Genre: Crime, Drama, Film-Noir, Gangster
Starring: James Cagney, Pat O’Brien, Humphrey Bogart, Ann Sheridan, George Bancroft, Billy Halop, Bobby Jordan, Leo Gorcey, Frankie Burke, William Tracy, Gabriel Dell, Huntz Hall, Bernard Punsly.
Year Of Release: 1938
Certificate: PG (UK)
Runtime: 97 minutes
Director: Michael Curtiz
Synopsis: “A priest tries to stop a gangster from corrupting a group of street kids.” via IMDB
I remember the first time I seen this film, I was 13 and my Religious Education teacher in school made up watch it, well we ended up watching the first 40 minutes then he never mentioned it again. I still to this day do not have a single clue as to why he made us watch it, he was an odd fellow to say the least. After he never put it back on for us I decided to rent it to finally watch the whole thing this was when I was about 16/17, and it is safe to say this is one of the movies that made me fall in love with movies to this day!
Gangster films flew to the top of the watch lists during the great depression era in America, there was so many released during the 1930’s it was obvious that they would be the more favoured films. James Cagney and Edward G. Robinson paved the for gangsters on the big screen. Cagney was a perfect choice to play Rocky Sullivan, he had the swagger of a gangster, the fast talking of a con man, had unbelievable comic timing along with these great traits he was also an intense actor with real raw talent.
In my honest opinion this is one of the greatest Gangster flicks of all time, and I genuinely think people will be saying that in another three quarters of a century!
Rocky Sullivan and Jerry Connelly played by Frankie Burke and William Tracy respectively are a pair of New Yorker youths who grew up on the very poor Lower East Side end up caught up in the robbery on a railroad car (a railway carriage to us Brits ha). Jerry escapes without any difficulty I mean boom this kid is gone, Rocky on the other hand is not as lucky. Staying true to his tough upbringing Rocky upholds his “code of silence”, refusing to snitch on the identity of his accomplice which leaves Rocky stuck in a reformatory before he will be bumped into a full prison.
After realising how bad Rockys fate actually is, Jerry turns his life around and becomes a man of the cloth. After many years pass, Rocky returns to his old neighbourhood now being played by Cagney he looks up his old friend Jerry to find out he is no Father Jerry (Pat O’Brien) whom has taken in on himself to look after a rag tag bunch of boys played by Billy Halop, Leo Gorcey, Huntz Hall, Gabriel Dell who would all go to become The Dead End Kids. The boys are overjoyed that they get to meet a big-time gangster like Rocky, they pretty much worship the ground he walks on, much to the disappointment of Father Jerry who is trying to guard the boys from a life of crime.
Cagney pays a call to his Lawyer, played by Humphrey Bogart who has been keeping $100,000 (which according to DollarTimes is roughly $1.6 million today) stashed away for him. He meets racketeering boss Mac Keefer (George Bancroft), both of whom promise to cut Rocky in on a highly lucrative operations, however this is where we hit a twist they are plotting to have him whacked (MY WHOLE LIFE have I wanted to use that phrase and it too actually work, and now I think it fits! ha) Father Jerry runs a campaign over the radio and newspaper against Rocky and his partners, with Rockys blessing that is. Laury by now played by the beautiful Ann Sheridan has fallen in love with Rocky.
When Rocky learns of the plot to kill Father Jerry due to his smear campaign, Rocky kills both men which results in him being caught in a shoot-out with the police in a warehouse. His trial is quick and he is sentenced to death, before Rocky is about to be executed Father Jerry turns up asking for possibly the BIGGEST favour in movie history. He wants Rocky to die like a coward so the boys will go on the straight and narrow, Rocky refuses, however as he is being put to death Rocky suddenly breaks down an loses it crying and pleading for his life!
The paper the next runs the story “ROCKY DIES YELLOW!” to help the boys cement the belief that he well and truly is coward.
So overall this movie is action filled, full of laughs, full of great performances all across the board giving us viewers an unbelievable movie experience! A little fact I learnt while writing this review is that during the warehouse scene, LIVE AMMO was used, how on earth did they get away with that ha. All these parts come together cultivating in what is one of the greatest movies of all time! This will be one of the easiest ratings that I will give to a film, if I could go any higher than 10 I would! “Whaddya hear, whaddya say?”