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Author Topic: Angels With Dirty Faces (1938)  (Read 774 times)
drinkanddestroy
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« on: August 12, 2012, 11:57:49 AM »

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0029870/

Angels With Dirty Faces (1938) 9/10

plot synopsis and cast, courtesy of imdb

A priest tries to stop a gangster from corrupting a group of street kids.


James Cagney    ...   Rocky Sullivan
    Pat O'Brien    ...   Jerry Connolly
    Humphrey Bogart    ...   James Frazier
    Ann Sheridan    ...   Laury Ferguson
    George Bancroft    ...   Mac Keefer
    Billy Halop    ...   Soapy
    Bobby Jordan    ...   Swing
    Leo Gorcey    ...   Bim
    Gabriel Dell    ...   Pasty
    Huntz Hall    ...   Crab
    Bernard Punsly    ...   Hunky (as Bernard Punsley)
    Joe Downing    ...   Steve
    Edward Pawley    ...   Edwards
    Adrian Morris    ...   Blackie
    Frankie Burke    ...   Rocky - as a Boy

This one can get a little too overtly preachy at times, but a terrific movie overall. Ann Sheridan is beautiful. And the street scenes actually looked good for a change, despite using the studio backlots, cuz they really went to town with all the extras, the streets are very crowded and detailed.

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« Reply #1 on: March 18, 2017, 09:16:54 PM »

Just saw the movie for the second time. (DVD)

Terrific movie 9/10

And it has one of my favorite final lines, that the priest tells the boys : "Alright fellas, let's go and say a prayer for a boy who couldn't run as fast as I could."

The late 1930's was the heyday of the "social consciousness" film, trying to find a reason why people became gangsters.  In the early 1930s, before the production code was enforced, people could be gangsters for no specific reason, like in THE PUBLIC ENEMY and LITTLE CARSAR. But after the production code began being enforced, the studios had to work around the problem of glorifying gangsters. Hence the "social cosnciousness" film - people were really good, but became gangsters because, e.g, they were returning vets who simply could not find a job (THE ROARING TWENTIES), or here, in ANGELS WITH DIRTY FACES, the kid who could run away  from the cops becomes a priest, but the one the cops caught and sent to reform school learns how to become a professional criminal.

Several years later, with film noir, the gangster film sort of went away - it was more the lone criminal, or more accurately,  an individual who never intended to do bad but somehow got in over his head. When Cagney came back with a gangster film in 1949, WHITE HEAT, he decided to simply make his character Cody Jarett crazy, so that no explanation for his criminality would be necesaary.

 Some people may find this movie too preachy I myself did when I watched it five years ago, as I wrote in the post above. But this time I did not. A couple of the priest's speeches were not done well: Curtiz shot them in closeup, so you just see O'Brien speaking, and it feels like he is reading lines off a script. I think if Curtiz had used a wider shot and/or if O'Brien had read the lines differently, it would've sounded sounded a little better. Also,  when Cagney is about to kill Bogart, Bogart does his little groveling  bit, which, is similar to a scene at the end of THE ROARING TWENTIES; did not like Bogie in that moment in either movie. But these are minor nitpicks.

The acting here is really good - Bogie, O'Brien, and the lovely Sheridan. The Lower East Side scenes in this movie are some of the best I have ever seen -  even though it is clearly a movie set, they really loaded it up wih extras and cars and laundry lines etc., so that it really  feels like the Lower East Side.

For all you noir fans, there are a number of noir shots in this movie, toward the end.

The DVD is pretty good. As you might expect from a 1930's movie, there are some moments where damage marks are obvious, and there is one particular scene where the color changes dramatically  between various shots in the same scene . But overall this is a pretty good-looking disc. Of course, I love this movie so much that if they do release a BRD with a cleaned-up image, I'll be first in line for the double-dip  Wink


Waddaya hear, waddaya say?  Afro Afro



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« Reply #2 on: March 18, 2017, 09:37:29 PM »

I gave it 6/10 a while ago.

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« Reply #3 on: March 18, 2017, 10:59:04 PM »

I gave it 6/10 a while ago.

Regular dialogue or Italin dub?

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« Reply #4 on: March 18, 2017, 11:17:32 PM »

If you make a list of all the good movies (or very good movies or great movies or whatever criteria you want to use) ever made  and write the director's name next to each movie, I bet that Michael Curtiz's name comes up as often as anyone else on that list. Literally. (I've mentioned this elsewhere on these boards a while ago, when we were discussing the auteur theory, etc. But I'll expand on it a bit now. I have seen some discussion of it on WB dvd's and books):

 I think there are several reasons why the man who has directed as many good movie as anyone else is never mentioned among the all-time great filmmakers:

Curtiz never had a specific personal style - you could not watch a moment from his movie and instantly be able to tell that this is is a Curtiz film. He just shot as was necessary, with no special tricks.

He also worked in the studio era, under the studio system.  Of course, many filmmakers whom we now consider to be among the all-time greats  worked during this period, but they often jumped around from one studio to another or among independent producers, or were outsized personalities who did their own thing. Curtiz was a guy who worked for years at Warner Bros. - making over 90 films for the studio -in the studio system, and never had a recognizable style.

Here is a passage from "YOU MUST REMEMBER THIS," Warner Bros.' 85th anniversary history book (written by Richard Schickel and George Perry, though I am not certain which of them wrote this particular passage): " In a sense, [Curtiz's] wide-ranging embrace of almost every genre, from thrillers to westerns to romantic dramas to musical spectaculars, has made it difficult to characterize a Curtiz style and denied him a place in the pantheon of great directors."

As I have said before, I think that the nerdy auteurists don't like directors who dis not have a specific personal style - Billy Wilder is another example of a director who made many good or great movies, but is not mentioned among the all-time greats by some of the auteurists who can't get enough of Orson Welles.

Curtiz directed what many consider to be the greatest movie ever (CASABLANCA), though producer Hal Wallis was considered to have been the primary artistic force behind that particular movie. Roger Ebert quoted Andrew Sarris - the big promoter of the auteur theory among American critics - as saying that CASABLANCA is the exception to the auteur theory.

Was this the case with ALL of the films Curtiz directed? I doubt it.

Curtiz had 5 Oscar nominations for Best Director, and one win (for CASABLANCA).

Here is a list of some of his movies. Some of these I consider good, some very good, some great. Some I may not like or have not seen, but are highly regarded by others:

Casablanca
Yankee Doodle Dandy
Mildred Pierce
Angels With Dirty Faces
20,000 Years in Sing Sing
Four Daughters and Daughters Courageous
Black Legion
The Adventures of Robin Hood
Dodge City
The Sea Hawk
The Sea Wolf
Flamingo Road
Young Man With a Horn
The Comancheros


Curtiz's complete filmography is here http://m.imdb.com/name/nm0002031/filmotype/director?ref_=m_nmfm_1

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« Reply #5 on: March 19, 2017, 03:40:25 AM »

There are people on the TCM boards and others that say they can tell the Studios just from seeing the films they made, perhaps any style that Curtiz had was blended into the whole.

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« Reply #6 on: March 19, 2017, 04:01:36 AM »

I doubt that I'm able to see a difference between the films directed by Curtiz or made by Walsh in the 40s for Warner.

But Curtiz was very talented for this kind of Hollywood movies. After leaving Warner in the early 50s both Curtiz and Walsh became less interesting.

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« Reply #7 on: March 19, 2017, 04:05:16 AM »

There are people on the TCM boards and others that say they can tell the Studios just from seeing the films they made. perhaps any style that Curtiz had was blended into the whole.

I have noticed that some of the dramas that Fox made in the late 40s has a very specific silvery tinge of black-and-white. Very elegant.

Obviously, WB was the  Studio making the gangster pictures in the 30's. Other than SCARFACE - indepently produced by Hughes, right? -  I think that pretty much all the famous gangster movies of the 30s were made by WB.

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« Reply #8 on: March 19, 2017, 04:16:20 AM »

In additon to Curtiz and Billy Wilder, another great example is William Wyler. If you make a list of all the good movies ever made and their directors, it's possible that these three names will come up more often than anyone else's. And these are three names never mentioned by the auteurists obsessing over Welles, Hitchcock, Ford, Bergman, et al.

Btw, "distinguishable style" can of course mean many things from the types of shots and camera movements (e.g., tight closeups for Leone, big tracking shots for Ophuls, lotsa weird angles for Welles) to the types of stories and characters (e.g., thrillers based on an innocent guy getting in over his head by Hitchcock, Westerns with an emphasis on community as lotsa drunk Irishmen by Ford, etc. etc. etc.) The examples are endless.

I do not think you can find any specific distinguishable style by Curtiz, Wilder or Wyler. But they made as many good movies as anyone else. And each made a number of great movies. And you know what - to make that many good movies, you have to be doing something right  Wink


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