Turner Classic Movies
Angels With Dirty Faces DVD
Written by Diana Saenger   

Sensational Drama, Terrific Thrills and Suspense! -

The Angels With Dirty Faces DVD, part of Warner Bros. Gangster Collection, reminds us of what true classic gangster films were all about. James Cagney, Pat O'Brien, Humphrey Bogart and Ann Sheridan star in Angels With Dirty Faces (1938) in what is perhaps one of the truest classic gangster films. It's long been a favorite among classic film fans.

Crime melodramas were very popular in the 1930s and Angels With Dirty Faces offered plenty of thrills along with fascinating characters. The story begins with Rocky Sullivan (James Cagney) and Jerry Connolly (Pat O'Brien), kids who grew up in Hell's Kitchen, a rough part of New York, and who had to become tough to exist.  

After Rocky and Jerry pull off a burglary, Rocky gets caught and takes the rap for them both. Once sprung, he repeats his crime sprees again and again, spending years in and out of prison. Finally out for good, and now with a notable reputation as a gangster, Rocky returns to the old neighborhood and finds Jerry, who is now a priest. Although now on opposite planes of life; the two have a solid friendship.  

Father Connolly gets Rocky involved with some of the local boys who need help staying out of trouble, and while Rocky seems to be interested in that effort, he's more charmed by the Dead End Kids, a gang who steals his wallet, gives it back and looks at Rocky as their hero. Rocky also connects with Laury (Ann Sheridan), an old school chum whom he ridiculed when they were young, but who has turned into a beauty and finds Rocky somewhat beguiling.

Meanwhile there is business to attend to, and Rocky seeks out his crooked attorney James (Humphrey Bogart), with whom he made a deal on one of his earlier heists. James is supposed to be holding a $100K for Rocky because he took the rap for them both. But James works for another crook (George Bancroft) now and thinks he can outsmart Rocky.  

The guns and violence action typifies this era's gangster films, but what sets this Warner Bros production apart is the acting. Supposedly Cagney patterned his character from his own memories of growing up in Hell's Kitchen. By now he had cemented his aplomb to portray a gangster. He made more than 30 films before Angels With Dirty Faces, including gangster favorites The Public Enemy (1931) and G-Men (1935). With his renown shoulder twitch (explained in the "Whaddya hear? Whaddya say?" extra feature), gritty glares and intimidating fast-talking gangster slur, Cagneyis a formidable character, and keeps viewers anxiously awaiting every next scene.

Pat O'Brien nails the softhearted priest right to the end when he goes to the prison and asks Rocky for a big favor. Humphrey Bogart provides solid characterization as well. Fans love him - nice or mean. Angels With Dirty Faces was a stopping point for The Dead End Kids, who headed by Leo B. Gorcey as Spit, made their movie debut in the 1937 Dead End. They would go on to make many of their own films. The gang in Angels With Dirty Faces - Bim (Leo Gorcey), Soapy (Billy Halop), Swing (Bobby Jordan), Crab (Hunts Hall) - were an interesting bunch that mixed slap-stick humor in with their mischievous behavior. Some of Rocky's dialogue also delivers a line or two of humor, especially his fast-as-a-bullet favorite saying to Jerry Whaddya hear? Whaddya say?  

Angels With Dirty Faces won three Oscar nominations; Best Director for Michael Curtiz, Best Actor for James Cagney and Best writing and original story for Rowland Brown. It's a compelling story that has some underlying good messages.

Special Features

—¸Commentary by Film Historian Dana Polan

—¸ Featurette "Whaddya hear? Whaddya say?" - Cagney explains how he arrived at some of his -tough -guy mannerisms.

—¸ Audio - Radio Production with the film's two stars

—¸ English, Spanish, French

Director: Michael Curtiz

Writers: Roland Brown - story, John Wexley and Warren Duff - screenplay

Cast: James Cagney, Pat O'Brien, Humphrey Bogart, Ann Sheridan

Rating: Unrated

DVD Release Date: 1/25/05

Classic Movie Guide Rating: 4 our of 5 stars

Run Time: 97

Studio: Warner Home Video




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