Angels with Dirty Faces – 1938 – English
Film directed in 1938 by Michael Curtiz, and starring James Cagney, Pat O’Brien, Humphrey Bogart, Ann Sheridan, George Bancroft, Leo Gorcey, Billy Halop, Bobby Jordan, Gabriel Dell, Huntz Hall, Bernard Punsly…
Synopsis: Two boyhood friends, Rocky Sullivan and Jerry Connolly have taken different paths in life. After Rocky is arrested he is sent to a juvenile facility and becomes a lifelong tough guy and criminal. Jerry on the other hand goes straight and becomes a Catholic priest ministering to people in the same neighborhood when he and Rocky grew up. When Rocky is released from prison he resumes his criminal lifestyle and becomes much admired by many of the local kids. Worried that the kids will follow Rocky into the criminal world, Jerry works hard to keep them on the straight and narrow. When Rocky is convicted and sentenced to the electric chair, Jerry asks him for one last favor.
Review: The rise and fall of Rocky Sullivan, tough guy gangster but square fellow, was the subject of this excellent film by Warner Brothers in 1938. It has several things going for it that maintains it’s high ratings among gangster films and Cagney movies.
For one thing, Cagney’s brilliant performance as Rocky won him his first major film award – the 1938 New York Film Critics Award for best actor. It is frequently forgotten that Cagney won this award four years before his Oscar winner in “Yankee Doodle Dandy”, but in actuality the performance was the high point of the work he did (up to that time) as a gangster (his performances in “White Heat” and “Love Me Or Leave Me” were way in the future). It drives home how much of a struggle it was for Cagney to get out of the gangster mode, and why his George M. Cohan was such a striking change for his fans.