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"Crime School" is clearly from the same mold as "San Quentin" and
Cagney's "The Mayor of Hell."
It is a predictable vehicle for the Dead End Kids, in which Bogart played, in a dull, unemotional style, a deputy commissioner of correction who takes over the running of a reformatory housing the Kids when he finds the warden is a sadist
There is a threat to Bogart's plan when the Kids escape as part of the warden's calculated attempt to prove Bogart's regenerative prison policies are valueless, but the ruse fails as Bogart gets the boys back winning the solemn recognition of merit
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
In between 1937's "Dead End" and 1938's "Angels With Dirty Faces", came
"Crime School", all three films teaming the Dead End Kids with Humphrey
Bogart. "Dead End" first introduced the misfit gang of course, and not
quite a year later they had top billing in this tale of ghetto poverty
and reform school violence. Billy Halop portrayed the leader of the
Dead End Kids in all three films, and went on to co-star with Bogey in
one more prison movie, 1939's "You Can't Get Away With Murder".
This early on, the Dead End concept wasn't fully fleshed out, as each movie brought the same actors to the screen, though with different names. But their screen personas essentially remained the same; in this film Leo Gorcey is the tough wise guy Spike, Huntz Hall goes by Goofy, and Bobby Jordan is known as Squirt. Interestingly, Gorcey rats out on Halop's character in both "Dead End" and "Crime School".
For his part, Humphrey Bogart played the heel in all the films mentioned, except "Crime School", where he got to turn in a portrayal of level headed and compassionate Deputy Commissioner Mark Braden. In no nonsense fashion, he fires inept guards and the reformatory's crooked Superintendent Morgan (Cy Kendall). However Morgan's hand picked head guard Cooper (Weldon Heyburn) remains behind, feigning loyalty to Braden, but using Spike to create a divisive wedge between Braden and fellow inmate Frankie Warren (Halop). Thrown into the mix is Frankie's sister Sue (co-star Gale Page), who becomes Braden's love interest in the film.
"Crime School" is a taut and well paced film, even if the story line gets muddy with Deputy Commissioner Braden's complicity in covering up the gang's prison break and eventual return. As with other Warner Brothers/First National films of the era, the studio paints a picture of the futility of crime and violence as an answer to poverty. In addition to recommending the movies already mentioned, "Little Caesar" and "Public Enemy" are also must see films, though somewhat harder edged.
An interesting point of trivia - in the prison yard scene when the Pledge of Allegiance is recited for the new commissioner, the words "under God" had not yet been added to the version we know today.
Warner Brothers decided to save a bundle on purchasing new properties
for the Dead End Kids. The boys did They Made Me a Criminal a year
later which was a remake of The Life of Jimmy Dolan and Crime School is
a remake of The Mayor from Hell.
Fellow gangster icon James Cagney starred in The Mayor from Hell which I also reviewed here. Such things as Cagney's motivation and commitment to the reform school and the manner with which the boys take matters into their own hands is pretty grisly. None of that in this kinder, gentler film.
Sleepers has a lot of the same elements in both The Mayor from Hell and Crime School. It's certainly better than Crime School. This was one film whose message was watered down to nothing.
Nevertheless Crime School does have Humphrey Bogart in it and the Dead End Kids are always entertaining.
I wonder what kind of stuff the Dead End Kids would have been turning out had they come along pre-Code?
This is a re-pairing of much of the cast of DEAD END--with the Dead End Kids and Humphrey Bogart together in the same film. The BIG difference this time is that instead of Bogey playing the nasty gangster, he is a juvenile prison crusader--bent on reforming the system and stressing rehabilitation. While this is an interesting twist, it is odd considering Bogart mostly played heavies during this era. And the overall effort isn't bad BUT once again I need to knock off a point because I simply find the Dead End Kids annoying at times. While not as annoying as they were to become when they were re-dubbed the Bowery Boys (complete with a few cast changes), a little of their hijinks goes a long way!
Crime School is a mediocre film, but still a good performance by Bogart. One of the Dead End Kids films, it struggles to keep you interested. The Dead End Kids are, well dead. The acting is very poor and the characters and almost annoying with the over done accents and supposed gang behavior. The main problem which contributes to the entire films downfall is the unrealistic dialog and actions. When one of the kids shows up at the pawnshop with a 100 lb cast iron bathtub, you roll your eyes. But when Cy Kendell gets fired from a job he has had for 12 years and he puts up almost no protest you have to reach for remote and try not to stop the tape. Its finer points are the moral and political statements the film makes on reforming child criminals. Sadism versus compassion, hate verses love, good points clouded by comical attempts at portraying tough street kids. Bogart is a great actor and plays the part well, of all the characters in the film his is the most believable and entertaining. Definitely not one of Lew Seiler's best movies. I would not rent it unless you are old enough to connect for nostalgic reasons, but if it shows on TV it is worth muddling through it.
Humphrey Bogart takes over a reform school and tries to straighten out
the Dead End Kids in this fine urban drama from Warner Bros. It's the
second movie featuring the Dead End Kids after their debut in "Dead
End" and their first for Warner Bros. This one is essentially a remake
of a great Pre-Code movie called "The Mayor of Hell," which was also
made by WB and starred James Cagney. That movie was grittier than this
one and, since it didn't star the Dead End Kids, was less comedic. That
isn't to say this movie is a comedy but the mugging of the Kids brings
levity to even the most serious of scripts. Eventually someone would
realize the boys were better suited for comedies but in these early
dramas they were used to illustrate the plight of tough street kids.
The Dead End Kids have their share of detractors among classic film fans today. Read through some of the reviews of their movies here and you'll come across some very vocal 'haters.' I like them myself, particularly the later movies they did as East Side Kids and Bowery Boys where Leo Gorcey was the leader of the gang instead of humorless Billy Halop. Anyway, the Kids are good here despite drama not being their forte. Humphrey Bogart shines as the good guy, an unusual role for him at this point in his career. Bogart also appeared in "Dead End," although he was a gangster in that one. Gale Page is nice in a sympathetic role as the sister of Halop's character. It's a good movie of its type and I have no doubt fans of the urban crime pictures WB specialized in will like it. And, of course, Bogart and Dead End Kids fans will enjoy it most.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
... I'm perhaps a poor judge of the film itself since it is an obvious
remake of "The Mayor of Hell" with some "San Quentin" thrown in for
good measure. In particular, "San Quentin" has Bogart as the convict
made to believe that the warden is just being nice to him to get to his
sister, and in this film Bogart is the prison administrator. It's
interesting to compare the scene in both films where the escaped
prisoner confronts the warden, in "San Quentin" with Bogart holding the
gun on the warden, and in "Crime School" with Bogart being the wrongly
accused warden being held at gunpoint. It's a tribute to his acting
skills that he was so believable in both.
James Cagney played the head of the reform school in Mayor of Hell, but he was more of an accidental angel, getting the job because of political connections, plus he was a former gangster with moll in tow when he arrived. Bogart's take on this same role has him as always having been a straight arrow, a guy with an education who wants to help these kids who have come up from the same neighborhood from which he came up.
What makes this one special versus its predecessor is seeing Bogart in a good yet tough guy role and the special chemistry of the Dead End Kids who were so good together that they continued making films under various monikers until 1958.
This was the first "Dead End Kids" film that I watched and I really enjoyed it (too bad they don't show it on television anymore). When I first watched it, it was at a time when I thought all "kid gang" films were like the Little Rascal/Our Gang Comedies. The Dead End Kids were the ones who broke the mold and made the kids believable and this film hooked me on them. The one scene that I was particularly shocked with was when Frankie (Billy Halop) tried to make a break for it and got caught in the barbed wire fence. What happened to him after still makes me cringe as he is whipped within an inch of his life with a cat-a-nine tails. Even though this film is not a classic like "Dead End", the film that introduced us to the Kids, it still is a good picture on it's own.
This is a great DEK flick, classic & appealing! I recommend this film before you see any other DEK film. This will get you acquainted with them and you will love watching the other films! My favorite character is Frankie Warren...he sets the tone for the movies and the other guys accent it all so well that you couldn't imagine them apart!
The Dead End Kids star with Humphrey Bogart in "Crime School," a 1938
film from Warner Brothers.
The boys live in a rough neighborhood. They steal things and bring them to a fence, whom Spike accidentally kills. They are sent to reform school, but the school turns out to be more like a prison, run by a horrible warden (Cy Kendall) and his henchman (Weldon Heyburn).
Bogart plays Braden, the new Deputy Commissioner of Correction. When he comes for a visit he sees Frankie (Billy Halop) untreated in the hospital with lash wounds all over his back. He tastes the food, which is inedible. He fires the warden and several guards. He fires the drunk doctor. The bars come off the windows, the food is better, the kids are in training for various skills, no more whippings.
Then the henchman, still working there, sets Braden up to take a big fall by convincing Spike (Leo Gorcey) to take his car keys and escape. Of course the rest of the boys come with him.
Entertaining, with Bogart playing a nice guy. Gale Page is Frankie's sister. If you like the Dead End Kids, this is okay, though I understand it's not their best.
Of interest, "under God" is left out of the Pledge of Allegiance.
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