman from Boston, MA
3 July 1999

A great film which has earned its place as a timeless classic, as it deals with one of the most timeless of subjects; the evolution of human character.

Where it is all too easy to work with the black and white concept of good vs. evil, this movie intensely covers all the shades of gray in between. It also very successfully portrays how seemingly insignificant events can bring about radical changes in a person's life. The lead characters, Gangster Rocky Sullivan and The Rev. Jerry Connolly, were performed brilliantly. Not your typical sinner and saint, these were "every-man" type characters with subtle and complex personalities. Overall, this movie is as entertaining as it is thought-provoking.

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1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

Yet Another Classic Cagney Flick

8/10
Author: noahax from Los Angeles
21 April 1999

This film definitely deserves its status as a classic. There are a few slow parts, such as a basketball scene that overstays its welcome by several minutes, but Cagney's great performance more than makes up for any flaws. The final moments are quite riveting.

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1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

amazing movie

7/10
Author: wolf-53 from Sackville, New Brunswick
5 April 1999

This is a great movie about crime, and how gangsters can become role models. The final scene is a classic. Great performances by James Cagney and Pat O'Brien.

10/10

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2 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

Why, you dirty rat!

6/10
Author: Robert J. Maxwell (rmax304823@yahoo.com) from Deming, New Mexico, USA
9 January 2008

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This isn't the best of the Warner Brothers' 1930s gangster movies but it's the clearest statement of the formula. It's got everything. It's like a Romanesque mosaic. Here's Jimmy Cagney as Rocky Sullivan, the ex-choir boy gangster who hitches up his pants and greets people with, "Whaddaya hear, whaddaya say?" His childhood pal is Pat O'Brian, now a priest living in the same neighborhood and trying to save the new generation of kids from turning into hoodlums. We have the Dead End Kids (or whatever they're called here) who think Cagney is a swell guy. Humphrey Bogart is Cagney's lawyer who swindles him out of his stash, then tries to have him killed when Cagney is released from jail. The familiar girl with the pig tails grows up to be Anne Sheridan, who has big, pretty eyes but no New York accent. (Neither does Pat O'Brian, from Wisconsin, but I've given him absolution.) After the final shoot out, with Cagney's foes dead and himself trapped in a tenement with tear gas coming through the windows, O'Brian shows up and takes the speaker. "Rocky, you've got to come out!" "Go on back to da choitch where ya belong, Fodder!" (I just made that line up, but there are a couple of similar ones in the scene.) Rocky is convicted and sentenced to death. But he's a tough guy and won't break down. The Dead End Kids mope over the headlines and promise themselves that Rocky will never turn yellow at the end. O'Brian gets word of this and tells Rocky that he holds the fate of these innocent kids in his hands. If he doesn't turn yellow as he's marched to the chair, the kids will turn into miscreants. If he shows he's frightened, his myth will die with him and the kids will all become champion polo players overnight.

Does Rocky develop a social conscience in his last moments and fake hysteria as he walks the last mile? Guess.

The thing is, this isn't anybody's best performance and it is no one's idea of the tightest script, yet you can gain a rather full grasp of what these genre movies were all about by watching this single movie, and not having to sit through half a dozen others. If that's what you want. This is like reading an abstract in a professional journal, except that it's fun to see it all laid out.

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2 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

A step below The Roaring Twenties but Cagney is superb

Author: JOHN_REID from Australia
28 August 2003

I was a little disappointed with Angels with Dirty Faces having expected something to equal The Roaring Twenties. Unfortunately this is not in the same league as the Raoul Walsh classic. Despite its flaws, Cagney is magnificent as always, the quintessential tough but lovable gangster with an underlying heart of gold. Whilst Cagney's performance as Rocky Sullivan is faultless, The Dead End Kids appeared to me as overstated, hammy caricatures and their performances bordered on annoying with a manufactured script that convinced me that the writer may have heard of, but never experienced, the tough side of Hells Kitchen. Nevertheless, there are some great moments and the climax is indeed memorable as Cagney is led the "the chair". The Father makes a final request to Rocky to fake cowardice so that the kids might reconsider their hero worship of him. There is some ambiguity about whether Rocky really was "yellow" in his final moments but to me there was no doubt that he was acting for the sake of the kids. The scene certainly has great impact first with the chilling image of Cagney's face, and then in shadows the sounds of his feigned terror in his last moments. I would question the plausibility of the Father asking for such an act of cowardice as Rocky is led to his death and I also wonder whether such a grand gesture at the point of death would have had its desired result. Ultimately, without the brilliance of Cagney, Angels with Dirty Faces may well have been dismissed as another typical and unremarkable gangster film.

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6 out of 12 people found the following review useful:

Silly but fun 30s nonsense.

5/10
Author: fedor8 from Serbia
2 January 2007

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

As typical of crime dramas of the 30s and 40s as they get. A lot of mugging and animated acting from Cagney & co. Dated, but still enjoyable, partly for its unintentionally amusing over-the-top acting. The plot gets occasionally silly, but the ending surpasses everything previous with its absurdity; O'Brien actually visits his old pal Cagney minutes before Cagney's execution to ask him for a favour! (Though I am sure he would have visited him anyway, but that's beside the point.) Cagney has minutes to live before he gets electrocuted and what does his brother the priest do? He asks Cagney for a favour! As if Cagney hasn't got enough on his mind as it is, what with his life coming to an end, that he should also be doing favours for other people. Minutes later, as the two walk slowly towards the chair, O'Brien asks him whether he changed his mind about the favour (Cagney didn't want to oblige at first) and Cagney say no; that scene is pure (unintentional) comedy. But Cagney does oblige at the end, and acts scared at execution time, just as the priest wanted; could it be that Cagney wasn't so noble after all and didn't change his mind, but instead acted like any sane person would when faced with the electric chair? Hmm. It seems throughout the movie that Cagney the crook was a far more loyal friend to O'Brien the priest than the other way around: a strange message to make. Cagney delivers his lines with his usual machine-gun-fire style. Bogey I like here better than in films where he played classical bad guys; his acting as a lawyer is more subtle, with none of the silliness that some other of his roles entailed. O'Brien only has one facial expression throughout the film: an angelic, puppy-dog, ultimate honest-person look, and with nothing but goodness and the best intentions. He is a caricature. Sheridan is cute but doesn't appear much. "Whatdoyouhear, whatdoyousay..."

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0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

Run, Cagney! Run!

7/10
Author: Lee Eisenberg (lee.eisenberg.pdx@gmail.com) from Portland, Oregon, USA
19 December 2009

In the 1930s, Warner Bros. released a series of gangster flicks, usually starring people like James Cagney, Edward G. Robinson, and a not-yet-famous Humphrey Bogart. Michael Curtiz's "Angels with Dirty Faces" is a prime example. Rocky Sullivan (Cagney) and Jerry Connolly (Pat O'Brien) are boyhood pals grown up who have taken two vastly dissimilar paths in life: Connolly has become a priest, while Sullivan - just out of jail - is continuing on his life of crime.

I should say that a lot of the movie comes across as mildly silly. Maybe it's the wisecracking by the Dead End Kids, or the fact that the street-smart wise-guy persona in WB movies inspired many of the studio's satirical cartoons during that era (just listen to Bugs Bunny's accent). It's just that if the people behind the camera intended the movie as a warning about delinquency, then I don't interpret it as such. Not to mention that the sight of the priest in the presence of the boys implies pedophilia.

Still, the movie remains an important part of cinema history, and I certainly recommend it. It's important to understand that, far from simply being bad people, many of the gangsters during the '30s were forced into lives of crime due to the Depression. "AWDF" shows that Sullivan is clearly a product of his environment, however ignoble his actions are. Really good.

PS: Michael Curtiz later directed "Casablanca".

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0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

"Always remember: Don't be a sucker."

7/10
Author: shhimundercoverdamnit from Seattle, WA
11 February 2008

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

"All right, fellas... let's go and say a prayer for a boy who couldn't run as fast as I could." Somepeople say that a persons destiny is made in one single event. That it not only shapes how they are going to end, but also who they become. It could be a job offer, a marriage. Or as it in this film, it could simply be one person being faster than the other.

Rocky Sullivan ( James Cagney) and Jerry Connolly ( Pat O'Brien) were two street tough kids who grew up together in the toughest part of New York --- Hell's Kitchen. Early on, Rocky gets sent to prison, simply for the reason that he couldn't outrun the cops. Eventually, this makes him into a first class criminal.

Meanwhile, Jerry, who had managed to escaped from the law, goes straight and becomes a priest. It is only, as adults, that they are able to reunite in their old neighborhood: but on different philosophies. Cagney's Sullivan is a charismatic ghetto tough guy whose underworld rise has made him a hero to a gang of slum punks called the ' Dead End" kids. In contrast, Connolly vows to end Rocky's influence on the boys, who, like he and Rocky, could end up on either side of the law.

Absolutely irresistible stuff, with tons of prewar Brooklyn atmosphere, & Humphrey Bogart in a supporting role as a weasel-like attorney named Frazier who attempts to double-cross Cagney. At this time, Bogart was a bit player for Warner Bros, but his scenes with Cagney are played out extremely well. Though, the role isn't much... Bogart is awesome. Ann Sheridan is also fantastic as Sullivan's sharp tough love interest.

Ohh yeah, and the final question. Rocky. Yellow or Not?

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0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

Takes To Long To Make An Obvious Point

7/10
Author: dougmarshall_94142 from United States
21 July 2006

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This is an overrrated movie. Certainly one of Cagney's memorable roles. Certainly a great Cagney-O'Brian film. But I should think any major actor of that period, particularly the Warners contract actors, could have pulled this role off. Humphrey Bogart is the bad lawyer, but again, anyone could have played Frazier. He's not important to the story, except as a measuring stick for the Bogart that was to come later. That the actors did a good job is not important. The story was important. The message was important. The message was just obvious by the time the first third of the movie runs through the projector.

I have heard the radio version of this movie, with Cagney and O'Brian reprising their roles. It was only an hour, and MUCH BETTER. The walk to the chair is classic. It moves one to tears. And is one of the few TRUE moments in the movie.

Semi-related note: Ann Sheridan did a cameo role as a prostitute in Treasure of the Sierra Madre. almost 10 years later, and looks 10 years younger in THAT movie. Finished her career doing a spin-off of As The World Turns. The OOmph Girl. No Oomph here. She was probably sick of the title anyway. But she played mols many more times. Under studio rule I'm sure. Her association with Bogart movies goes way back to THIS movie. But even SHE is more or less wasted in this movie. Anyone could have played any of the characters in this movie, with the possible exception of the East Side Kids, who went through various names and members, acted in incredibly stupid pictures,( by 21st Century standards, Bela Lugosi? Come On!) but maintained their characterization as Bronx punks even when they were middle aged men!

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0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

Great performance by Cagney and the great twist at the end makes this one of the best 30's films ever made

7/10
Author: policy134 from Denmark
5 February 2006

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I always get a kick out of watching these Warner Bros. movies starring all the great contractees like Bogie, Cagney or even Edward G. Robinson - with the possible exception of George Raft.

Angels with Dirty Faces was a tour de force for James Cagney and many of the mannerisms that he is now famous for, although some misinterpreted, are present here. His great partner-in-crime, Pat O'Brien plays his best boyhood friend and would forever be associated with his character, the priest who is basically a street thug turned straight. It's especially funny to see the characters as boys because the actor who plays Rocky (the Cagney character) bares an incredible resemblance to Cagney himself.

Through many films Cagney would be pigeonholed as the tough guy, starting with his performance in Public Enemy (a film that I didn't enjoy so much because of the lack of tongue-in-cheek humor which Angels has in spades). The cast is rounded out with Ann Sheridan as the kind of down-to-earth next-door girl she played to the hilt. For a totally different Sheridan see the movie "The man who came to Dinner". Last there are "The Dead End Kids" or later "The Bowery Boys" who are basically complete stereotypes of tough smart-alecky punks which these movies were full of in American movies throughout the 30's and 40's. They are a little bit hard to take and one can only wonder how they managed to have careers in showbiz for so long.

A minor flaw in this film is the rather speedy treatment of Rocky Sullivan's fall but the ending is masterful and was discussed endlessly among movie buffs (Is Rocky doing the noble thing or is he truly yellow?). That is the beauty of the movies. Like works of art they are to be interpreted and not to be taken at face value.

The director, Michael Curtiz, was of course one of the greats and would later make the classic "Casablanca" but his somewhat crass demeanor proved to be his downfall in the 50's where actors took more control of their careers instead of having the studio executives and directors controlling virtually every aspect of their lives. Had he lived today he would have been called every four-letter word imaginable but he did make a great impact which should not be forgotten.

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