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|Index||127 reviews in total|
This movie is a surprisingly emotional gangster film that shows Cagney at the top of his game. Made in 1938, when gangster movies became legit again, the movie features two legends of the genre (Cagney and Bogart) as well as Pat O'Brien and Ann Sheridan both playing their parts wonderfully. The film is unlike most of Cagney's gangster pictures, firstly because he's not the antagonist, but it also seems to have a more benevolent agenda. Instead of concentrating of Cagney's dealings with Humphrey Bogart, it centers on his relationship with the priest, his childhood friend (O'Brien) and his relationship with the "Dead End" Kids. Not as violent as some of the other Warner Brother pictures, Angels With Dirty Faces centers more on the human drama than the violence. It does however have the thrilling collision of Cagney and Bogart as well as the factory shoot out. the cinematography and lighting is very well done and the look of the film doesn't feel tired. What sells the film is of course the ending sequence with Cagney and the electric chair, one of the most powerful moments of the film. The sort of sick morality it lends to the ending of the film for the Dead End Kids is fascinating. In the end, Angels with Dirty Faces, is a very different but effective gangster film that dares to move a little bit out of the crime aspect and into human drama. A worthy addition to Warner's blockbuster Gangster films, and to cinema itself.
IMDb's all time best film is THE GODFATHER. I say "forgetaboutit." No
pretentious over-sized latter day movie can lay a glove on the raw edge
of Public Enemy and Little Caesar - still **** commercial movies after
75 years. The other two greats were High Sierra and this picture.
Nobody my age who watches movies hasn't seen Angels with Dirty Faces at
least 5 or 6 times; it played actively in theaters right up to the era
of VHS tapes, and was one of the first VHS classics.
This picture boasts a great story, great direction, and great acting... including the "angels" played by Leo Gorcey, Huntz Hall and the other (alternately) Dead End Kids, East Side Kids, Bowery Boys (88 films in all).
This fine movie is, in my opinion, a better picture today than when it opened to rave reviews in 1938. The added asset is it takes you right inside New York's infamous Lower East Side --- a place which was torn down decades ago.
There isn't one movie made in 2006 with a shelf life that might take it into next year --- let alone 70 years. There were literally dozens of 4-star classics released in 1938 and 1939. The films made today are as throwaway as a fast food wrapper. No quality, no substance, no artistic merit.
This crime/drama concerns two childhood friends that both grew up in
Hell's Kitchen back in 1920th. Jerry Connelly (O'Brien) became a parish
priest and the other, Rocky Sullivan (Cagney) the career criminal.
The Angels of the title are the neighborhood boys whom Father Jerry
tries to save from lives of crime and who have come to idolize the
tough, fast, furious and cool guy Rocky. Yes, Cagney's Rocky was a
criminal but one could not help rooting for him in every scene of the
movie which he stole from the rest of the cast. Cagney is riveting as
Rocky. When he talks, you want to listen, when he walks, you want to
follow. Who would blame the Dead End Kids for wanting to be like him?
Father Jerry does not blame them but he tries his best not to let that
"Angels with Dirty Faces" is a great movie, a true classic that combines an excellent crime movie with the characters like crooked lawyer (Humphrey Bogard) and corrupt politician (George Bancroft) with whom Rocky formed a doomed business alliance and a very human and compelling drama of two best friends, the choices they made, the roads they took and where the roads brought them. Great directing, writing, acting from everyone and absolutely brilliant performance from James Cagney.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
You can't miss with Michael Curtiz at the helm, Max Steiner doing the
music, Ann Sheridan and Humphrey Bogart in supporting roles, the Dead
End Kids for "the kids", Pat O'Brien as a priest fighting gangland
crime, and James Cagney as Rocky Sullivan, doing one of his best
It's a tough crime drama with a tug of war between O'Brien and Cagney, boyhood pals, who find themselves reunited twenty years later when Cagney's out of prison and O'Brien's a priest. It's O'Brien's mission to try to save the "angels with dirty faces" from being filled with hero worship for Cagney's pugnacious villainy.
The climactic scene has Cagney headed for the electric chair with O'Brien requesting that he show some streak of cowardice so the boys will stop using him as a role model for a life of crime.
Once again, poor Bogart ends up writhing around on the floor riddled with bullets after he and George Bancroft double-cross Cagney. It's the typical Warner crime melodrama done with their usual finesse and well worth seeing if you're a fan of Cagney, O'Brien and Bogart--or the young Ann Sheridan.
This Warner Bros. gangster classic features James Cagney as Rock
Sullivan and Pat O'Brien as Father Jerry. They play two small time
hoodlums who are the best of friends. Eventually one day they decide to
steal from a boxcar and are spotted by the police. The child character
of Pat O'Brian gets away while James's child character, Rocky, is
caught and put into reform school. As the years go by Rocky continues
to go down the path of a gangster while his friend takes the other road
and becomes the priest of the church in their neighborhood.
Not only is this story extremely original, but the lovable gangster James Cagney makes this movie work. When I sat down to watch it I believed it was yet another gangster picture of a man who works his way to the top and is then losses it all overnight. I was pleasantly surprised when I found that it was more about bravery. This movie goes where most gangster films don't and uncovers the sentimental side of a gangster and what he'll do to help the ones he cares for.
I recommend this film to the not only the lovers of 1940 gangster pictures but to people who are interested in something more than just being entertained. People want to learn about what it means to be truly good and what it means to sacrifice for the right thing. This is probably Cagney's best role next to White Heat because he does something he never did before, HE CRIES!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This is very well made, especially that ending. They didn't monkey
around here, they let you know exactly what happens w/ the electric
chair, pretty strong stuff for a 1938 flick. I am of the opinion that
he faked the terror for his old pal O'Brien's sake, but of course
others think otherwise. No matter--it's a chilling scene.
The kids-Leo Gorcey, Huntz Hall, etc-essentially are the Stooges just younger, but as believable a street gang as you will find for such an old flick. (I also enjoyed seeing the contrast of old style Hoop vs the way it's played today--they ever hear of dribbling??) Weaknesses-well not many. O'Brien is a block of wood, rarely impresses me unfortunately. I wasn't so sure that Ann Sheridan would fall for Cagney given their history, and it's true she isn't given that much to do after awhile.
Bogie was fun as a sniveling 'shyster' while George Bancroft made for a Claude Akins like baddie, I always think of him as the sheriff in 'Stagecoach'.
Michael Curtiz made many great films-Casablanca and Robin Hood amongst'em-this one ranks up there too.
*** outta ****. Cagney is great!
This movie works, and it interests me why.
Regular readers of my comments know that I am on a grand quest to map all the introspective and complex folding tricks used to ensnare viewers. I'm convinced they are important.
But along comes something like this that is so simple and pure, it throws all my obsessions with complexity into a cocked hat.
This is so exceedingly simple and sappy and dumb and ordinary and stupidly moralizing that all of us would discard it if it were not for one thing: Cagney's character. And not even the fact that he created a character in the usual whole sense. Instead, he created a character acting a character (so I suppose there is folding after all).
Cagney was essentially a dancer and here he does some somewhat obvious posturing, especially the shoulder reset tick.
Can one motion carry a movie, even carry it into permanence? Yes, it seems so. Yes.
Ted's Evaluation -- 2 of 3: Has some interesting elements.
After watching this fascinating movie for the first time, I picked up a
book, in one of those coincidences that life gives to us that are
completely unlikely, with the name Famous Quotes From Famous People.
And in one of the various quotes that were printed in the pages of that
little book, there was one that caught my attention, because it
corresponded to the opinion I formed about this excellent work of art
that my eyes had the pleasure to behold. The quote is from Robert
Frost, one of the greatest authors of north-American poetry, and he
says: "It is absurd to think that the only way to tell if a poem is
lasting is to wait and see if it lasts. The right reader of a good poem
can tell the moment it strikes him that he has taken an immortal wound
that he will never get over it." And if we change the "Poem"
mentioned by Frost for "Movie", the opinion of the writer perfectly
suits to Angels with Dirty Faces... and to many other movies I love, I
confess. I say this because I think this film, directed by Michael
Curtiz (the filmmaker who would make, some years later, that
unforgettable classic called Casablanca, with Humphrey Bogart too, but
here in Angels he has a supporting - but terrific! - role), has always
been in the shadow of other great movies, much more popular, and this
one had just endured because it obtained, over the decades, a legion of
numerous fans of the treasures of Cinema (the picture has now a score
of 8.0 on IMDb, which is very good). But if it were only "time" causes,
as Frost said, Angels with Dirty Faces would be lost in that decade
(not so) far away that was the thirties. If we expected the film would
endure over the years (having neither great acclaim from critics the
following decades, or the recognition of major institutions such as the
American Film Institute), it would be as if it never existed. I mean,
watching the quality of the negative (and we do not know if it is "the"
negative) that was converted for the DVD so-so special edition of this
motion picture, it's noticeable that it never had appropriate
conditions of conservation (there are various faults, very visible, in
the reels and in many frames, throughout the film).
But I said the movie was in the shadow. And then I talk again in Casablanca. That is, probably, the most popular title from Michael Curtiz's filmography. But it hid many other great movies of the director, such as this one. And I love Casablanca, it is one of my other favorite movies of all time. But it's sad when a motion picture almost "destroy" all the work of a filmmaker who, by the way, was one of the greatest professionals in his area at that time, because Curtiz has so much to explore (in quality and in quantity - in the year Angels was release, Curtiz made three other movies, almost simultaneously. And today, that's a big achievement, if we compare with the super- productions, many of them so uninteresting, that take too long to be made...), and this wonderful picture is the example of that quality, of the American classic Cinema that is impossible to remake today, because they are of a decade and of a period of Hollywood where the excellence of the production of the great directors were so inspiring, touching, and original. Angels with Dirty Faces is a movie of a genre that was fashionable at the time it debuted: the gangster movies, and when were made terrific and terrible and "standard" titles in that genre. It is like the westerns. Many of them were made in the "golden ages" of the cowboy movie stories, but very few of them stood out. Many of the gangster movies had just beatings, corruption and vulgar love stories...
However, there are always isolated spots in the middle of the ocean, and Angels with Dirty Faces elevates the genre of the gangster film to a higher level, as can also give some touches of film noir and good drama that attach to this work a superlative quality. The story is told in a fluid way, very quickly but without losing any shred of credibility.
The result of this variety of stories (which are all very simple, but with more depth than they appear) is a powerful and unparalleled work in the Classic Cinema. Michael Curtiz's achievement is intelligent and emotionally overwhelming, and I enjoyed the strong use of light in the scenarios, the photography of the scenes (which loses some of its glimmer because of the degraded copy of the DVD), the performances of the actors, the script, which has great quotes and is very well planned, executed and interpreted. The soundtrack is excellent and fits perfectly with the whole film, being well selected and organized. I emphasize also the camera angles, approaching us from the characters and the environments that surround them (and with that Curtiz showed one of its greatest strengths and talents), and that was the cause of my excitement with the last moments of the film ((such as the apotheosis of Cagney and O'Brien, showing that friendship and human dignity has no limits, regardless of the environment in which we were born). Angels with Dorty Faces is, for me, and I say this without fear, a masterpiece. This movie shows how certain classics, even if they can not withstand the time, the lists of critics and all those things, they can always, if they're good, get a cult of fans delighted with it, managing to increase interest in discovering this movie treasures.
One of my top five movies of all time. I won't make any commentary on
the movie itself(not sure if citing one line of a movie constitutes a
I've seen a lot of movies from the silent Sennett comedies, Fairbanks athletics, Cheney's makeup transformations right up through today's films (thank you old first-generation UHF and now TCM), but this one is the one that by which every good gangster movie since must be judged.
The story is as intense as Scarface (both Muni and Pachino), or most any Cagney role from Public Enemy on. If you like movies like Petrified Forest, Casablanca, High Sierra you're going to see Bogart do it to perfection in his role. Of course, the Dead End Kids present a version of young 1930's era street-wise kids that by today's standards are gentle souls.
I find all of the older movies fascinating glimpses into the times from which the movies were created; the cinematography, dialogue, city scenes, day-to-day living, the roadways of the day all provide a spectacular look at the past, and this 75 year old movie delivers that by the bucket-load.
The actors are all top-tier, the storyline takes off like an F-16 and doesn't stop.
Cagney sets the bar in this 75 year old film, and I haven't yet seen anyone surpassing him.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Long before they simply became public nuisances as the bumbling Bowery
Boys, the Dead End Kids were a definite threat to New York City law
enforcement. In their second film, they are further downtown and have
taken over the territory once controlled by James Cagney, who has just
gotten out of prison, and Pat O'Brien, who has become a priest. A sick
hero worship grows towards Cagney, and his old pal O'Brien desperately
tries to stop it before it is too late. But with Cagney becoming
involved with two-timing crook Humphrey Bogart, it is only a matter of
time before Cagney crosses the line and there is no return.
An exciting and brilliantly acted expose on the dangers in society, still riddled with crime following the end of the depression, this is just as much of a classic as its predecessor. Cagney instills his misguided character with identifiable human frailties, subtle humor and the obvious revelation that he really had no other alternative to any other life but crime based upon his unfortunate circumstances. However, crime has no acceptable spot in our society, so those who engage in that life must pay for it. Anne Sheridan is excellent as an old acquaintance who is equally tough and loving, and O'Brien's priest extremely well defined. Bogart is secondary to the plot, just as he was to other gangsters during this era like George Raft and Edward G. Robinson. Ironically the same year, Spencer Tracy would win an Oscar for playing a real life, similar character to O'Brien's in "Boy's Town".
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