They Made Me a Criminal (1939) Poster

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Effortlessly entertaining.
David Atfield17 July 1999
This is breezy highly entertaining drama with an excellent cast. Garfield is fine as a boxer hiding from the police with that motley crew the Dead End Kids. Most notable of these is the beautiful Billy Halop who has some very moving moments. Gloria Dickson, who in real life died very young in a house fire, is strong and very attractive as Halop's sister, and in the early scenes Ann Sheridan, on the brink of stardom, is a knock-out. May Robson is very funny as a crusty old granny, but Claude Rains proves here that even a great actor can flounder if mis-cast (whoever thought of casting him as a tough New York cop?).

Busby Berkeley proves here that he was a fine director with or without musical numbers. The film moves at a terrific pace and the water tower sequence is very suspenseful and well photographed. The ending is contrived, and the plot nothing startling or original, but I still found this a highly enjoyable experience.
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Don't Make The Same Mistake Twice
sol121820 December 2004
***SPOILERS*** Even though the movie "They Made Me A Criminal" is nowhere as good as the later John Garfield anti-hero classics like "Body & Soul" in 1947 "Force of Evil" in 1948 and his last and very underrated "He Ran All The Way" in 1951 it's the film that defined his career from that point onward until his untimely death on May 21, 1952 at the young age of 39.

Garfiled plays the part of light Weight Champion Johnnie Bradfield and later the fugitive from the law Jack Dorney who's innocent of the murder that he's charged with, even though he's been declared officially dead. Jonnie's manager Doc Ward, Robert "Doc" Gleckler, who during a drunken victory party killed reporter Charles McGee,John Ridgely, who was going to expose to the public his fighter Johnnie Bradfield lies about him being a one women guy as well as non drinking momma's boy. Doc Gleckler smashed a bottle over McGee's head killing him as Jonnie was almost dead drunk with a number of women partying in his hotel suite.

Doc was later killed in a car crash with Johnnie's girlfriend Goldie, Ann Sheridan, but Doc burned to a crisp and with Johnnie's watch on him was mistaken for Johnnie. Told to stay dead and buried by his lawyer Malvin ,Robert Strange, who took $9,750.00 of the $10,000.00 of Johnnie's money that he had for this great piece of advice. Malvin told Johnnie to take on a new identity and call himself from now on Jack Dorney and get the hell out of the state of New York; talking about sleazy shysters. Johnnie now Jack Dorney travels the rails from New York down to Arizona ending up at the Rancho Rafferty Date Farm where most of the film takes place.

If it wasn't for John Garfield in the lead role as both Jonnie Bradfield & Jack Dorney the movie would have long been lost and forgotten. Garfield who was only 26 at the time brought the best out of everyone in the movie. Even the transported Dead End Kids, I guess we can call them The Arizona Kids here, acting were notches above what you would have expected from them and they came across as real and sensitive persons not a bunch of slap stick clowns like in almost all of their movies. All that due to being on the same stage, or filming location, with John Garfield.

"They Made Me a Criminal" is a good story that has the undercover champ acting like anything but not to draw any attention on himself and end up not only behind bars but in the electric chair. In the end Jack showed just what kind of man he is by not fighting the big fight and against all the odds dramatically winning at the last moment but by going four brutal rounds to get the money for his new found family at the date farm including his girl Peggy, Gloria Dickson, to open up a gas station with it.

Giving the European champ Gaspar Rutchek, Frank Riggi, the fight of his life and getting $2,000.00, thats $500.00 a round, for doing it Jack showed everyone who looked up to him like the "Arizona Kids" that sometimes taking a punch is far braver and more courageous then throwing one.The fact that Jack could have easily clobbered Rutched but didn't in order not to expose himself to the police, as on the loose killer Johnnie Bradfield. But instead went as far as he could taking everything that Rutchek could throw at him to help out his friends showed more then all the fights that he won in the boxing ring put together.

I for one didn't find the ending of the movie contrived at all but fitting right in with the story. The cop Morty Phelam, Claude Rains, who came to Arizona from New York to arrest Jack had to live with for years the fact that he once sent an innocent man to the electric chair. We were told all this right at the start of the movie. Why knowing that Jack/Johnnie was innocent of the murder that he's charged with and not knowing for sure if he'll be found innocent of it in a court of law would he want to make the same terrible mistake again? I can easily see this happening in real life why not then in the movies.
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Busby Berkeley smoothly shifts gears from geometric dancing girls to neat little crime drama
Glenn Andreiev20 January 1999
Known for his wonderfully cinematic dance sequences, Busby Berkeley went for a different genre in this fine 1939 crime drama. A youthful John Garfield plays Johnnie, a tough NYC boxer who scores a big break in the ring. He attends a drunken private party where a news reporter is murdered. The killer himself dies in a flaming auto wreck, but not before he successfully shifts the blame to Johnny. Johnny flees the city and hides out at a small boy's camp out west, populated by everyone's favorite wayward street gang, The Dead End Kids. All seems fine in this hide-out until a NYC detective (Claude Rains) who was on the murder case, happens by. Berkeley keeps the film going at a terrific pace. Berkeley would never settle for a point-and-shoot look to his film. His camera is all over the place, even underwater when the kids take over a water tank. There's all the stock characters of old cinema her e- the nice girl who softens Garfield's heart, the spry old grannie, the tough NYC cops and reporters. Fun movie.
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Better Than the Original
bkoganbing10 January 2006
They Made Me a Criminal is a remake of an earlier Warner Brothers film, The Life of Jimmy Dolan which starred Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. as the prizefighter on the lam.

Even with the restrictions now upon production by the Hays Office, this remake actually turns out to be better than the original. Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., is horribly miscast as a pugilist. John Garfield with his background and style steps into a part he was born to play.

They Made Me a Criminal was directed by Busby Berkeley who Jack Warner believed in keeping busy in between musicals. Berkeley in fact would soon be leaving Warner Brothers for MGM.

Berkeley does do a fine job here, keeping the action flowing at a good pace. I particularly like the scene where four of the Dead End Kids and Garfield are swimming in a water tank and get stranded there when the water level goes down. They get it out of it quite narrowly and with some good ingenuity.

Other performances besides Garfield and the kids to remember are May Robson who runs the summer camp for the kids and Claude Rains as the obsessed detective on Garfield's trail.
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"He stole my watch, my girl and my car..., yeah, serves him right."
classicsoncall2 October 2005
Warning: Spoilers
It's always a good feeling when a movie delivers the goods when you weren't expecting it. The Dead End Kids/Bowery Boys found themselves in a lot of uneven films, and usually did better when in a support role, as in "Angels With Dirty Faces". Here, their presence as a backdrop to the story of a boxer framed for murder gives them a lot of screen time without distracting from the main action.

John Garfield is light heavyweight champion Johnny Bradfield, a southpaw hitter who's a lot different from the image he portrays to the sports world and the press. When a newspaper reporter inadvertently learns that Johnny's a party loving womanizer, his plans to spill that information in a column is interrupted by a whiskey bottle to the head from Johnny's manager Doc Ward (Robert Gleckler). In turn, Doc talks Johnny's girlfriend Goldie (Ann Sheridan) into running off with him to avoid the legal hassle of dealing with the reporter's death. As both flee, a police chase winds up in a fiery car wreck, and Doc's body is misidentified as Johnny from the gold watch he was wearing.

Claude Rains adopts an Edward G. Robinson sneer that doesn't quite work as a detective who's been reassigned to morgue detail after a bad arrest years ago. His character is Monty Phelan, and he has a pretty good hunch that the body in the car crash wasn't Johnny. He pesters his boss to hand over the closed case to him, and is given the assignment to get him out of town and out of the way.

Meanwhile, Johnny looks for advice from his lawyer, and winds up being screwed even worse when he gets conned for most of his ten thousand dollar savings. Making his way cross country, Johnny winds up at the Rancho Rafferty Date Farm in Arizona, run by a crusty Granny Rafferty (May Robson). The farm is the legacy of Granny's brother, a deceased priest from Brooklyn, and is now the home of a band of rag tag street boys (The Dead End Kids) who work the farm. Billy Halop is the nominal leader of the boys in this one, and his sister Peggy (Gloria Dickson) becomes the romantic interest for Johnny, now going by the name of Jack Dorney.

I get a kick out of the historical perspective offered in these pre-War era films. When Johnny and the boys take a joy ride in the farm's truck, they fill up at a gas station for a $1.28! Tommy (Halop) gets the idea that a gas station on the farm would be a good way to earn some extra money, and with that thought, Jack Dorney decides to take on a barnstorming boxer offering $500 a round to anyone who can stay in the ring with him. The clichéd premise is turned on it's ear somewhat when Jack gets knocked out in the fifth round, but by then he's earned enough to give the fruit farm a fighting chance of it's own. Maybe Grandma Rafferty should have been in the ring, she just about took out everyone sitting around her at ringside. As Johnny/Jack comes around in the locker room, Detective Phelan is on hand to take him into custody. Knowing that he can redeem his reputation with this collar, it's a toss up as to whether Phelan follows through on his arrest - you'll have to watch the film to find out.

I like the Dead End films where Leo Gorcey's in charge, but he doesn't have a lot to do in this one. However he does a great flim-flam on the ticket taker at the gate of the boxing match. Another thought - wouldn't it have been great if the ever present picture on the wall of the priest had been that of Pat O'Brien?

All in all, this is a pretty good entry in both the John Garfield and Dead End Kids filmography, and an entertaining way to spend an hour and a half. If there's one downside, it's not enough screen time for pretty Ann Sheridan. The film might have wound up even more satisfying if the roles of Sheridan and Gloria Dickson were reversed, as the on screen chemistry between Dickson's Peggy and Jack seemed more forced than natural.
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A Swell Time for Classic Movie Buffs
djensen117 April 2005
Warning: Spoilers
Busby Berkeley is best known for choreographing dozens of beautiful girls in outlandish costumes, twirling and parading in early musicals, but here he tries his hand at choreographing boxing matches. John Garfield is terrific in this rough little melodrama, where he's a boxer mixed up in a murder committed by his manager. The manager takes his watch, his girl, and his car and is promptly mangled in a car accident so horrendous that the cops mistake him for Garfield. The unlikely misfortune continues to pile up on Garfield as he gets the worst legal advice ever from his crooked lawyer and takes it on the lam to Arizona.

The wonderful Claude Rains, with his theatrical carriage and a comically-bad accent sounding more Queensland than Queens, is way out of his element as a tough-talking New York cop, and that alone may be worth the price of admission. The Dead End Kids (AKA the Bowery Boys) appear here as delinquents transplanted from New York to an Arizona fruit farm(?!) Gloria Dickson is a bottle-blonde treat as feisty rancher girl Peggy who has lousy taste in men.

Garfield lays low for a while on the ranch, mostly getting the boys into trouble, but somehow wins the heart of Dickson despite lying to her every time he opens his mouth thru the entire film. He enters an exhibition match with a professional fighter on tour who is taking all comers and offering big cash to anyone who can stay in the ring for more than two rounds. Garfield hopes to win enough to start a gas station and save the ranch at 16 cents a gallon. Rains naturally shows up and throws a wrench into his plans.

The dialog is weak but the plotting isn't completely predictable (unbelievable, maybe, but not predictable). It's a fun diversion for those who like the era of pork-pie hats and swell lingo. However, seeing the teens fleece a 12-year-old military school cadet in a game of strip poker is... disturbing.
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An Unusual Blend of Talent Comes Together Very Well
Snow Leopard24 October 2005
The blend of talent in "They Made Me A Criminal" is rather unusual, with John Garfield, who was at his best in film-noir type settings, Claude Rains, a skilled and classy character actor, and the Dead End Kids, best known for more boisterous material. The story is written to give all of them some good moments, and as a whole it works quite well.

Garfield gets a tailor-made role as a boxing champion who goes on the run after he is set up and framed. It was Garfield's misfortune that perhaps his best role, in "The Postman Always Rings Twice", was overshadowed (through no fault of his own, since it would have happened to almost anyone in the role) by Lana Turner's unforgettable performance. Here, Garfield gets the chance to show what he can do, showing a tough side, a cynical side, and, at the right times, a somewhat more thoughtful side.

The story is very interesting, and other than a couple of slightly implausible developments, it works well in mixing some different kinds of material and settings. The supporting cast all does well, although Rains has to battle with his role, as a tough-cop character that doesn't really make the best use of his strengths.

In keeping everything together and on-track, Busby Berkeley shows the same kind of skill that enabled him to produce the variety numbers for which he was better known. He comes in for his share of the credit here in creating an interesting movie with some unusual features.
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John Garfield Gets in the Ring for Billy Halop and "The Dead End Kids"
wes-connors11 April 2009
After winning a championship fight, boxer John Garfield (as Johnnie Bradfield) celebrates with a drinking binge, which leads to the manslaughter of a pushy reporter. Although his manager killed the man, Mr. Garfield is blamed. When the manager dies in a car crash, wearing Garfield's stolen watch, authorities think the boxer is dead. Still a WANTED man, Garfield changes his identity to "Jack Dorney" and moves to an Arizona ranch. There, Garfield meets "The Dead End Kids": Billy Halop (as Tommy), Bobby Jordan (as Angel), Leo Gorcey (as Spit), Huntz Hall (as Dippy), Gabriel Dell (as T.B.), and Bernard Punsly (as Milt).

Garfield bonds with the young "Dead End" lads, who were sent to stay with sweet "Grandma Rafferty" (May Robson) as an alternative to reform school, courtesy of her brother, deceased priest "Father Rafferty". Garfield falls in love with Halop's sister, pretty "Peggy" (Gloria Dickson), who is there to keep any eye on the kids. Of course, Garfield's past comes back to haunt him…

John Garfield and The 'Dead End' Kids make beautiful (Max Steiner) music together, thanks to effective direction and photography, by Busby Berkeley and James Wong Howe. The story is predictably comfortable, with the Warner Brothers support team in fine form. Garfield and the "Dead End" kids are a winning combination; although Garfield made no further movies with the "East Side" gang, the studio had him re-team with both Billy Halop and Bobby Jordan, almost immediately, for "Dust Be My Destiny".

The boxing scenes are nicely staged. But, the most exciting sequence has Garfield and four of the New York "Kids" (Halop, Jordan, Hall, and Punsly) climbing into a giant water tank for a swim - which unexpectedly puts their lives in danger. Other, more brief, highlights include floozy Ann Sheridan (as Goldie), boozy Barbara Pepper (as Budgie), and young Ronald Sinclair (as Douglas) losing at strip poker.

******** They Made Me a Criminal (1/21/39) Busby Berkeley ~ John Garfield, Billy Halop, Bobby Jordan, Claude Rains
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Flight or Fight: Both Here in This Tale of Loyalty and Redemption
Ralph Michael Stein9 July 2004
The young John Garfield turned in a fine performance in the 1939 "They Made Me a Criminal." Celebrating a ring victory in a jammed locker room, boxer Johnnie Bradfield emotes about his love of mom, rejection of booze and clean living style to fans, including cops, who eat it up. Later in the evening he's plowed and tussling with his bimbo gal while his manager, in on the con, shares the evening. And the whiskey.

A problem develops when another couple arrives. The guy is a newspaper reporter and he says he'll expose Bradfield's phony life on the front page. The manager kills the reporter and he and the floozy depart. The murder discovered, cops, later, are on the lookout for the now somnolent boxer whose car is driven by the manager with his new girlfriend-Johnny's now instant ex. A police chase ends with a fiery car crash. Manager and girl are dead and unrecognizable.

Johnny discovers that he's supposed to be a killer. But he's also presumed dead. Seeking advice from a lawyer, he entrusts the counselor with the key to a bank deposit box holding his sole savings, $10,000. The lawyer later gives Johnny $250 and tells him that the balance is his fee for giving him professional advice: get out of town, fast, and go far away. (I would never charge a client more than $5,000 for such pithy, succinct and wise direction.)

Johnny, now a freight train hopping hobo, winds up conveniently passing out at an Arizona date ranch where he's nursed back to health by beautiful Goldie West, Ann Sheridan, a fine actress whose career was in the ascendancy. Taking Jack Dorney as his moniker, the pugilist loses some of his rough edges as he falls in love with Goldie. He becomes a mentor and pal to - The Dead End Kids. Familiar screen characters to pre-war moviegoers.

A chance to make money arises when an exhibition boxer shows up challenging any suckers to last several rounds in the ring with him. It's a natural temptation for Bradfield/Dorney but there's a fly in the ointment. Who should show up but New York detective Monty Phelan, the laughing stock of the department? He's been on morgue duty for ages because of a slight mistake early in his career that sent an innocent man to Old Sparky (we all make mistakes, don't we?) Phelan recognized Bradfield from a news photo and he's there to watch the fight and make the pinch. Claude Rains is the cop who's endured slights and barbs from his fellow officers for years.

What follows is predictable but it's well acted. I hope this was a main feature when it was released-it's too good to rank as a "B" second on a marquee.

Busby Berkeley, best known as an outstanding choreographer, directed "They Made Me a Criminal" and Max Steiner, one of Hollywood's all-time prolific score composers, wrote nice but not extraordinary music for the film.

Now available on DVD from Alpha Video, the movie set me back a mere $4.99 and gave me real pleasure. I'll view it again.

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A Mirror Image of another great film from the 1930's
georgigems14 September 2003
I have never been a big fan of John Garfield but seeing this movie gave me a different opinion. This is a well done remake of one of my all time favorite films "The Life of Jimmy Dolan" (1933) with Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. , Loretta Young , a very young Mickey Rooney and a cameo by a guy named John Wayne. That film had one of the best love songs ever "How Deep Is the Ocean" as a background to the love scenes.

Garfield plays his boxer a little more as a looser than did Doug Fairbanks but he is great in the part.

What really drew me to this film was the "ensemble" cast of the Dead End Kids as the tough reform school guys on the farm that Garfield's character helps. The ever superb (and I feel also unrated) Leo Gorcey says it all with his body language and that face as the tough mug with a ice cube for a heart. He is wonderful. As for the rest of the Bowery Boys/Dead End Kids, they are also fabulous. How they play off each other is a lesson in acting.

I would recommend this film but for the classic take on this story see the Fairbanks film. It is outstanding.
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Garfield scores heavily in the lead
jjnxn-111 May 2013
A compact drama about redemption. John Garfield, always a powerful screen presence, makes a strong impression in the lead as an initially corrupt boxer who sees the error of his ways. The Dead End Kids are well used and the sassy May Robson brightens any movie in which she appeared. Be aware that Ann Sheridan, although prominently billed, is in and out of the movie in about 5 minutes, however Gloria Dickson makes a fine showing. At this point she was considered an actress on the way up but ended up spending most of her brief career in low budget films before her death in a fire at 28. The one small problem is the casting of Claude Rains as a dogged detective. He was always a fantastic actor and gives a professional performance but the part doesn't play to his strengths of urbanity and wit. Berkeley, taking a break from musicals, maintains a brisk pace in the direction making this one of the better programmers to come out of the Warners factory.
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The Great John Garfield
Jem Odewahn22 November 2006
Warning: Spoilers
I wasn't expecting a great deal from this film, so I was pleasantly surprised when I watched it and found it to be most noteworthy. It's noteworthiness is mainly due to the talent and appeal of it's star, John Garfield.

Garfield plays Jack, a boxing star who is framed for murder. He must go on the run, and ends up out in the sticks with Gloria Dickson and the Dead End Kids. Here is offered a chance for redemption, yet will the past catch up with him yet? Garfield was an actor ahead of his peers. Before the term 'Method' was even coined and before Brando ever screamed 'Stella!' he brings 'natural' to the screen. His earthy quality and amazing acting talent dominate this production. Also interesting is that his role here as a boxer has shades of that 'Golden Boy' role he so desperately wanted to covet on screen. Garfield looks the type and goes the distance as a boxer, proving his acting worth.

Ann Sheridan is here in a small role at the beginning as Jack's trampy girl Goldie. I haven't ever thought much of Sheridan, but I liked her here. She plays well off Garfield. Dickson's' performance is a little tired and she does not share good chemistry with Garfield. The Dead End Kids are here, and Garfield seems their natural idol (even more so than Cagney). Claude Rains is miscast, and he looks uncomfortable in the role in many a scene. Strange, as he always was such a reliable actor.

Also interesting to note is the director- Busby Berkeley, best known for his early musicals with dancing girls and kaleidoscope images, directs a different genre here with remarkable ease. He maintains a gritty atmosphere throughout admirably.

A very good film that deserves greater attention 8/10.
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They Made Me A Criminal Could Have Kept Going ***1/2
edwagreen12 August 2006
Very good 1939 film where John Garfield plays another boxer who becomes a victim when everyone thinks he has committed a murder. Trouble is that the killer and Garfield's girl, Ann Sheridan, in a brief but good performance, get killed while trying to elude the police.

A crooked attorney persuades Garfield to flee N.Y. He lands in Arizona and meets up with the Dead End Kids.. They've been sent there by a funding program to keep them out of further trouble.

Of course, Garfield finds a new love interest but must conceal his identity as everyone thinks he was not only the killer but was the victim in the car crash.

May Robson is fabulous as the grandma type running the place for the wayward youth. Claude Rains is also effective in the role of the detective who suspects that Garfield is still alive and pursues him when a picture is snapped of him in Arizona.

The film really deals with Garfield's relation to the boys. While the ending is good, you want to see Garfield go back to N.Y. to proclaim his innocence.
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Watch Grandma's hands
Tom Willett (yonhope)15 January 2006
Warning: Spoilers
Whoever plays the part of J. Douglas Williamson in the strip poker scene does a wonderful job. He apparently received no credits. Too bad.

All the Dead End Kids do their jobs beautifully in this 1939 entry. It is odd to watch them in a Western setting with their Brooklyn accents ( I guess that should be Bowery ). They even show some swimming abilities.

I think there are many special scenes that can stay with the viewer of this boxing/love/crime story. My favorite right now is in the fight scene near the end of the film. Busby Berkeley shows his dance movie expertise when John Garfield shifts his feet and as we watch that move, the camera moves up to his face. I will not give away why or when, but the look on his face at that point probably brought the 1939 audience to its feet in the theaters.

Some will think John Garfield looks a lot like Frank Sinatra in many scenes. Just his face. Actually Frank was not yet making movies so maybe Frank looked like John. The boxer named Smith in the movie looks like a clone of Ed Begley, Jr.

Now I must tell you something that is not a spoiler, but if you watch the movie, watch Grandma's hands. May Robson does her part well. She seems to have hands that wander a bit. In a scene where she and a crowd go into the boxer's (John Garfield) dressing room, watch where she touches the reclining John Garfield while he is wearing only his trunks.

A great ending. Lots of wonderful characters.

Best line might be at the gas station, "...eight gallons, that's a dollar twenty-eight..." Tom Willett
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A second chance.
dbdumonteil5 May 2005
A beautiful film.John Garfield's character is a distant relative of "Les Miserables"'s Jean Valjean while detective Rains recalls Victor Hugo's Javert,the ruthless arm of law.

Like in many films noirs,the city epitomizes evil whereas the country and the nature represents sanctuary,redemption,and a second chance for those whose life seems forever doomed.But even in the luminous daylight,danger may appear suddenly,as the excellent scene at the reservoir shows.John Garfield -an actor who,as Leonard Maltin points out,should be rediscovered:I've never been disappointed by any of his films except for his supporting part in "gentleman's agreement " but it was not his fault-gives a heartfelt sensitive performance and the audience sides with him as soon as he is unjustly accused (the first sequence shows a rather unkind hypocrite person,but all his trials redeem him and how do we feel for him during the last scenes with detective Rains.Colorful characters (grandma and the kids ) add a lot of joie de vivre which is necessary .Humor is also present in the strip poker game as the Dead End brats fleece a rich kid.

I recommend this movie.
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A boxing champ on the run.
Michael O'Keefe25 March 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Busby Berkeley directs this drama that features an element of crime mixed with drama and some humor. A feel good flick that holds interest. John Garfield plays a young champion prizefighter that is led to believe he murdered a reporter in a drunken brawl; so he high steps it out of town. He heads west and stops in Arizona taking refuge on a ranch run by Ann Sheridan and staffed by the Dead End Kids featuring Leo Gorcey and Billy Halop. The gang convinces the boxer on the run to enter a prizefight to win stakes for a future gasoline station. But spoiling a good thing is detective Claude Rains, who recognizes the champ and is set to take him back. A nice escape back to days gone by.
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They Made Me a Criminal (1939) ***
JoeKarlosi14 June 2004
Another enjoyable Warner flick. I really liked John Garfield in this, though I'm wondering why Cagney wasn't in the role. Perhaps it was too similar to ANGELS WITH DIRTY FACES? I mean, it's another Dead End Kids story of sorts too, but I really appreciated them here and this film had a lot of nice comical touches along with some good serious drama. The boys work great with Garfield. A nice sequence was the whole "swimming" scene which starts out with no cares but winds up coming too close to disaster. One negative comment: Claude Rains was grossly miscast. As the detective, the fine actor seemed as out of place here as a nun in a whorehouse. *** out of ****
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A Blend of Comedy and Crime
LeonLouisRicci1 October 2012
A mix of comedy and crime that doesn't quite work and is woefully dated. But there is some charm that remains and it is an entertaining, if somewhat forced, blend that may suffer from a bit too much of some things and not enough of others.

The first half of a deadly serious frame up and setup is effective as an innocent man is sent on the lam. Then the films switches tone and locales and the combination of slapstick and over the top acting does not fare as well.

To be kind it is a good effort but the parts don't do the whole justice. There are some exciting scenes and some funny and tender ones, the problem is that they don't always make a satisfying connection.

John Garfield is always a force on screen and delivers, as usual, a knockout performance, but Claude Raines is miscast to the point of distraction. The Dead End Kids do their usual routines and the Director is competent enough, although competent would hardly describe his excellent, eye-popping, ground-breaking musicals.
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Warners Goes to the Desert
dougdoepke19 August 2012
It's a Warner Bros. production, in spades—from Garfield to the gritty subject matter to the seedy surroundings. If MGM was the glamour studio, Warner's was the no-nonsense Plain Jane. Here boxing champ Johnnie (Garfield) hobos it to the California desert to escape a New York murder rap. There he hooks up with tough blonde (Dickson) and her juvenile delinquent date pickers (Gorcey, et. al.). Trouble is that Detective Phelin (Rains) won't give up the chase, and now Johnnie's in a pickle he can't fight his way out of.

Okay, nothing unusual about the plot, except maybe the setting. Nevertheless, director Busby Berkeley manages to blend the elements into a good gritty little tale. Well, that's except for the fight scenes, which prove Berkeley was better at arranging dancers than boxers. Even so, he makes maybe the best use of that ragamuffin outfit that would become the Bowery Boys that I've seen. Even the usually buffoonish Huntz Hall is under firm control. But maybe the biggest challenge was getting aristocratic Claude Rains to impersonate a street wise New York cop, of all things. Fortunately, that excellent actor pulls it off better than expected. And, of course, there's the great Garfield showing why his brand of feisty urban grit was so perfect for the times.

Then there's the one scene that still has me sweating. Johnnie and the boys are cooling off inside a big water-filled irrigation tank. Okay, no problem. Except, farmer somebody decides his date trees need water, and before they know it, the boys are clawing at the bare metal sides, trying to escape the ten feet of water he's left in the bottom. Sure, they're okay, but only so long as they keep swimming and swimming, trapped like flotsam in a fish bowl. It's a sweaty doomsday setup that comes out of nowhere.

Anyway, this is the type of film that made me a fan of hardscrabble Warner Bros. of the 1930's. So catch up with it if you can.
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Great movie
vampi19606 September 2006
As a fan of old warner brothers gangster movies i had to check this out,its the 2nd best movie in the adventure classics DVD set that also had one of my favorite movies;Scott of the Antarctic on it.this was made in 1939 a good year for a lot of warner brothers movies,it boasts a great cast;John Garfield,Claude Rains,Ann Sheridan,and the dead end kids,who would be later known as the Bowery boys at monogram pictures. well a boxer(Garfield)gets framed for a murder he did'nt commit and is on the run and being tailed by a tough new york detective(Claude Rains) he ends up at a fruit picking place run by a pretty woman(Gloria Dickson)and the dead end kids(Huntz Hall,Leo Gorcey,Benard Punsley, Billy Halop,Bobby Jordan,Gabreil Dell)he later returns to boxing but tries to keep a low profile.this was directed by famed director Busby Berkley who directed timeless classics like 42nd street,goldiggers of 1933,and 35,footlight parade and many others.i would like to give a shout out to platinum DVD/video for putting out a lot of good budget priced DVD's like adventure classics(see my Scott of the Antarctic review)i give they made me a criminal 10 out of 10,great movie. ill have to point out that i have only seen 2 john Garfield movies,this one and body and soul.i thought he was a very good actor.
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Great movie
reo44424 July 2005
I had heard of John Garfield, but, didn't know him. I loved this movie. I had never heard of it. I just picked it up randomly. John Garfield is a boxer in the movie. He had been in real life also so he knew his part. He was a fugitive throughout the movie. Someone else killed a man. He character was blamed. He is befriended by a family who has questions and is not quite sure what to make of him. All sorts of minor plots ensue. My favorite was the scary swimming scene in a water tower where the water was deep and one Dead End Kid couldn't swim, AND none of them could get out.John's character saves the day. The Dead End Kids were great as his friends and followers. One of them right to the very end. Ann Sheridan played the family's daughter and John's eventual love interest. She was believable, but not lovable in my opinion-the only weak link in the movie.
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Good cars, bad booze, fast broads, slow conclusions
futures-123 November 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Starring John Garfield, Claude Rains (finding his role for "Casablanca"), and plenty of other known actors of that time. This is a fully predictable story about a boxer who ends up "on the lam" trying to start a new life, and in the process seems to have done exactly that… and then things get complicated… Sometimes you just want to sit back and go for the ride, and this one is one of those. It's enjoyable, the "tough guy Bronx chatter" is over the top, the dames and the gal next door are perfect, the kids who need a role model – although aging their ways past these roles – were big box office at that time as "The Dead End Kids", there's a young Ward Bond in here, good cars, bad booze, fast broads, and slow conclusions. Hey, it's Hollywood in the Depression before the War. Lighten up.
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Formulaic but still fun and quite entertaining
MartinHafer11 October 2007
The early films of the Dead End Kids (before they were re-christened "the Bowery Boys") were all very entertaining and well-produced films from Warner Brothers. Despite their being rather formulaic, they still had excellent writing, acting and hold up well over time. Do NOT confuse these with the cheap Bowery Boys films from Monogram Pictures--despite the presence of Huntz Hall and Leo Gorcey, these films were several notches below the earlier films in regard to quality.

The film begins with tough-guy John Garfield winning the lightweight boxing championship. Unfortunately, shortly after this he's on a drunken binge and is blamed for a murder he really didn't commit. The problem is that he was so loaded that he wasn't sure he didn't kill the man, so he runs away and lives the life of a hobo. Eventually, he meets up with feisty May Robson and the Dead End Kids--as well as a lady you just know will become his girlfriend given time.

Where the rest of the film goes was not all that surprising, but because of the quality of the film, it doesn't seem to matter. Garfield and the Kids are at their best and this is a film sure to please all but the pickiest of viewers.
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I Just Couldn't Buy Into It
Hitchcoc30 October 2006
I enjoy watching John Garfield. He plays a good leading man, with a rough edge, and an underlying danger. I don't know how much the era differed from the current one, but my guess is that there were people all over for whom boxing was a real passion. I'd be surprised that the kids didn't recognize the Garfield character. After all, he is the world champion, not just an unknown contender. He runs, is cheated by those he trusts (this part is believable in the fight game), and those that know him turn their backs on him. He hides under an assumed name and makes his way to the South. One part that bothers me is that he has a hard time keeping a low profile. If he doesn't want attention, he doesn't go about it very well. One might say it's the girl, but he has already strung himself up before she seriously comes into the picture. The Dead End Kids are more believable in these movies. They don't have the silly Three Stooges kind of persona that the Bowery Boys later had (of course, those were formula films). They are the real starts here, but still have too much schtick to be that appealing. The final scene is nice, but it really is contrived.
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John Garfield scores one more knock-out punch!
Enrique Sanchez25 December 2013
John Garfield has long been a hero of mine. There is something deeply sensitive and heartily warm under his brash, rough exterior.

In TMMAC, he inspires people who are down on their luck. John Garfield came from such circumstances and made an indelible and an unique contribution to the cinema. This film is another one of his near perfect performances where he shined throughout his career.

There are those who would relegate this to the trash heap, and they would be so wrong. It is a simple story, and it is not grand epic, but the subject matter is strongly familiar without being worn out. Yes, it is a vehicle for the "Dead End Kids" ...especially marvelously talented BILLY HALOP, but it is mightily assisted by the prodigiously wonderful talents of DAME MAY ROBSON, and (the probably miscast) CLAUDE RAINS who has some problems hiding his regal accent in playing a tough cop.

I would recommend this principally to fans of John Garfield, to fans of fight movies, and crime movies, but mostly to fans of the underdog who overcomes great adversity. In this last mention, John Garfield was THE MASTER.
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