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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.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
As a teacher of critical viewing, I've spent the last year trying to
convince my jaded kids of several things, mainly that Black and white
films don't necessarily stink and that films without overt violence can
be great because of their stories. This film came along late in the
school year, and I was determined to show it because I thought it
introduced them to some elements that they needed to see, esp James
While there were a few carpers who said the shootings were "phony", a surprising number of kids really took to it. For the first time, kids were actually saying, 'I think this film worked better in black and white than it would have in color' and they loved the ending. A few actually felt it was daring to show such an intense ending in 1938. It sparked good discussions on the escalation of violence in today's movies and the use of shadow and light to get across a mood. In reading the opinions of the classes, there really wasn't a single negative opinion and I was pleasantly surprised to realize that they had come a long way in their estimation of films.
Today's kids really see so much crap in the movies. Most movies today are really poorly made, they have no script or character development to speak of and the comedies are mindless and vulgar. When you can get kids to appreciate something of quality, you feel good--like you've struck a blow for cultural advancement.
And for days after, some kids would walk into the room and "Whattya hear? Whattya say?" Can there be any better tribute?
Angel's With Dirty Faces is a very 1930's take on the criminal underworld that existed during the prohibition era. It is a far cry from the Godfather or Goodfellas but there is a certain romance in that. The story surrounds a gangster named Rocky Sullivan (James Cagney) who is idolised by some young boys, much to the annoyance of his childhood friend priest Father Connelly (Pat O'Brien). As he pursues his life of crime, Sullivan is torn between his reputation as a hard man and the pleads from his friend to set a better example to the children. The film is filled with moments of action and suspense, but isn't that fast paced. However it has a good story with important ideals and is well executed by an early master of the genre in Cagney. It is well directed and features some wonderful early media techniques. It is interesting to watch today as its strong story makes it remain a very watchable film, but also to see how boundaries within the genre have changed.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This is a great gangster film starring Cagney that may well the best of
it's type that Warner Bros produced in the 30's, definitely taking it's
place alongside 'Scarface' and 'The Public Enemy'. It's a roaring,
all-guns blazing ride that is magnificently directed by Michael Cutiz.
A versatile director, who also made 'The Adventures Of Robin Hood'
around the same times as this and the great 'Casablanca' just a few
years later, he is sorely underrated. Cagney's performance as Rocky
Sullivan makes the film what it is, though- a true CLASSIC.
Growing up as a child in the tough Hell's Kitchen district of New York, Rocky and his chum Jerry Connolly look set for a life in crime. However, Jerry escapes the law and ends up in an honest profession as a priest. Rocky drifts further into crime as he ages, and when the pair meet up again in the old neighborhood, the differences in the way their lives have turned out are marked. Rocky is mixing in with the neighborhood kids that Connolly is trying to keep on the straight as he holes up before he can get into his old racketeering organization again, much to Connolly's distaste. The kids begin to idolize this 'heroic' figure of crime, taking more notice of him than the priest.
As the tag line advertises, this is a 'sensational human drama'. Instead of providing us with a written prelude like 'Scarface' that condemns crime, here we are SHOWN exactly why 'romantic' figures like Sullivan are dangerous through the actions of the kids. The idolatry of gangster/crime figures during the tough days of the Depression was pronounced, with men like Rocky often getting more admiration from the kids of the slums than any straight man of the law. 'Angels' gives us an overall message that crime definitely does not pay, at least when it comes to your soul. There is something terribly disturbing about watching young boys of 14-15 in training to be gangsters. This one will shatter the idealized myths that 'Bonnie And Clyde' may give you about gangster figures, and send their portrayal down to reality. Cagney's own act of turning 'yellow' on O'Brien's pleadings just before death is enough to break their own mythical ideal, and yours, too. The only sympathy for Cagney's Sullivan that you will feel is that the man 'couldn't run fast enough' away from crime as a young kid, becoming embroiled further when he went to a 'reform' school.
Cagney gives a brilliant performance in this one, and his interaction with the now-straight Pat O'Brien provide the highlight of the piece. Ann Sheridan is average in her role as Rocky's girlfriend, although she handles a couple of key emotional scenes with surprising depth. Bogart is in the background in one of his small gangster roles before he would hit the big time a few years later. This has the gritty feel of a true crime drama, with excellent photography and a grim, tough setting in New York adding to the mood of the picture.
This has one of the great endings in film history, with a great closing line. A powerful film that will stay in your memory for a long time.
A Cagney classic, dealing with all the morals and ambiguities of
gangsterism and growing up on the wrong side of the tracks. James
Cagney is Rocky Sullivan, a well known gangster who's relationship with
childhood friend, and new-born Christian Jerry Connolly is jeopardised
when Rocky takes on a young brood of would-be hoodlums. Jerry doesn't
like them looking up to a gangster, Rocky just wants to earn a buck.
Soon they find themselves in a war that could spell the end of their
'Angels With Dirty Faces' deals with themes of lost childhood by contrasting two former friends who took very different paths after their young years. Sullivan took the easy route of petty crime, eventually becoming a gangster. Connolly, who could have fallen into the same trap, decides to enter the priesthood, with his street smarts intact, in order to try to and prevent young New Yorkers from following Sullivan's suit. The film also shows Cagney's character as a man of conflicting morals: he wants to help out Jerry at the church and aid his former friend's plight to protect the younger generation from succumbing to corruption, yet gets them to perform errands for him in exchange for big bucks. The "Dead End" kids look up to Rocky more than Jerry because they like who he is: A gangster, a man who came from nothing but made it to the top by stealing, gambling and fighting.
The film has a fantastic cast: There is able support from Humphrey Bogart as a lawyer to George Bancroft's crime boss, playing slightly against type. The only role that is somewhat underused comes from the possible love interest for Rocky, Laury Ferguson (Ann Sheridan). Aside from one great scene in which she meets Sullivan for the first time in 15 years, her character is relegated to a back room observer. Pat O'Brien's turn as Jerry is wonderfully underplayed for it's time. But it is inevitably Cagney's show, as his screen presence is brimming with bravura and spirit.
Sullivan is the epitome of an anti-hero. He's a man of principles and feels for his former neighbourhood, yet can't put his past behind him. There are obvious influences, a modern day one being The Sopranos, in particular the protagonist Tony Soprano, who borrows from the complexity of Cagney's character. One minute you route for him as the hero, the next you see him for the exploitative mobster he is. The final scene is one that could never be pulled off in today's cinemas. Of a man who chooses the selfless act over pride in order to aid his childhood friend.
The best thing about this film is that it really feels like an ensemble
piece. Each actor is in perfect balance with another and the chemistry
is like magic.
Nominated for an Academy Award, James Cagney gives one of the best performances of his career as the gangster-with-a-heart Rocky Sullivan. Like always, his work is flawless and natural, and even while playing a crook he can make you care for his character. Ann Sheridan makes an otherwise boring character into a girl you can really sympathize with. Then of course there's Bogart, the guy you're used to seeing as brave, fearless, and always ahead of the competition. In 'Angels' he plays a crooked lawyer, and while at times I wince to see him being afraid, I have to hand it to Bogart for really pulling through as an actor. Oh, and I almost forgot Pat O'Brien. As the wrong-turned-right priest in the movie, he brings a sensitive, kind element to the picture (and also reminds me of Karl Malden's Father Berry in 'On the Waterfront').
The other players who cannot be ignored in this movie are the title characters themselves, the Dead End Kids. Their first film was 1937's Dead End, and I thought they owned that movie. Any scene without them seemed colorless and boring. In 'Angels,' they mesh perfectly with the other characters and do not overshadow anybody. Though technically it seems they play the same people as they did in 'Dead End' (e.g. Billy Halop their leader and Leo Gorcey the trouble-makers), the scene with their basketball game is one of the film's best moments.
'Angels With Dirty Faces' comes highly recommended, to any fan of Cagney, Bogart, Sheridan, brilliant director Michael Curtiz, or the Dead End Kids. Or even if you just love movies and want to get to know the classics, this is a great place to start.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Angels With Dirty Faces had to be one of Jimmy Cagney's best movies,
along with White Heat.
In this one, he plays Rocky Sullivan, a gangster who has been in and out of prison for most of his life. After being released for the latest time, he is reunited with his childhood friend who is now a priest. It's not long before he's up to his old tricks again though and towards the end, he kills two men including his solicitor and after a shoot out, he gets the electric chair. He does find a woman as well.
This has a great score by Max Steiner (King Kong) and some great location photography.
Cagney is joined by Pat O'Brien, Humphery Bogart as his solicitor, Anne Sheridan as the love interest and George Bancroft. With The Dead End Kids. Excellent parts from all.
Angels With Dirty Faces is a must for all classic movie fans. Great stuff.
Rating: 4 stars out of 5.
The film is a great example of another age in movie-making. It's an
action movie, with plenty of violence, including gunfights, killings,
explosions, and near slapstick fisticuffs, but there is also plenty of
lingering moments to go with the wise-cracking and tough-guy posing,
not to mention the moralizing that appears more than once. Cagney is at
his best as a tough-guy gangster, and Pat O'Brien plays the
stereotypical Irish priest with a heart of gold. You'll want to forget
that Bogart plays a weasel of a lawyer who dies a coward.
My favorites are the young men who play the gangster wanna-be's. Their voices, accents, and lines of dialog make them a memorable part of a film that most people remember for Cagney as Rocky Sullivan and O'Brien as Jerry Connelly. The physical humor too makes them stand out, slap-happy characters as much like the Little Rascals or the Three Stooges as they are hoodlums. Cagney too is excellent in his antics.
It's in an early scene that Sullivan's and Connelly's lives diverge from the small-time crooks they appear on their way to be. The two are running from the cops and one leaps over the fence and gets away while the other is caught and sent to reform school. It's worth asking yourself what that moral in the film seems to be.
It's a great old action film, but be sure to note the story as what Hollywood offered in 1938 as a look into the status of crime and the celebrity of criminals (Cagney was the same age as Al Capone, and Bonnie and Clyde had only recently been killed). The film attempts to explore the root causes of crime, poverty among them, and offers up some ideas about reformation.
Later movies might glorify criminals. This one doesn't.
One the my all-time favorites growing up as a kid! Even today this ending is such a conversation piece of why? Back then when it comes down to it our troubles of youth and how we progress as adults has not changed much in today's society.Such as the Robert Frost poem "Road not Taken" you get to see the effects of two different youths and how they progress to adulthood.The role Of Rocky Sullivan people must see in every neighborhood,how could you not like this guy? Father Connolly character could be changed to a schoolteacher to show how one's path could make the difference,especially in the end. I think an updated remake would make kids think about right from wrong and who to choose as a role model.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I remember the first time I seen this film, I was 13 and my Religious
Education teacher in school made up watch it, well we ended up watching
the first 40 minutes then he never mentioned it again. I still to this
day do not have a single clue as to why he made us watch it, he was an
odd fellow to say the least. After he never put it back on for us I
decided to rent it to finally watch the whole thing this was when I was
about 16/17, and it is safe to say this is one of the movies that made
me fall in love with movies to this day! Gangster films flew to the top
of the watch lists during the great depression era in America, there
was so many released during the 1930's it was obvious that they would
be the more favoured films. James Cagney and Edward G. Robinson paved
the for gangsters on the big screen. Cagney was a perfect choice to
play Rocky Sullivan, he had the swagger of a gangster, the fast talking
of a con man, had unbelievable comic timing along with these great
traits he was also an intense actor with real raw talent.
In my honest opinion this is one of the greatest Gangster flicks of all time, and I genuinely think people will be saying that in another three quarters of a century! Rocky Sullivan and Jerry Connelly played by Frankie Burke and William Tracy respectively are a pair of New Yorker youths who grew up on the very poor Lower East Side end up caught up in the robbery on a railroad car (a railway carriage to us Brits ha). Jerry escapes without any difficulty I mean boom this kid is gone, Rocky on the other hand is not as lucky. Staying true to his tough upbringing Rocky upholds his "code of silence", refusing to snitch on the identity of his accomplice which leaves Rocky stuck in a reformatory before he will be bumped into a full prison.
After realising how bad Rockys fate actually is, Jerry turns his life around and becomes a man of the cloth. After many years pass, Rocky returns to his old neighbourhood now being played by Cagney he looks up his old friend Jerry to find out he is no Father Jerry (Pat O'Brien) whom has taken in on himself to look after a rag tag bunch of boys played by Billy Halop, Leo Gorcey, Huntz Hall, Gabriel Dell who would all go to become The Dead End Kids. The boys are overjoyed that they get to meet a big-time gangster like Rocky, they pretty much worship the ground he walks on, much to the disappointment of Father Jerry who is trying to guard the boys from a life of crime.
Cagney pays a call to his Lawyer, played by Humphrey Bogart who has been keeping $100,000 (which according to DollarTimes is roughly $1.6 million today) stashed away for him. He meets racketeering boss Mac Keefer (George Bancroft), both of whom promise to cut Rocky in on a highly lucrative operations, however this is where we hit a twist they are plotting to have him whacked (MY WHOLE LIFE have I wanted to use that phrase and it too actually work, and now I think it fits! ha) Father Jerry runs a campaign over the radio and newspaper against Rocky and his partners, with Rockys blessing that is. Laury by now played by the beautiful Ann Sheridan has fallen in love with Rocky.
When Rocky learns of the plot to kill Father Jerry due to his smear campaign, Rocky kills both men which results in him being caught in a shoot-out with the police in a warehouse. His trial is quick and he is sentenced to death, before Rocky is about to be executed Father Jerry turns up asking for possibly the BIGGEST favour in movie history. He wants Rocky to die like a coward so the boys will go on the straight and narrow, Rocky refuses, however as he is being put to death Rocky suddenly breaks down an loses it crying and pleading for his life! The paper the next runs the story "ROCKY DIES YELLOW!" to help the boys cement the belief that he well and truly is coward.
So overall this movie is action filled, full of laughs, full of great performances all across the board giving us viewers an unbelievable movie experience! A little fact I learnt while writing this review is that during the warehouse scene, LIVE AMMO was used, how on earth did they get away with that ha. All these parts come together cultivating in what is one of the greatest movies of all time! This will be one of the easiest ratings that I will give to a film, if I could go any higher than 10 I would! "Whaddya hear, whaddya say?"
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