inspirethoughts

Movie Critique – Dead End

Stars: 4 / 5

Recommendation: A unique way of showing the differences and similarities between people, be it you are rich or poor; good or bad; kind or selfish; keeps the viewers absorbed into these lives till the end. 

Dead End is a 1937 American crime drama film starring  Sylvia Sidney, Joel McCrea, Humphrey Bogart, Wendy Barrie, and Claire Trevor in the lead cast. Directed by William Tyler it was adapted from the 1935 Broadway play of the same name by Sidney Kingsley.

The plot line is set in a single day in New York City Slum. There the lives of a young woman, Drina Gordon (portrayed by Sylvia Sidney); her brother Tommy Gordon (portrayed by Billy Halop)who heads the gang of street urchins calling themselves as Dead End Kids; Hugh "Baby Face" Martin (portrayed by Humphrey Bogart) a mobster who comes back to the neighborhood he grew up in; Francie (portrayed by Clare Trevor), Martin's girlfriend; and Dave Cornell (portrayed by Joel McCrea), raised in the same street as Martin, converge for one single day causing interesting consequences.

This movie formed the first film appearance of Dead End Kids, group of young actors from New York City who starred in the Kingsley's play in 1935. There were seven movies made under the Dead End Kids moniker. They continued to make more movies under other names such as Little Tough Guys, The East Side Kids and The Bowery Boys.

I saw a few of Bowery Boys movies in the past and posted about a couple of them.  It was interesting to see them in the movie that began a long career for all of them.

One of the earlier movies for Bogart in a gangster role, but a year after his film, The Petrified Forest that brought him success on screen as the bad boy. Yet Bogart's name appears below Sidney's in this release as she was top billing than him at that point.

Bogart may have become eventually a romantic hero or a hard boiled gumshoe, but the beginnings of all that acting and his styling can be clearly seen here. His character, Baby Face Martin, tethers between trying to seek redemption versus going back to his gangster world.

This is the first time I am watching Sylvia Sidney's performances in any film or TV show. Yet her face feels very familiar or may be she resembles another actress. Couldn’t put my finger on it. And Joel McCrea's Dave Cornell makes a significant impact who also tethers between the rich world and the slum life, neither completely footed in either worlds.

As for Claire Trevor, she appears in only one scene that lasts not more than 5 minutes; and ended up bagging a nomination for Best Supporting Actress for her role as Francie, the prostitute. I was surprised that she got nomination while Sylvia didn’t shine through even though Sylvia's role was much more emotive. 

Produced by Samuel Goldwyn, the screenplay for the movie was written by Lillian Hellman. Several actors from the Broadway play reprised their roles in the film. It went through a ringer with the censors on account of the seedy concepts such as prostitution, syphilis disease and language of the slum.  

A throbbing heartbeat in the slum, right by the rich neighborhood, involved in crime, kidnap, ransom and fights, which the rich chose to ignore, even though they are put right by the slum, even though each other see glimpses into their lives. A junction where the rich and slum meet, beats the hardest and loudest which is what exactly the filmmakers showed.

A wide assortment of characters cross paths at the dead end street that is indeed a dead end landing into the Hudson river. All the various emotions, people, feelings and events all are bottled so tight within the confines of that street that any moment a small trigger could blast the bottle. 

A unique way of showing the differences and similarities between people, be it you are rich or poor; good or bad; kind or selfish; keeps the viewers absorbed into these lives till the end. 

Spoiler Alerts:

1) Movie Trivia:

a. Checkout name of film seen actually in the film.

b. In all the old films that I have been watching lately, I feel actors familiar now and get excited when I recognize one. Like Ward Bond here who is a doorman, but was a driver in the 1934 hit film It Happened One Night.

c. You can see the official name of the street urchins, E 54th Place Gang Member Only, written on the brick wall in chalk behind the boys where they are playing cards.

d. Sidney Kibrick has an uncredited role of a little boy in the film. He is famous for his portrayal of "Woim" in the series Our Gang that aired from 1937 to 1939. He is the kid with checks shirt in the picture below.

e. Humphrey Bogart played in two more moves featuring the Dead End Kids - 1938 Crime School and 1938 Angels with Dirty Faces.

f. Marjorie Main, who plays the role of Mrs. Martin, Baby Face Martin's mother, is only eight years older than Humphrey Bogart, who plays as her son in the film.

2) Grammatical / Historical / Location / Character Errors:

a. Drina Gordon is doing a strike, but the movie doesn't give as to where she is working or for what is she doing the strike for at all. 

b. When Milton is trying to get his 3 cents back from the Dead End Kids gang, we don’t see anyone standing there by the railing. However in the very next scene we seen Martin with one of his goons, Hunk (portrayed by Allen Jenkins), leaning by it.


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