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"Angels with Dirty Faces", despite its popularity and classic status,
is far from my favorite James Cagney role. The moralizing gets in the
way and dates this significantly more than "The Public Enemy" (which
came out before the code really started cracking down) and "White Heat"
(which came later when the production code became increasingly lax and
crime films more hard boiled). Still, its more than watchable, because
even in a watered down film, Cagney could always be counted on for a
terrific performance. He creates a truly multi-dimensional character,
one who is capable of evoking audience sympathy despite his flaws. He's
a much more compelling individual than Pat O'Brien's priest.
The rest of the cast is uneven. O'Brien does a good job with a rather dull role. Its interesting to see Humphrey Bogart, who went on to playing stoic tough guys in his later parts, playing such a weasel-like coward. He isn't very good, but its still intriguing to see where he started out. Ann Sheridan isn't very good as the girl with the heart of gold who wants to help out Cagney, and the Bowery Boys can become rather annoying (even though not nearly as much as their later starring features). Still, Cagney completely upstages the rest of the cast with a fantastic performance. "Angels with Dirty Faces" is highly recommended simply because of him. (7/10)
Towards the end of the 1930s something began to change in the crime
genre. It was no longer acceptable merely to show the gangster getting
killed at the end the protagonists of pictures such as Public Enemy,
Little Caesar and Scarface (1932) were still getting viewed as heroes.
Now, with the Hayes code in full swing, attempts were being made to
make the gangster appear un-heroic. The most prominent of these
efforts, Angels with Dirty Faces sees the ultimate crime actor of his
era, James Gagney, in a gangster movie with a difference.
Needless to say, with the agenda it has, Angels with Dirty Faces has its moralistic and preachy moments. Large parts of it however are more or less the same as any other crime flick of the era, with bootleg liquor, underhand deals with corrupt officials, a sleazy lawyer (Humphrey Bogart), a moll (Ann Sheridan) and plenty of storytelling via newspaper headlines. The problem here is that on the one hand none of these crime story elements are fully fleshed out, dull stock subplots reducing Bogart and Sheridan to little more than bit parts. And on the other hand, the Christian moralism and in particular the last minute twist seem tacked on and hard to swallow.
The direction on Angels with Dirty Faces was handled by Michael Curtiz, and this is one of its saving graces. The picture opens with a typical Curtiz crowd shot. The way he moves the camera is absolutely unique, and there are a number of visual gags such as the "men at work" sign which opens the scene where the dead end kids are trying to jimmy open a fruit machine. And at least, it being Curtiz, you know the action sequences will be well done. It's all done in memorable shots and lightning-fast editing, so the audience gets a brief yet clear impression of the violence without ever dwelling on it.
The other saving grace to this picture is of course James Cagney, one of the most talented stars of the classic Hollywood era. Of course, he was right to break out of type-casting and seek more diverse roles in the 1940s, but he plays the gangster so well. This is a great chance to see him at the top of his game.
This would have to be my least favourite picture of Cagney's gangster-cycle that I have seen. It's very much a product of its time, and simply gets bogged down in its message. Still, there's just enough here to make it watchable. And at least it's better than that stupid Sham 69 song.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Iwatched this movie on DVD the other day,it brought back memories of watching old movies on a Sunday afternoon at my grandmothers.This film in many ways,is one of the finest gangster movies ever made, Cagney's performance as Rocky Sullivan is as fresh today as it ever was, the story starts when two young boys try to steal from a rail car, they are chased and the slower one becomes a gangster the quicker one a priest.Cagney's gangster is a free spirit, but he ends up working for the mob lead by George Bancroft and Humphrey Bogart, Cagney takes the rap and goes to jail for 4 years, on coming out he wants back in to the organisation which puts heat on the crime bosses.Cagney meets his old friend the priest and their friendship is renewed.The priest is concerned the the dead end kids will grow up into a life of crime as they admire Cagneys lifestyle and the easy way to get money.The priest starts a reform movement backed by the news-media.Bogart decides the priest must go but Rocky will not let his old friend be harmed, the situation ends in violence and Cagney is sentenced to death in the chair.Cagney is not scared about dying, however the priest asks him to feign cowardice on the way to the chair, Cagney refuses the old friends shake hands then make their way down the last mile, just as Cagney is been put in the chair he screams and dies yellow.The priest sees the dead end kids and informs them that he died a coward and says lets say a prayer for a boy who could not run as fast as me.The DVD is supberb I hope this film is discoverer by a new generation because this a supberb movie.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The story seems to be well known, as well as the Warner Brothers "enveloping" their straight forward crime action into some moral commentary or some warm words of "Crime doesn't pay". However, it takes a relentless tongue-in-cheek actor like Pat O'Brien to carry this message thru. And turning a tough-as-hell criminal like James Cagney to a yellow coward in the last minute for the sake of saving others from following in his footsteps ? That forgiven, we get a nice little action packed movie, with H. Bogart in a secondary role, in which he couldn't outlive a bigger name of that time like Cagney. (They actually never made a movie later, when his improved status would have allowed for that). So, all in all, 1 out 10 taken out for the morale, it is 7 points still.
i seen this film for the first time many years ago and i was totally gripped by the story and cagneys performance,the kids were wonderful also.i seen it again more recently and i liked it even more as this time i could look at it from a 28 year olds perspective.it really touched me father connollys love and feeling of protectiveness for his old friend and yet he realized that rocky was gone beyond his influence.i thought that bogart was great as well and ann sheridan who was carrying a secret torch for rocky since childhood.i am sorry to hear that one of the kids bobby jordan died at only 42 from alcohol poisoning as he looks so young and innocent in this film,the end is powerful and always puts a lump in my throat when rocky makes the supreme sacrifice for the kids i hope that they never do a remake of this film as you cant improve on perfection.
Angels with dirty faces is a masterpiece and a credit to the whole
motion picture industry. James Cagney is mind blowing along with the
rest of the cast which all deliver a breath taking performance.
I am not a big fan of the black and white genre but this film is the exception to the rule. whether it had been done in colour or black and white you would still have the same effect and thats the beauty of this film. its not the photography or the sets, its the top class acting and a story which will have you wanting to watch it over and over again. very few films come along like angels with dirty faces so please find a copy and watch it. I promise you won't be disappointed.
This movie was very good and it was definitely Cagney in one of his
better roles. I gave this movie a 9/10 because I felt Rocky Sullivan
seemed a little bit too soft compared to Cagney in "White Heat" which
was his best role. It wouldn't have hurt to have wrote a better script
but there were some flawless scenes that made up for this fact.
Humphrey Bogart was good in a familiar sleazy role and other than the
couple comments I had before, they were really the only negative things
about it. It's still a very entertaining movie and I thoroughly enjoyed
practically every minute of it. I'm glad I watched the original black
and white version compared to the colorized one since they always come
out so ugly. I'm definitely psyched to seeing some more classic Cagney
flicks in the future.
Movies : This would be awesome to see in theaters.
DVD Purchase : Possibly, if they ever release it.
Rental : I would rent this again in a heartbeat!
the dead end kids, with mugsy, combined with cagney have created a classic new york neighborhood picture. the storyis great and cagney shows that gangster is in his soul the orginial gangster, who attended stuyvesant high school of new york located on east 15 street .the old location, cagney was new york, and he shines in this role, and the others all are great. see it over and over.
This is one of my favorite movies, i just love Jimmy Cagney with the Dead End kids. I remember the first time i saw the movie, I was about thirteen years old and loved it ever since. It had great acting, and I also followed the Dead End kids unto the East side Kids, and then the bowery boys.
OK, I came into this after seeing The Public Enemy and White Heat in a Gangster marathon. Now, considering the excellence of these two films, I thought myself in for a let down. I was wrong. Like all the films of the era, it starts with the cutscene of twenty years before. For once, this is essential, as it allows us to truly understand the relationships in the film. We race to Cagney and the Dead End Kids' relationship, culminating in humourous scenes such as the basketball match. We then rush to his execution. The crime preceding this is, unfortunately, not as memorable as it should be, but it is eclipsed by the execution. The defiance followed by cowardice is a brilliant interpolation of the defiance of the criminal, but with a moral ending. Cagney steals the show. His performance is perfect, and he commands every scene, as if he were god. Whilst the ending takes the moral highground, the relationship between Cagney and the dead end kids means that it works(for once).
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