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Code of the Streets (1939)

Approved | | Action, Adventure, Crime | 14 April 1939 (USA)
Hoodlum Tommy Shay is sentenced to die for the murder of Police Lieutenant Carson, although Tommy was in a poker game at the time with a man calling himself "Denver" Collins. Collins has ... See full summary »



(original screenplay)


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Cast overview, first billed only:
Frankie Thomas ...
Bob Lewis
James McCallion ...
Danny Shay
Mickhail 'Micky' Bjorgulfsen
'Chick' Foster
Tommy Shay
Henchman Halstead, aka Denver Collins
Dorothy Arnold ...
Harris Berger ...
Hal E. Chester ...
Murph (as Hally Chester)
Charles Duncan ...
Trouble (as William Benedict)
David Gorcey ...
Mark Daniels ...
Young Man (as Stanley Hughes)


Hoodlum Tommy Shay is sentenced to die for the murder of Police Lieutenant Carson, although Tommy was in a poker game at the time with a man calling himself "Denver" Collins. Collins has disappeared, and perjured evidence leads to Tommy's conviction. Tommy's younger brother Danny and his gang of alley kids,"The Little Tough Guys"--- "Sailor", "Murphy", "Monk", "Trouble" and "Yap"---scheme to save Tommy from the electric chair. Police Lieutenant John Lewis, who arrested Tommy, believes he is innocent and goes to the District Attorney and tries so insistently to have the case reopened that he is demoted to a patrolman in the sticks. Bob Lewis, John's son, a radio bug with detective ambitions, starts out on his own to solve the crime and help his father. Searching for Collins, Bob meets Danny and the Little Tough Guys and they join forces. Acting on a tip, they go to the gambling club owned by Chick Foster s)and tell him the police have reopened the Carson case and suspect him of being ... Written by Les Adams <longhorn1939@suddenlink.net>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

police | radio | murder | gotham | gang | See All (83) »


HE WOULDN'T WELCH! Beaten...battered...broke...he remained faithful to the only law he knew! See more »


Approved | See all certifications »




Release Date:

14 April 1939 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Ao Serviço da Lei  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Mirrophonic Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Followed by Call a Messenger (1939) See more »

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User Reviews

Much better than the current rating
26 November 2015 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

Poorer than Columbia in the first few years after the Laemmles lost control, Universal put out some quality films that were fast moving, maybe had only one well known player in the cast, and not needing much in the way of art design. This is one of those films.

The title is odd because there is nothing of roads or rules in this movie. Instead it starts out with a shot ringing out and a couple finding a policeman dead in the darkened streets. An anonymous call comes in saying "Pick up Tommy Shay". The detectives pick up Tommy, who is automatically in trouble for carrying a concealed weapon without a permit. He says he had it to protect his winnings, hands his winnings to little brother Danny, and tells Danny to give the money to their mother. At headquarters Tommy tells a tale of how he and someone named Denver Collins were going to pull off a robbery, but got into a game of poker instead. Denver staked him, and he just kept winning. He figured why go do a robbery when he was doing fine in the card game. Nobody left the game except Denver, and that was to get beer. The problem? Nobody else at the card game ever heard of anyone named Denver Collins and they claim it was Tommy who stepped out for awhile, nobody else. Ballistics proves the bullet that killed the cop came from Tommy's gun, and a guilty verdict and a sentence of death are the results of the trial.

After the trial, the cop that questioned Tommy in the first place, Harry Carey as Det. John Lewis, is talking to his son Bob (Frankie Thomas). John Lewis says that everything just looked too pat at Danny's trial, and that Danny was definitely a career criminal but not a killer. Lewis goes to the D.A. and gets a little too fresh with him about reopening the case. As punishment, Lewis is busted from detective back down to a regular cop pounding a beat two hours away from his home. Son Bob wants to be a cop someday, so he decides to investigate the policeman's murder anew himself. But first, for no real reason that is ever given, Bob goes looking for Tommy's brother Danny, and not only finds Danny but his gang "The Little Tough Guys", who are actually not that little.

Bob shows himself to be good at investigation, smart at tripping up who he thinks the bad guys are - he is literally everything that you would think would make a good future cop except, WHY does he think that palling around with Danny Shay and his hoodlum friends is a good idea? Hasn't he got any non-hoodlum friends to help out?

The answer is, he probably does, but the angle of the tough as nails hoodlum kids headed the wrong way in life turned around by unexpected events was big at the box office at the time. That's the only reason they are even here. Plus there is the not so subtle message that these kids of the streets would probably not steal, push around street vendors, and be on the road to a life of crime if they had a future and a loving home like Bob. Will Bob and his new friends get the evidence they need in time? Watch and find out. I think you'll find this much more interesting than the current rating says that it is.

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