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Angels with Dirty Faces
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Nearly REAL homicides in this movie

Author: edalweber from United States
7 December 2008

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This is a very well made movie,with good performances by all concerned.However, most people are unaware that one scene was much more "realistic" than they imagine. In his autobiography Pat O'Brien tells a typical story of Mike Curtiz's sadism.In the scene where the boy actors playing Cagney and O'Brien as boys are fleeing through the rail yard,it appears that they are nearly run down by a switch engine.Most people would figure that this was merely an illusion, trick photography. It was not;those boys came as close to being killed as it appears.Curtiz had carefully instructed the engineer as to exactly what speed he was to operate the locomotive in that scene,and the engineer was careful to follow instructions precisely.After the scene was over, and the engineer saw just how near he had come to killing the two boys, he was so shaken that he could barely climb down from the engine. When he recovered,he went over to Curtiz and demanded to know what was going on. Curtiz smiled with satisfaction and said"VERY GOOD.I deliberately did not tell those boys that you would be going so fast because I wanted it CLOSE!" O'Brien said that only quick work by the film crew prevented the engineer from killing Curtiz with his bare hands.

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Great story, great performance and a great ending!

Author: Rob Broekhof from Netherlands
6 November 2008

Classic movie which really surprised me. I watched it on the TCM day channel. What I liked especially was the last scene. "Did the priest lie to the boys when he told that the newspapers were true in the news reports about Rocky and how he ended as a coward?". What was the purpose of this lie, if it was a lie?! Would it make a difference?! The purpose of this lie, again ... if it was a lie; is clear. It's all about saving those boys from following their hero into big crime. But, would that be wrong? According to their hero it was not wrong. For him it was even the only thing to do. Otherwise he'd be just as gullible as many other people are. Still, living a life at any time being on the edge because other hooligans are trying to be in your shoes?! Anyway, what appealed to me too was a great friendship between to men that stayed friends, even when they'd grown totally apart. Great story, great performance of the classics and a great ending.

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Great 1939 Film Classic

Author: whpratt1 from United States
11 January 2008

Have not seen this picture in a long time but it is always a great treat to view it again, because it shows just what New York City's Hell's Kitchen looked like on the East Side of Manhattan in the 30's. There were old tenement homes and people use their windows to hang out their laundry to dry in the Summer. This film starts out with two boys, Rocky Sullivan, (James Cagney) and Jerry Connolly, (Pat O'Brien) and they are typical poor boys who have fun fooling around and stealing things from people. As time goes bye, these two boys grow up and go their separate ways in life. Rocky Sullivan wound up in reform school, and then prison and took the rap for James Frazier who owed Rocky his share of the money which was $100,00.00. When Rocky gets out of the pen, he comes looking for Frazier who is now a lawyer and he does not want to part with this money and that is when the story becomes full of action and killing. The "Dead End Kids" gave a great supporting role and Pat O'Brien, (Jerry Connolly) was outstanding playing the role as a priest. Enjoy.

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Setting the Bar higher in the Juvenile Delinquent sub-genre of the Gangster Film. The One they're all compared to.

Author: John T. Ryan ( from United States
9 January 2008

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Sidney Kingsley's socially conscious drama DEAD END played on Broadway from October 1935 until June of 1937 for a total of 687 performances. The powerful play didn't go unnoticed on the West Coast, so the screen rights were purchased post haste by Samuel Goldwyn and the screen adaptation of DEAD END (1937) was released for all the World to view.

But it wasn't just the screen rights that were taken from Broadway to Tinsel Town, for the group of young toughs, who many thought were actual delinquents from the Slums got Movie Contracts from Mr.Goldwyn. So, Billy Hallop, Leo Gorcey, Hunyz Hall, Gabriel Dell, Bobby Jordan and Bernard Punsly headed west to fame and fortune on the Silver Screen. Also making the trek West was Marjorie Main in order that she might reprise her role as Mrs. Martin, mother of "Baby Face".

Once DEAD END was completed, Mr. Goldwyn sold the contracts of the young guys to Jack Warner, Studio Chief of his namesake company. Once there, they were put to work on some rather serious socially conscious movies like THEY MADE ME A CRIMINAL, CRIME SCHOOL, HELL'S KITCHEN and with James Cagney, Pat O'Brien and Anne Sheridan, ANGELS WITH DIRTY FACES.

And so we have today's victim, which probably has some of the greatest single scenes and characters in film history. Surely it may well be the quintessential Gangster-Young Toughs movie from the Golden Era of the Sound Film (formerly called "Talkies".) I mean this ANGELS WITH DIRTY FACES seemingly has just about anything you could want. We have an opening scene in the "old Neighborhood" where the principal characters of Rocky Sullivan (James Cagney) and Fr. Jerry Connelly (Pat O'Brien) had spent their youth as tough, street guys. The Juveniles playing the young men are Rocky (young Cagney look-alike, Frankie Burke) and Fr. Connelly (William Tracy).

The pivotal incident occurs when the two young friends are walking (trespassing) through the Train Yards when they happen on some box car has cases of fountain pens, which they decide to pilfer. The Railroads Dicks come along, and in attempting to flee the scene, young Rocky gets caught and sent to Reform School; but refuses to implicate Jerry on anyone else.

We're next treated to a montage of Rocky's headlines and hold-ups. Meanwhile, Jerry winds up going to the Seminary to study for the Priesthood.

Well, years pass and we have a great reunion, back in the old 'hood" where one man is now the Parish Priest, the other an up and coming ex-con and racketeer. Oh, yeah I almost forgot to mention! Anne Sheridan is there; her character also was a child of the old stompin'grounds.

We're not going to elaborate on the re-cap of the story any more. We all know the story, more or less. The two friends from the same old neighborhood, running together as kids and one becomes a Priest, the other a Hood. One ends up paying the price, but can do a great service to the other and the current kids in the area. Could this be just a trifle cliché ridden? It seems that way because this was the one movie that set the standards and invented the complex situations that were so widely imitated.

And that friends adds up to a one of a kind, singular, masterpiece of the cinematic arts and a huge slice of what America and its people are really all about.

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Excellent early crime drama

Author: preppy-3 from United States
30 November 2007

Two childhood friends--Jerry Connolly (Pat O'Brien) and Rocky Sullivan (James Cagney) grow up on different sides of the law. Connolly becomes a priest running a church in the bad section of town and trying to steer a bunch of kids (the Dead End Kids) away from trouble. Sullivan becomes a gangster and the kids idolize him and start to turn bad.

The story is familiar by now but this was the first of its kind and, as usually is the case, is the best of its kind. Quick-moving, beautifully acted and well-directed by Michael Curtiz. Ann Sheridan and Humphrey Bogart are surprisingly bad in small roles--but they're given little to do. O'Brien is good, if a little TOO nice, as the priest. The Dead End Kids convincingly play juvenile delinquents. But this is Cagney's picture all the way. He's just great and you can't take your eyes off him when he's on screen. The script is tight and well-written also. It all leads to a great gunfight and a powerful finale. Basically one of the best gangster pictures of all time. Don't miss this one! I only give it an 8 because the story IS overly predictable and the lousy acting from Sheridan and Bogart hurts.

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A beautiful film

Author: pushnlacs from United States
28 August 2007

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Angels With Dirty Faces- Great film. I've always had this interest in gangsters with morals despite the fact that they do horrible things.

Thats what Cagney is in this film. As a child he and his best friend were young street punks, one day robbing a train cart he gets busted while his friends gets away. This leads to Cagney growing up to become a known gangster while his friend becomes a priest.

Back in his old town years later he talks to his friend for the first time in 15 years. They both wanted to contact each other but couldn't for one reason or another, mostly Cagney being on the run all the time. But they obviously still have a brotherly love for each other.

The priest runs a program for young teens to keep them off the street but the kids are street kids and find Cagneys way of life more interesting. They look at him like a role model, a hero.

The priest tells Cagney that the only way to show the kids the right way is to fight crime in the city head on and tells Cagney that that means taking even him down if he has to. And this is why I love the film so much, unlike most gangsters Cagney loves his friend and tells him to do what he as to do and that he understands.

meanwhile Cagneys business "partner"(Bogart) Decides the priest needs to be killed in order to shut him up. Cagney instead kills Bogart and in the end faces a life sentence for protecting his friend.(he kills a cop or two in a shut out trying to escape, so again not a good guy but not without some morals)

Cagney isn't afraid to die, he spits at the guards, laughs at death, etc. and the children love him and idolize him even more. Then at the end before heading off to the electric chair the priest asks Cagney to act scared before he dies, to die a coward begging for mercy so that the children will see it written in the paper, so that he will not die a hero to them and in return the priest will have a chance to get through to them.

Cagney walks to the chair tough as can be but then at the last moment starts crying and begging for Mercy, all because his friend asked him to.

On a side note Frankie Burke who played Cagney's character as a boy was spot on. I honestly thought it was Cagney made to look young for a while.

And Ann Sheridan though not as known as other actresses of yesteryear once again remind that they don't make actresses like they used to.

Anyway, a beautiful film, a beautiful gangster film....yep such a thing exists.


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Whaddya hear, whaddya say?

Author: JoeytheBrit from
15 May 2007

I watched this for the first time in maybe twenty years the other day, and it was a little like coming face-to-face with a rarely seen uncle you used to worship as a child. Twenty years later, it still looks good, but somehow some of the charisma has worn away. Perhaps it's me that's changed and not the film, but whatever the reason, I've knocked a couple of stars off its rating.

Cagney is one of my favourites, and he was at his peak here, despite his ongoing battles with Warners. He's his typically pugnacious self, strutting across the screen, nervously hitching his shoulders and stretching his neck as if his collar is too tight, delivering back-handers with a curled lip. Bogart is unrecognisable from his later persona, a weasely lawyer out to cheat Cagney's Rocky Sullivan out of the $100,000 he owes him. It's almost the same role he played in The Roaring Twenties, their other outing from the same period, and it's a shame that they never played against each other once Bogie's tough-guy persona had been perfected. Just imagine what sparks could have flown then.

The main reasons the film didn't quite live up to my expectations/memories are two-fold. Firstly, the Dead End Kids are just downright annoying with their endless yelling and sniping. Out of them, for me, it's only Leo Gorcey who comes out with any credibility, the rest are just interchangeable yells with no depth or characterisation. The other problem is the pious saintliness of Pat O'Brien's Father Connelly. Cagney acts the socks off him, because he sounds like a Noo Yawk gangster, while O'Brien sounds like no one I've ever met – priest or otherwise. It's not necessarily his fault – it's the way those parts were played back then – but there it is. He is also the most impotent of characters, unable to coax the kids away from the life of crime into which they're drifting, unable even to come up with any ideas of how to do so…

Despite those – admittedly small – gripes, the film is still a great way to spend a rainy Sunday afternoon. Cagney slips into his role with ease, and demands your attention in every scene. The story zips along, and the ending, of course, is a classic – possibly the greatest open-ended finale in movie history. Did Rocky turn yellow? I don't think so, somehow. He acts too bravely throughout the rest of the movie to become a coward in the final scene, and that core of decency in Sullivan is always visible.

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Well-done gangster who'll always be a gangster movie...

Author: dwpollar from Evansville, Indiana USA
7 May 2007

1st watched 5/6/2007 - 7 out of 10(Dir-Michael Curtiz): Well-done gangster who'll always be a gangster movie with James Cagney playing a boy who gets caught trying to steal cases of ball point pens and ends up staying in jail for many years after(not for the same offense). He then learns how to better the system and never stays in for very long. His friend and partner in the original crime becomes a priest in their old neighborhood and tries to keep the current kids out of trouble so they won't turn out like he and his partner did. The gang in the neighborhood(played by the future Bowery boys) initially look at Cagney's character as a hero to them(always getting out of jail scot free), but his priest friend hopes that will end. His efforts aren't working very well, so he decides to go against him publicly after Cagney pulls the boys into his own problems by making them hide some of his "hot" money. This movie is really about their friendship and how it stays despite their issues against each other. Pat O'Brien, as the priest, sticks with Cagney all the way to the very end, trying to get him to change his ways. Cagney is charismatic and watchable and the rest of the cast play their characters well in this drama with a heart. It's a good watchable movie experience overall although it doesn't have the grit of more modern fare, but the story keeps you interested all the way thru.

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Much more than run of the mill

Author: itsmits from United States
18 December 2006

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The popularity of this film is evidenced obviously by the abundance of comments elicited. Considering the passage of time since it was first introduced to the public, this is a tribute to its durability through at least three generations. This octogenarian never ceases to be amazed at the whimsy of fate; the vagaries of chance which can play havoc with one's life or raise it to unbelievable heights. Maybe that is why the most memorable line from the film was from the advertising department. The billboard campaign mounted by Warner Bros. proclaimed to one and all, ' Last one over the fence goes to the electric chair !! '

As it did in "Manhattan Melodrama" some four years before, chums of boyhood remain friends for life despite the divergent paths decreed by fate. And the fact that the viewers comments are not overwhelmingly of one persuasion is a good indication that the final production is a work of art. The artist wants the viewer to form his own opinion of the final scene. Miss viewing this at your own loss.

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pure brilliance

Author: MrBlonde01 from United Kingdom
16 November 2006

If you have not seen this film then you must go and get it immediately, if you like gangster films of any kind, then i guarantee that you will love this film. James Cagney gives another spectacular performance, though not as gritty as his other films, such as The Public Enemy. The character development is superb, showing the two main characters as children right through to adulthood. It is very easy to see that this film has influenced some of the finest gangster films since its release. Do not be put off by its age, it is by no means dated, it shows the true harshness of a gangsters nature while still depicting deep meaning in the friendship of 'Rockey' (Cagney) and 'Jerry' (Pat O'Brian) with an ending that will have you completely amazed.

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