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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 was very, very similar to MANHATTAN MELODRAMA (MGM--1934),
though this film combined this earlier flick with the Dead End Kids (an
earlier incarnation of the East Side Kids or the Bowery Boys). Both
films featured a smart and street-wise hood who is very likable (Gable
and Cagney), a close fried who believes in them (William Powell as the
DA and Pat O'Brien as a priest) and an ending in which the thug "does
the right thing". As I said, the big difference was the addition of the
Dead End Kids--as young punks who idolize Jimmy Cagney. And while I
usually HATED the Dead End Kids/Bowery Boys/East Side Kids, in this
film they were a pretty welcome addition, as they were used less as
comic relief and more as integral parts of the story. Because of this,
Leo Gorcey and Huntz Hall (stars in the later incarnations of "the
kids") were less stupid, annoying and important to the gang--being
secondary characters at best.
The story and acting is pure 1930s Warner Brothers gangster fare. While some might find this very, very formulaic and even dull, I like the predictability because the production values are so high and the films are just plain fun. Sure it isn't Shakespeare or Masterpiece Theatre, but it does entertain.
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.
ANGELS WITH DIRTY FACES is a film that has the original socio -
critical message. The script and story are very allowed. Curtiz is in
the heart of the story, but between two fires, put a rag-tag group of
young. Interestingly, such a state viewed from the perspective of young
boys. Criminals are always a role model. The time and place do not
matter. Perception is dictated by socio - economic aspects of society.
In this film, the main character is not only criminal but also the anti-hero. He was polished, charming, charismatic, accomplished, and of course rich. Rocky Sullivan played by James Cagney, is a portrait of the life times of such 'Angels with Dirty Faces "as the title of the film says. Rocky is not a bad person.
This is a gangster movie, fast action and great culmination. The story is a complete and well rounded. The friendship of the two protagonists of this film is very strongly played. Cagney and O'Brien (Fr. Jerry Connolly) are excellent in their roles. Perhaps it is the strongest, which comes as the icing on the cake after a whole and dismissed the scenario, just what constitutes the epilogue of the story about two friends. The relationship of good and evil set through the prism of truth and falsehood. Friends are separated at an early age, others are bound heart and soul, and yet each had their fight.
I wonder what would have happened if the roles were replaced at the beginning of the film? In the eyes of the world you can be anything. In the eyes of friends only one. The film is a dramatic and action equally good. Acting with visible improvisation, is at a high level. Bogart, Sheridan and Bancroft are not especially imposed.
Rocky Sullivan (James Cagney) and Jerry Connolly (Pat O'Brien) are
childhood friends. In 1920, the two boys are chased by the police.
Jerry managed to escape but Rocky is detained leading to a life of
crime. Jerry becomes a priest and Rocky becomes a notorious gangster.
James Frazier (Humphrey Bogart) is Rocky's corrupt lawyer. After
getting out of prison, Rocky moves into a boarding house run by former
classmate Laury Martin (Ann Sheridan). He takes an interest in a crew
of petty criminals, The 'Dead End' Kids. The kids see him as their hero
while Jerry tries to reform the boys. Rocky wants his share from
Frazier and Frazier is willing to kill Rocky to keep it.
The 'Dead End' Kids was a concept back in the day and this may be the best movie with this idea. In this one, they try to out-Cagney Cagney, but there is only one. He does his usual act plus much, much, more. It's a nice pairing with O'Brien and Bogie is a heavy. It's a classic crime melodrama of the highest quality.
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