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Angels' Alley (1948)
*** (out of 4)
A surprisingly effective entry in the Bowery Boys series has Jimmy (Frankie Darro) being released from prison and staying with Slip (Leo Gorcey) and his mother. Slip soon learns that Jimmy's involved with a small-time gangster and wrapped up in a auto-theft business. This was the ninth film in the series and it comes as a refreshing one as a lot of the silly comedy winds up on the back burner and we're given a lot more drama. The film really comes off as a major throwback to their 30s period when they were known as the Dead End Kids. Pretty much the only thing missing here is Pat O'Brien playing the Father and Humphrey Bogart playing the gangster. The first fifteen-minutes features the type of comedy we've come to expect from the series and it's actually pretty funny. We start off with a pretty good gag with Slip trying to go after the girl who he of course can't have. We get a few other funny pieces but it doesn't take long for the film to take a quick turn and enter the drama mode. The storyline here isn't anything original as we have troubled kids working for a gangster who is of course taking advantage of them. We have a Father (Nelson Leigh) who of course wants to protect his boys and of course we have Slip and the gang taking charge and trying to bring the bad guys down. I was really surprised at how dark some of the subject matter got including one turn of events that you really won't expect. I thought Gorcey gave his most effective performance of the series and manages to handle the comedy well but also the drama. Huntz Hall is once again called on to act the role of the idiot, which he does quite well but at times his comedy style is really out of place. We got Gabriel Dell playing yet a different type of character in Ricky and Nestor Paiva is pretty good as the crime boss. The film's biggest problem is that there's some comedy bits later in the film that don't work as well as they should but this is still a pretty good entry in the series and most importantly a refreshing one.
Slip's cousin Jimmy gets released from prison and quickly turns back to a life of crime. Slip tries to help him out by going undercover in a car-theft ring. It's the ninth Bowery Boys film and the first without Bobby Jordan. Stars Leo Gorcey and Huntz Hall are both good here, doing as much drama as comedy. Gabriel Dell, William Benedict, and David Gorcey are all fine. Frankie Darro is enjoyable as Jimmy. Early in his career he was great at playing young street toughs, despite not being one of the Dead End Kids/Bowery Boys. Bennie Bartlett appears for the first time in a Bowery Boys movie. He would become a regular member of the gang in the next film. Geneva Gray and former Miss America Rosemary LaPlanche provide the pretty. Sadly Bernard Gorcey's Louie is absent from this one. Instead we get an annoying little kid that looks up to Slip. You get the impression they were trying out a new character hoping he would catch on. He has a 'Bobs Watson scene' that has to be seen to be believed. The rest of the cast includes vets like John Eldredge, Nestor Paiva, and Dewey Robinson. There's a little more drama than comedy with this one, which might not please all fans. It reminds me of some of the gang's 1930s Dead End efforts. There is some comedy, though. The scene where Huntz Hall does impressions of Ronald Colman, Jimmy Durante, and James Cagney is a highlight. It's not one of my favorite Bowery Boys movies but it is an interesting one.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I usually use one of Leo Gorcey's fractured lines for my summary quote,
but the one by Father O'Hanlon (Nelson Leigh) seemed a whole lot more
appropriate for this picture's subject matter. This one seemed a bit of
a throwback to an earlier time when the Boys teamed up with Cagney in
"Angels With Dirty Faces", or the one that got them started, "Dead End"
with Bogart in the lead role. Of course the core group here (Gorcey,
Huntz Hall, Gabriel Dell) were known as the Dead End Kids back then and
their characters had different names. A decade later and they're still
trying to tough it out on the streets of the city.
More so than most any other of their pictures, this one goes for a bit of melodrama with the inclusion of Slip's (Gorcey) young cousin Boomer (Thomas Menzies). It doesn't start out that way, at the outset it looks like Boomer is an understudy to Slip in his penchant for torturing the English language. But later he's injured in a car accident, and Slip pulls out the emotional stops to comfort the youngster in his hospital bed. It's about the closest to serious drama that you'll find in a Bowery Boys flick.
The inclusion of a parish priest was a pretty interesting way to go here. Father O'Hanlon was the pastor of St. Vincent's Parish, and I thought it was pretty cool the way the picture paid tribute to an earlier film from Paramount Pictures. When the priest surprises Slip with his presence, Slip reacts by saying "...I was just going' to church. You're Going My Way?" That was pretty cool and I wondered what Crosby might have thought of it.
Coming right out of that scene, you'll catch a goof of sorts if you're paying attention. A few minutes before when Slip talks to Daisy (Rosemary LaPlanche) and Josie (Geneva Gray), behind them on a store front is a sign for the 'Home Appliance Company'. After Slip and Sach give Father O'Hanlon a ride to the St. Vincent Boys Club, right behind them on the sidewalk where they drop him off is the 'Home Appliance Company'! The window of the store was slightly altered, but in 1948 I doubt if there was a company big enough to have locations a couple of blocks apart. Now if it was a Starbucks....
So with all of that going on, the thing that really got my attention in this picture was the appearance of Frankie Darro. I don't know why, but I've taken a shine to Darro in these types of early movies. Like Leo Gorcey, he was already thirty years old when this movie was made, and I always thought he would have fit right in with the Dead End/East Side Kids/Bowery Boys groups. If you're of a mind, you should try to catch Darro in "The Mayor of Hell" or "Wild Boys of the Road", both pictures from 1933 when he was still a teenager.
Not to get too long winded here, as cousins, Jimmy (Darro) and Slip start out on the wrong foot with each other as the story gets under way, but patch things up when Slip takes the fall for one of Jimmy's failed robberies. Seeing the error of his ways, Jimmy goes straight and helps the Bowery bunch take it to mobster Tony Locarno (Nestor Paiva) and his auto theft ring.
Oh yeah, can't let this one go by without mentioning it. If you're a fan of the Bowery Boys you know all about Slip's malapropisms and the way he just tortures his sentences. Well did you ever consider it might have been an inherited trait? There's a scene in which Mom Mahoney (Mary Gordon) is getting ready to serve the boys dinner and suddenly they're all gone. Walking into the dining room she responds by saying "One moment the room is crowded, the next it's full of nobody"! How's that for disturbing your equilibrium?
As if the world did not have enough troubles, the English language was
sent back a few generations as Leo Gorcey acquired an understudy in
diction and grammar in Angels' Alley. Other than that, this film takes
a more serious tone than most of the Bowery Boys features.
Young Thomas Menzies has adopted Gorcey as a hero and has taken to wearing the creased old fedora like him and using the big words without quite knowing the meaning. It's the best thing about Angels' Alley.
Another actor who played troubled city kids, Frankie Darro, plays Leo Gorcey's cousin just released from prison. Immediately he gets tied up with the local gangster Nestor Paiva. It's up to the Bowery Boys to get the whole situation straightened.
This film did miss Bernard Gorcey as Louie Dombrowski, proprietor of Louie's sweetshop and hangout for Leo, Huntz Hall and the rest. Nice film, but not in the usual Bowery Boys spirit.
This is a woefully lackluster attempt to revisit some of the original
"Dead End" and "Angels
" themes from the original 1930s film series.
The strained, more serious "Angels' Alley" storyline isn't helped by
the ill-fitting comic antics of Leo Gorcey (as Slip Mahoney) and Huntz
Hall (as Sach Jones). William "Billy" Benedict (as Whitey) and David
Gorcey (as Chuck) make the most of their small roles. Perhaps acting
wisely, Bobby Jordan (as Bobby) makes no appearance at all.
Unfortunately, Mr. Jordan opted out of the series, which had reached a
relative peak with "News Hounds" and "Bowery Buckaroos" (both 1947).
The "Sweet Shop" is mentioned, but "The Bowery Boys" are based in the "St. Vincent Boy's Club", Gorcey's home, or the local pool hall. Bernard "Louie" Gorcey does not appear; instead, "Slip" lives at home, with his Irish mother Mary Gordon (as Mamie Mahoney) and moocher cousin Frankie Darro (as Jimmy). Other semi-regular "Bowery Boys" of interest include the bad boy duo Benny "Bennie" Bartlett (as Harry "Jag" Harmon) and Buddy Gorman (as Andrew "Andy" Miller). With the forthcoming "Jinx Money", the Bowery series begins a return to its more successful formula.
*** Angels' Alley (3/7/48) William Beaudine ~ Leo Gorcey, Huntz Hall, Frankie Darro
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
***SPOILERS*** It's when Slip's ex-con cousin Chuck came over to crash
at his mom's Moma Mahoney's place that things started tuning rotten for
everyone involved. With him already a two time loser Chuck gets himself
involved with big time gangster Tony Locerno's wear-house high-jacking
and hot car racket that if caught can send Chuck away for life and end
up killing Moma Mahoney by breaking her heart.
Even though he has no use for his rotten Cousin Chuck Slip ends up taking the rap for him in trying to stop Cuck from high jacking a truck loaded with furs and electronic appliances when he ended up getting suckered punched, and left lying unconscious, by Chuck. This has the good Father O'Hanlon come to Slip's rescue in vouching for him and his good character that has Slip now try to get to the bottom of what's going on in the Locerno mob by joining it! Now on the in's with mobster Locerno Slip tries to set him up in a police sting involving hot cars that he and his boys keep hidden, in order to chop up, at the Ace High Garage on the city's waterfront. What Slip and his goofy friend Sach plan to do is get the hottest available cars for the unsuspecting Locerno to chop up that would lead the police straight to his front door at the Ace High Garage: The Mayor District Attorney and police Chief's official city automobiles!
There's also Slip's former Bowery Boy buddy Ricky Moreno who's part of Locerno's sleazy operation who after seeing how crooked he is, even for a mobster, turns against him and helps Slip, without his knowledge, set his boss up. Ricky had all he could take from Locerno when he stiffed Ricky for a job he did for him in getting Locerno illegal gambling cash. But worst of all Ricky couldn't stomach Locerno's using young and misguided teenage boys and ex-cons, who faced life behind bars if caught, like Chuck to do his dirty work. Even Father O'Hanlon a man of pace and understanding just couldn't take what Locerno was doing by laying him out, with a straight right to the kisser, when he came to get him to stop corrupting the city's youth!
P.S At the end of the movie Sach feeling that he's being stiffed, in being forced to play second fiddle, by his Bowery Boys pal Slip tells him : "This is the last picture I'll ever make with you". As things, and Bowery Boy's film history, turned out Sach was to make over 30 more Bowery Boys films with Slip until 1956 after Slip quit the series when his pop known in the series as sweet shop owner Louie Dumbrowski died, from the injuries he suffered in a traffic accident, on September 11, 1955.
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