50 user 33 critic

They Made Me a Criminal (1939)

Approved | | Crime, Drama, Film-Noir | 28 January 1939 (USA)
A boxer flees believing he has comitted a murder while he was drunk.


Busby Berkeley


Sig Herzig (screen play), Bertram Millhauser (from a novel by) | 1 more credit »




Cast overview, first billed only:
John Garfield ... Johnnie
The Dead End Kids The Dead End Kids ... (as The 'Dead End' Kids)
Claude Rains ... Detective Phelan
Ann Sheridan ... Goldie
May Robson ... Grandma
Gloria Dickson ... Peggy
Billy Halop ... Tommy
Bobby Jordan ... Angel
Leo Gorcey ... Spit
Huntz Hall ... Dippy
Gabriel Dell ... T.B.
Bernard Punsly ... Milt (as Bernard Punsley)
Robert Gleckler ... Doc Ward
John Ridgely ... Magee
Barbara Pepper ... Budgie


Johnnie is a boxer. The same evening he won the world championship, he is charged for the murder of a reporter and is taken for dead. Running away from New York, he ends up in a ranch in Arizona, run by an old lady as a work farm for delinquent teenagers. He falls in love with Peggy and became the teenagers' hero. But there is that New York Detective, Phelan, that does not believe he is dead and is chasing him... An unlikely scenario, but not a so bad film. Written by Yepok

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


THIS IS CIVILIZED MURDER! Hounded, hunted, driven from the arms of the woman you love...her love turned to hate! No, they don't kill you-but you wish they would! (Print Ad- New York Sun, ((New York, NY)) 19 January 1939) See more »


Approved | See all certifications »

Did You Know?


Apparently, the copyright on this film was not renewed, and so it fell into public domain. As a result, discount VHS and DVD dealers, who do not ordinarily include copyrighted major studio titles in their inventories, do offer this one. Unfortunately, since they don't have access to original negative material, the transfers are usually inferior. See more »


At beginning of film, Johnny is fighting in ring in front of a packed house. Upon closer look, in at least three separate scenes, after about twelve rows of legitimate spectators (extras, actually) one can see a fake "painted crowd" to create the appearance of a house filed to capacity. The "crowd" is completely stationary, unlike the "real" crowd who are always moving, twisting, and yelling. See more »


Detective Phelan: All I ask is that you re-open the case and assign me.
Ennis: Reopen the case? Now get this Phelen. Johnnie Bradfield murdered McGee. And it was Johnnie Bradfield who burned up on the highway this morning at 5 am.
Detective Phelan: Now listen Chief...
Ennis: Listen to who? The trouble with you, Phelan, is that ever since you railroaded the wrong guy to the hot seat, you been seein' things. You're screwy. Why don't you retire?
Detective Phelan: I'll tell you why. Because I'm not through.
Ennis: Oh yes, you are but you don't know it.
Detective Phelan: I'll show you if I'm ...
See more »

Alternate Versions

The AFI Catalogue has a different cast ordering, suggesting that changes were made for a re-release. Ann Sheridan is billed 6th and there are other minor changes when compared with the print currently shown on Turner Classic Movies, on which the data in IMDb is based. It is uncertain which is the original print. See more »


Referenced in Hollywood Out-takes and Rare Footage (1983) See more »


The Whip
(1908) (uncredited)
Music by Abe Holzmann
Played at Legion Stadium before the fights
See more »

User Reviews

Busby Berkeley smoothly shifts gears from geometric dancing girls to neat little crime drama
20 January 1999 | by boris-26See all my reviews

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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Frequently Asked Questions

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Release Date:

28 January 1939 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

They Made Me a Criminal See more »

Filming Locations:

Palm Desert, California, USA See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Warner Bros. See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Mono | Mono (R C A Victor System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »

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