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THE BOWERY BOYS on DVD: continuing discussion of Warner's eventual release plans (NEW UPDATE 10/2 Po

Discussion in 'DVD' started by Ronald Epstein, Jul 24, 2007.

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  1. Karrenola

    Karrenola Stunt Coordinator

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    It would've been hard to put the Bowery Boys into one of those Hanna Barbera-ized cartoons, even if permissions were more forthcoming, because the content would've had to be so sanitized / watered down / filtered / censored as to take the whole point out if it in my opinion. The others were possible because they were simplistic to start with and didn't deal with anything resembling jobless punks hanging
    out at sweet shops. Even Groucho didn't make it to those '70s cartoons, for obvious reasons.

    The Dead End Kids did, though, have a really popular comic strip in the papers after the movie Dead End came out.
     
  2. Message #1722 of 1780 Jun 22, 2016
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    Joe Davis

    Joe Davis Stunt Coordinator

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    Number 6 on the list. :)

    Yeah, I was never a big fan of those animated adaptations of the comedy teams. Although I did finally get to see an unsold Marx Bros. pilot from Filmation and found it surprisingly enjoyable!

    Ray Dennis Steckler - the Grade Z filmmaker behind the likes of "Rat Phink a Boo Boo" and "The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed Up Zombies" did a series of Bowery Boys tribute films - "The Lemon Grove Kids" - in the mid-late 60s. Ray played the Huntz role himself, complete with the famous baseball cap.

    He managed to get Huntz to see one of those little films. The two later got to talking about doing a movie together in which they'd play father and son. But Huntz declined once Ray informed him that he wouldn't be able to afford his paycheck. About a week later, Huntz's wife phoned Ray and told him, "since we aren't going to do the movie, if you ever wear that baseball cap in a movie again, we are going to sue you." Must have crushed poor Ray, who was a huge fan of Huntz's.
     
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  3. Matt Hough

    Matt Hough Executive Producer
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    [QUOTE="Karrenola, post: 4389701, member: 402744"

    I've been trying to see A Walk in the Sun, folks say Huntz really turned out a great performance in that, and Valentino 1977, which even director Ken Russel said stank plenty, because a number of people said Huntzie was good in that too. Both films are hard to find apart from paying plenty for the DVDs or a mint on Apple TV. :rolleyes:[/QUOTE]

    Valentino should be very easy to find since the Blu-ray was released a couple of months ago, and I reviewed it for this site.
     
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  4. Message #1724 of 1780 Jun 22, 2016
    Last edited: Jun 22, 2016
    Joe Davis

    Joe Davis Stunt Coordinator

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    Well, here we go...

    Dead End (Aug. 27, 1937) - UA - Directed by William Wyler. Written by Lillian Hellman. Adapted from the play by Sidney Kingsley. Produced by Samuel Goldwyn. Costarring Sylvia Sidney, Joel McCrea, Humphrey Bogart, Wendy Barrie, Claire Trevor, Allen Jenkins, and Marjorie Main.

    Life in the slums is rough, with everyone's life at both a figurative and literal 'dead end.' The Dead End Kids are a gang of six who take delight in beating up a rich kid. But the gang's in trouble when leader Tommy (Billy Halop) stabs the rich boy's father.

    You know, I sort of wish that I could go back in time and see Sidney Kingsley's play as it was originally presented. According to future East Side Kid Eugene Francis, the film adaptation wasn't nearly as good as the stage version. Still, director William Wyler and written Lillian Hellman manage to capture life in a New York ghetto quite well. The sets glorious; interiors are depicted as tight, dirty areas, easily giving someone claustrophobia; faces are covered in dirt and clothes are perfectly ripped; cinematographer Gregg Toland gives us some exquisite shots throughout. It's this attention to detail that would be missing in virtually every future entry. Still, one can consider all of this icing on the cake - albeit very good icing! We like the Dead End Kids to the point that their performances are all we really need.

    Interestingly, the first principal characters we're introduced to in Dead End are the kids themselves. In fact, with the exception of a minor cop character, Leo Gorcey gets the first line! These aren't the same goofy but well-meaning boys that we'd see later on - they're gritty, rough, and tough. They backtalk authority figures, and use their fists not to fight off bad guys, but for their own amusement. When not busy playing cards or swimming the filthy East River, the Kids can usually be found making cracks at the other half - tons of wealthy people who live in a nearby hotel. I don't know who puts a fancy hotel in a ghetto, but an opening caption tells us that the rich folks find the East River to be picturesque.

    The gang members each has his own personality -
    Tommy (Billy Halop) is the undisputed leader (though fellow member Spit questions that position every now and then). As we see throughout the story, he's not a terrible kid - just influenced poorly. He understands that the adults are still authority figures, and even understands that turning himself in for stabbing a man is the right thing to do.

    Spit (Leo Gorcey) is the tough stone-faced member that seems to be the most troubled of the bunch. He finds the idea of abuse dished out on another kid's mother to be amusing. Spit is also unafraid at betraying the others, including leader Tommy. At the end of the film, Spit squeals on Tommy to the police, and the phony promise of a reward for further information excites him.

    Dippy (Huntz Hall) is the goofy one, not very bright, but has a sense of humor. But unlike Sach, or even Glimpy, Dippy is a tough mug who doesn't hide whenever a fight breaks out.

    Angel (Bobby Jordan) is the smallest one of the group who chooses brains over brawn.

    T.B. (Gabriel Dell) is the gang member with a record - he's already been to reform school.

    Milty (Bernard Punsley) is the new kid on block who just wants to fit in - even if it means joining a group of kids that aren't the best influence on him.

    Unlike later films, in which the idea of 'reforming' the Dead End Kids is made clear, and perhaps played up to a slightly unrealistic level, the fate of the gang in Dead End is ambiguous. Tommy decides to turn himself in, and his sister's boyfriend plans on using his money to pay the kid's dues. The other kids are stuck in the slums, but when they break out in a rendition of "If I Had the Wings of an Angel," we're left with a gleam of hope. Perhaps these guys will find some way out of the 'dead end' and into a better life. Again, they're not really 'bad' kids, just not influenced well.

    The Dead End Kids are only some of the principal characters in this story. Tommy's sister Drina (Sylvia Sidney) is a pretty strong female character. She works hard for herself and her brother, whom she also acts as a surrogate mother to. She wants what everybody in the neighborhood does - a way out. Her love interest Dave (Joel McCrea) nearly found a way out after being able to go to college. But after six years of studying architecture, he's back in the old neighborhood doing odd jobs. While Drina has his eyes on Dave, Dave has his on society girl Kay (Wendy Barrie). Kay comes from a poor family, but doesn't quite empathize with the 'dead end' residents, so much as fear becoming one of them again.

    Then of course, there's gangster 'Baby Face' Martin (Humphrey Bogart). Unlike the others in the neighborhood, Marty found a way out – an easy way out. He’s now a notorious criminal, making money off of different crimes. Marty managed to get plastic surgery before returning a visit to the old neighborhood. He soon learns to regret the latter decision greatly. With her son on the wrong end of the law, Marty’s mother (Marjorie Main) is a broken old woman - mentally and emotionally destroyed. Marjorie turns out a wonderful performance that few actors can nail. Marty’s old girlfriend Francey (Claire Trevor) has common ground with Marty in that she too has found a way out – prostitution.

    ‘Baby Face’ Martin acts as an example of what can happen to the Dead End Kids if they keep up their rough behavior, and take the lying and cheating route to get by. An interaction between Marty and the Kids illustrates this. Marty gives the gang advice on street gang fighting – the idea is to win, even if it means cheating.

    Unlike Marty, Dave has remained strong. Life’s thrown him a giant curve, setting him back at square one. But he refuses to give up hope. Naturally, he’s the sort of guy we want to root for. Dave manages to shoot and kill Marty. It’s a sad moment because, as we saw in his interactions with his loved ones, Marty still had some heart in him. He was just influenced poorly (sound familiar?). When it’s too late to turn back from his life of crime, Marty is also at a ‘dead end.’

    However, Dave is given a nice reward for the job, and as mentioned, uses it for Tommy and Drina, rather than himself.

    Dead End was heavily censored for the screen – obscene gestures and foul language from the Kids were cut, as were toilet jokes and a discussion on marijuana. Francey’s life as a prostitute is more ambiguous – the original play clearly mentions that she suffers from acute syphilis. Most interestingly, in the original play Dave was called “Gimpy,” referring to the fact that he’s crippled.

    The Dead End Kids were brought to Hollywood to do the film version of Kingsley’s play only after virtually every kid in the movie business was tested. It was (wisely) felt that nobody could capture the realism of street urchins like the original six boys. Marjorie Main was also a holdover from the stage version. Our Gang member Tommy “Butch” Bond later remembered Bobby Jordan telling him that the DEK refused to do the film unless Bogey played ‘Baby Face.’

    A wonderful film with fine acting and beautiful production values, and some clever storytelling from Sidney Kingsley.

    A+
     
  5. Message #1725 of 1780 Jun 22, 2016
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    Karrenola

    Karrenola Stunt Coordinator

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    Man were you ever lucky to see that pilot Joe. I'm sure you enjoyed it because it had some good unfiltered references.


    I don't believe Ray was as 'poor' as you say Joe. He knew better, he was in the industry smack in the middle of a rip-off free-for-all with little or no legal protection for your own work. Artists had to get their own private reps since there weren't any laws with teeth. The lines between promoting a work and stealing / claiming another's work as one's own original were extremely blurred then (and to a lesser degree now too, pun intended).

    The Beatles could've just gone on and paid Leo the $400 he was asking to allow his picture in that now famous Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts album cover, but no. With all the money they had, they decided to get cheap just because there weren't any laws with teeth in place, so Leo ain't on that album. Now Led Zeppelin's up for what they are alleged to have done during that same period.

    Ray did that tribute without asking Huntz for any permissions, but he was lucky Huntz liked him enough to let it go for that movie part, which if it launched would turn that tribute into a nice promotion and potential strong revival of the Boys during some of their lifetimes, resulting in profits for everyone involved. It was undoubtedly a gentlemen's agreement since Huntz's wife didn't ask for any cancellation fees. Ray started into that project probably knowing he was overreaching and decided to reneg on Huntz' pay, which would burn me up too.

    Huntz and Leo in particular benefitted from the Bernard Gorcey school of how to manage your money in the American 'wild west' entertainment industry days. Huntz' wife told Ray off right. After that call she probably let Huntz have it for not going into that in writing. :D
     
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  6. Karrenola

    Karrenola Stunt Coordinator

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    Yes I saw your great review Matt, that's why I tried to check it out, my problem is spending more than five fish for a film as fermented as this. I'm holding out for a used DVD somewhere. :)
     
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  7. Message #1727 of 1780 Jun 22, 2016
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    Joe Davis

    Joe Davis Stunt Coordinator

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    I'm no legal expert, but don't parodies fall under fair use?

    Ha! I can picture Huntz getting a nice fat scolding from the Mrs!

    If anyone else is curious about the Brothers, Marx pilot - skip ahead to about 48 minutes in. Voices were reportedly provided by future sitcom stars Pat Harrington, Jr. and Ted Knight. The Native American Chief is voiced by somebody us old school comedy buffs should recognize immediately. And you're right about the unfiltered references! :)
     
  8. Message #1728 of 1780 Jun 23, 2016
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    Karrenola

    Karrenola Stunt Coordinator

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    Now that Joe has started from the first film, Dead End, I'd like to take this opportunity to encourage people to contact producers to continue revivals of Sidney Kingsley's original play.

    There have been three revivals so far, the first in 1978 and the second in 1997 included Kingsley himself in attendance with Hall, Punsley and others from the original 1935 production. The 2005 80th anniversary revival in Los Angeles featured Leo Jr and Gary, Huntz' son in attendance. This messages in this play continue to be heavily relevant today.

    I would also like to encourage DEK/EEK/BB fans to see films that are indicative of the huge movement of awareness of children as victims in the unchecked growth of cities, with New York City at the forefront. Last year Raoul Walsh's film Regeneration (1915) celebrated its 100th year. It is Walsh's first big chance at directing, and features actual people such as the sick, the underworld and prostitutes who lived in the toughest parts of Manhattan. It was a hit at a time when outrage was building over unchecked crime and when immigration reached unprecedented heights. This film was thought lost for decades until a single copy was found in the late '70s. It is now on DVD and worth every penny.

    There are many more New York crime films after this landmark movie, most have been lost but The Bowery (1933) exists and can be seen in its entirety on YouTube. This film is very significant in the study of how a movement becomes a vehicle for solidifying myths and pushing the plight of struggling children like Leo, Huntz and their siblings as titilating entertainment.

    These films, together with the then famous book Gangs of New York and the earlier extremely popular Jacob Riis book with photos 'How the Other Half Lives' created a media and people's movement centered around conditions in New York City that influenced the entire country and world. These provide the reason why Kingsley's production, debuting at the Belasco Theater on October 2nd, 1935, hit so hard and wide with such a long run for its day. :popcorn:
     
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  9. Karrenola

    Karrenola Stunt Coordinator

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    They do less and less these days Joe, but back in those days EVERYTHING fell under fair use unless you could afford a mouthpiece who said / worked it otherwise.

    Yeah Joe can't you just see her almost hang up the phone, then take a swing at him, then he goes 'Blocked it!' but then she takes her hat off and gets him with him goin' 'Ooooohh what a sneak! How dare you hit the star! Union!' LOL

    Hey Joe, that Marx Brothers cartoon clip is GOLD!!! Whoa what IS that brilliance? Was that ever good, Hannah Barbera that AIN'T by a few oceans. That thing was done with total grasp of the Marx comedy essence and just nailed the spirit with those opening credits. Filmation huh. Never heard of them till now. Just imagine what they'd do with the kind of material out there this election year.

    I probably would've heard of Filmation if I had the stomach to go to one on those misogynistic ComicCons earlier. I've got comics in my blood though, I used to draw manga before that was a word in English. I'll get there, my fluency in Japanese'll probably override the fact that I'm female out there.

    What a WASTE for that Marx Brothers thing not to have been released. Did the communist witch hunters get them too? :eek:
     
  10. Mr. Handley

    Mr. Handley Supporting Actor

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    Just watched Hold That Hypnotist last night. This one was a bit better than the previous two, but still not a spot on the Leo films. It does seem like the new cast is starting to gel, so maybe the last 4 won't be as bad as I feared.

    1. The Bowery Boys Meet The Monsters (34)
    2. Blonde Dynamite (17)
    3. Master Minds (16)
    4. Hold That Baby! (14)
    5. Blues Busters (20)
    6. Private Eyes (32)
    7. Paris Playboys (33)
    8. Dig That Uranium (40)
    9. Crazy Over Horses (24)
    10. Bowery Bombshell (3)
    11. Clipped Wings (31)
    12. Ghost Chasers (22)
    13. Let's Go Navy! (23)
    14. In Fast Company (2)
    15. Jungle Gents (35)
    16. Jail Busters (39)
    17. Angels In Disguise (15)
    18. Spy Chasers (38)
    19. Fighting Fools (13)
    20. Feudin' Fools (27)
    21. Bowery To Bagdad (36)
    22. Lucky Losers (18)
    23. High Society (37)
    24. Hold That Line (25)
    25. Trouble Makers (12)
    26. Live Wires (1)
    27. Triple Trouble (19)
    28. Jinx Money (10)
    29. Bowery Buckaroos (8)
    30. Loose In London (30)
    31. Bowery Battalion (21)
    32. News Hounds (7)
    33. Here Come The Marines (26)
    34. Crashing Las Vegas (41)
    35. No Holds Barred (28)
    36. Smuggler's Cove (11)
    37. Jalopy (29)
    38. Spook Busters (4)
    39. Hard Boiled Mahoney (6)
    40. Mr. Hex (5)
    41. Angels' Alley (9)
    42. Hold That Hypnotist (44)
    43. Fighting Trouble (42)
    44. Hot Shots (43)
     
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  11. Randy Korstick

    Randy Korstick Producer

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    Hold that Hypnotist is generally considered the best of the Clements film.
     
  12. Tony Bensley

    Tony Bensley Producer

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    That may be, but for what it's worth, the next 3 "Duke" entries have a higher rating (6.2 - 6.3) on IMDB, with the final IN THE MONEY (1958) being about equal (5.9, but with fewer votes) to HOLD THAT HYPNOTIST (1957).

    CHEERS! :)
     
  13. Karrenola

    Karrenola Stunt Coordinator

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    'It's usually Blackbeard that does the collecting.'

    My fav Clements line, delivered like a pro in that funny British accent!

    This is the only film where I didn't miss Leo at all. Huntzie carried it very well and Stanley and the Boys and the leading lady supported him superbly.

    I really like this film. Betcha the Brits do too despite the amateur Anglican accents. :D
     
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  14. Randy Korstick

    Randy Korstick Producer

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    I was referring to ratings from The Bowery Boys book and fan sites. IMDB probably does not have an equal number of votes for all the films which would be my only explanation of In The Money being rated that high. I consider it easily the worst of the 48 films. The Clements films have actually grown on me in recent years and I enjoy them except for In The Money. I only tolerate that one as a fan. It was released a little over a month after the previous Bowery Boys film Up in Smoke instead of the normal 4 months between films. It feels like it was totally rushed to complete Huntz's contract and end the series. It looks like it was made on just 3-4 sets and I believe in was made in 5 days instead of the usual 10-14 days.

    Edit: I see you did mention less votes for In the Money. That explains it :)
     
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  15. Joe Davis

    Joe Davis Stunt Coordinator

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    "Hold That Hypnotist" is definitely my favorite of the Clements films! And I actually sort of like "In the Money." It does feel a bit rushed, yes, but I liked it more than the awfully boring "Looking for Danger!"

    Filmation did, among other things, "The New Adventures of Superman," "Aquaman," "The Archies," "Will the Real Jerry Lewis Please Sit Down?", and perhaps their biggest successes - "Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids" and "He-Man." They were also behind animated adaptions of "Gilligan's Island," "The Brady Bunch," and "Star Trek."

    This wouldn't be the last time somebody tried to do an animated adaptation of the Marxs. Mark Evanier once recalled being in a room of about six writers, all of whom (including himself) had been approached about writing for a Marx Brothers cartoon at some point. I think Mark backed out of one of his offers once the producer took his suggestion of hiring Marcel Marceau to voice Harpo as a serious one!

    The Brothers did get the animated treatment again in a Rankin/Bass special "The Mad, Mad, Mad Comedians," which can also be found on YouTube. Groucho voiced himself for that, and Paul Frees played Chico and Zeppo.

    There is also test footage of an unsold pilot from the early 2000s online.

    Onto the next Dead End Kids film - Crime School (5/28/1938) - Directed by Lewis Seiler and Williams Clemens. Written by Crane Wilbur and Vincent Sherman. Produced by Bryan Foy, Hal Wallis, and Jack Warner. Costarring Humphrey Bogart, Gale Page, Weldon Heyburn, Cy Kendall, and Charles Trowbridge.

    After beating a man, the Dead End Kids are sent to a tough reform school that only seems to develop hardened criminals rather than model citizens. It's up to a well-meaning district attorney to turn things around.

    Crime School is actually a remake of an earlier Warners film, The Mayor of Hell. That film featured James Cagney in Bogey's role, and a gang of kids that included Sidney Miller, The Little Rascals' Farina Hoskins, and future BB semi-regular Frankie Darro. It was, in my opinion, a much better film. Hell managed to capture the drama of life in a reform school, and even threw in some pre-Lord of the Flies "kids gone wild" elements.

    Crime School attempts to do that, but doesn't quite succeed. This life in this reform school doesn't seem to be taken quite as seriously, save for the brief scenes where Billy Halop gets abused by the warden - which were taken straight from The Mayor of Hell.

    Humphrey Bogart's district attorney character is sort of bland, but Bogey does what he can with the role. It's a contrast of Jimmy Cagney's DA, who actually had a backstory - he's actually a gangster, who was eventually given his high position as political favor. His influencing the reform school kids not only helps them grow, but himself as well. Bogey more or less plays an imperfect Jesus figure who rather unconvincingly manages to turn the school into sunshine and rainbows, and (even less convincingly) gets the Dead End Kids to root for him. These elements were in The Mayor of Hell, true, but were played more realistically and logically there.

    The Kids themselves are their usual goofy selves, with Billy Halop naturally getting the majority of the attention as the gang leader who is initially weary of Bogart's motives. Leo Gorcey doesn't question Halop's authority in this one, but does wind up going behind his back, after being threatened with a trip up the river from one of the guards. Perhaps it's just me, but the Kids seem a bit uncomfortable whenever they're called on to play it 'sweet.' Scenes in which they cheer for Bogart and talk about how swell of guy he is don't seem to convincing.

    Cy Kendall plays the school's initial warden, and Weldon Heyburn is his partner in crime. The two try to get Bogart fired, but their attempts don't come off as threatening. Especially since noting in the Crime School universe seems to affect Bogey!

    While a step down from Dead End, Crime School does have some good points. The cinematography by Arthur T. Lodd is quite nice. And the comedy bits work quite well. I liked the scene in which the gang refuses to fess up about their crime to the judge, as well as the gag involving Bobby Jordan's loose pants. The film's ending, in which the now gentlemanly Dead End Kids are paroled, is rather goofy. Whether intentionally or not, I can't say, but it certainly made me chuckle to see Huntz Hall reading a book called How to Break into Society!

    My guess as to why Crime School isn't quite as (shall we say) "dangerous" as The Mayor of Hell is because the latter was made during the Pre-Code era. Plain and simple.

    B :)
     
  16. Karrenola

    Karrenola Stunt Coordinator

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    The Mayor of Hell. Now that is one good movie. Did you know even way up in Canada parts of that film scared the initial screeners so much they had to cut loads of scenes out before letting it run in theaters? Some states complained and cut things out too. Most complained about the title and asked for something without 'hell' in it.

    Ahh, Frankie Darro in nineteen toity-tree. He was a mighty presence in that short but muscular frame. Same year as The Bowery by the way, but the latter is a bit more eerie because some of the lines sound exactly like something someone'd say today. :popcorn:
     
  17. Mr. Handley

    Mr. Handley Supporting Actor

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    Well, Hold That Hypnotist IS my favorite of the Clements films so far. I'll give the rest a chance, but it looks like these will be my bottom seven out of the bunch. I guess I just miss Slip and Louie. I imagine that these last seven were rarely (if ever) shown on TV back in the day?

    I'm certainly planning on purchasing Dead End soon. I'll be curious to read Joe's posts on the other Dead End Kids films as I may want to pick up what's available there too.
     
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  18. Tony Bensley

    Tony Bensley Producer

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    While in my opinion, Stanley Clements was a decent enough actor, he simply lacked the rough around the edges swagger charisma that Leo Gorcey always brought to the table. Stanley was a bit too clean cut to take over Leo's spot, but then who else was there in 1956, anyway?

    By this time, most of the "B" comedy features series had either ended or were winding down. The Bowery Boys might have been about the last of these, I think, with The Three Stooges being the last among the comedy shorts series. Yes, the latter did subsequently produce some features in a triumphant return to the studio from which they had been unceremoniously sacked less than 2 years prior, but gone were the days of ongoing "B" comedy series producing multiple features every year after about 1957, at least in the U.S!

    CHEERS! :)
     
  19. Joe Davis

    Joe Davis Stunt Coordinator

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    Boy, I'm lucky to have time off during the summer. At least untim something else inevitably comes up! I going through these films faster than I'd thought I would.

    Little Tough Guy (7/22/1938) - Directed by Harold Young. Written by Gilson Brown and Glenda Weisberg. Produced by Ken Goldsmith. Costarring Robert Wilcox, Helen Parrish, Jackie Searl, Peggy Stewart.

    Young Johnny Boylan (Halop) goes through some major changes when his father is sent to the chair for murder. His family is forced to live in a poorer neighborhood, where Johnny begins to spend time with a tough gang of kids. With some influence from a danger-seeking rich kid, Johnny and the gang go from street urchins to gangsters on the lam.

    Following the production of Crime School, producer David O. Selznick fired Billy Halop, Huntz Hall, Gabe Dell, and Bernard Punsley from Warner Brothers, essentially for being too wild for the studio to handle. Leo Gorcey's and Bobby Jordan were kept under contract for unknown reasons. The four actors were quickly taken in by Universal, who had their own plans for the Dead End Kids. The studio wanted a gang of six, so Hally Chester and Leo's younger brother David, both of whom had been in the stage version of Dead End were brought in to round out the group. Despite the slight cast change, the group was still billed by Universal as "The Dead End Kids."

    Little Tough Guy gives us a taste of what's to come in the Universal series, which is generally panned by fans. These films tended to suffer from not the best storytelling, not the funniest jokes, and not the greatest balance between the two.

    The writers of this particular film had the right idea - Billy Halop is an average middle class New Yorker whom life decides to throw a curve at. Having him slowly turn into a criminal, partially from poor influence from his new friends, partially out of his own anger at the law killing his father, is a good concept. But it isn't executed as well as it could have been.

    Johnny doesn't logically transform into a tough kid - it just sort of happens, as though the writers didn't know how to develop the character. One moment he's just trying to adjust to his new life in the slums, the next he's one of the gang, running around the streets and making a fool of himself.

    But at least Halop's character has a personality. The rest of the gang is pretty interchangeable in this film. There's an attempt at making Huntz Hall (wearing his trademark baseball hat for the first time!) somwhat different from the others. He's "Pig," the tough leader, and a far cry from the goofball he usually played in these films. But even he kind of blends in with the others. Another issue found not only here, but in future Universal entries, is that the Kids come off as kind of obnoxious. There's lots of pointless horseplay and yelling, slaps to the face and smacks in the head. Sort of like when kids try to emulate the Three Stooges. Authors Brent Walker and David Hayes described a typical Universal DEK movie as a group of boys jumping on each other's backs for sixty minutes. Despite all of this though, the guys always put a strong amount of energy into their performances.

    Jackie Searl plays a rich kid who is bored with his life, and wants to live dangerously. He befriends the DEK, and talks them into joining him in a life of crime. Not a bad idea for a character. Unfortunately, he turns out to be a heel, and is eventually dumped by the other kids.

    The last third of the film in which the kids are depicted as fulltime gangsters is probably the best part of the film. It plays out like, well, a gangster film! I never understood the decision to (SPOILER ALERT) kill Pig off at the end of the film. He didn't have any character motivation, so seeing him go doesn't really affect anything. It would have made more sense to kill Johnny - or perhaps present Pig as a "Baby Face" Martin type. They try to do the latter with Halop, but manage to have his character 'reformed' before the film ends.

    Halop does a fine job in this film. The scene in which he forces himself to use his father's death sentence as a newspaper headline is especially well played. Halop's given a girlfriend in this film - Rita Belle - played by a miscast Peggy Stewart. Rita Belle is clearly meant to be an innocent girl who is blind to Johnny's dark side. But Peggy Stewart's more mature method of acting makes Rita come off as more of a dumbbell than a naive kid. Not Peggy's fault - she was just given the wrong part. The character does work, however.

    There's also a romantic subplot between Robert Wilcox and Helen Parrish, the latter of whom plays Billy Halop's older sister. I'm not normally a fan of the boy-girl love story in these old films, and usually forget what happens in them. This one is no exception. I think it had something to do with class differences.

    Marjorie Main is also back, and does what she can with what little she's given.

    I hate to say it, but Litte Tough Guy was another comedown from Dead End. But fret not - things get better

    C :)
     
  20. Joe Davis

    Joe Davis Stunt Coordinator

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    Little Tough Guys in Society (Nov. 1938) – Directed by Erle C. Kenton. Produced by Max H. Golden. Written by Edward Eliscu and Mortimer Offner. Costarring Mischa Auer, Mary Boland, Edward Everett Horton, Helen Parrish, Jackie Searl, Harold Huber.

    While fleeing the law, the Little Tough Guys take refuge in a country mansion, where a fraudulent doctor is in search of underprivileged youths to bring a rich boy out of his shell.

    With the box office success of Crime School, Warner Brothers saw the market for a Dead End Kids series. There was just one problem – four of the Kids had been fired by producer David O. Selznick. Warners quickly reunited the six original Kids, naturally promising the previously-fired group extra money. Selznick was let go from the studio soon after.

    Meanwhile, Universal wanted to continue their Dead End Kids series. But with the group back at Warner Brothers, the studio decided to create their own gang of street kids – The Little Tough Guys – likely named after the previous film. David Gorcey and Hally Chester returned, and were joined by fellow Dead End stage actors Harris Berger and Charles Duncan. Duncan had actually played Spit on stage for the first few weeks before leaving for another show. Rounding out the group was William ‘Billy’ Benedict, a young Oklahoma-born actor who mostly played newsboys and messenger boys. Universal evidently didn’t feel that either of these five fellows could be Billy Halop types, so the role of gang leader was given to Frankie Thomas, on loan from Warners.

    The group’s first of three films for the studio is notable for being the first all-out comedy in the entire Bowery Boys franchise.

    As in the previous film, the Guys are pretty interchangeable. But they put in plenty of energy. In fact, the film as a whole has plenty of energy in it. It’s fast-paced, filled with jokes (both good and bad), and partially led by established comedy actors Mischa Auer, Mary Boland, and Edward Everett Horton. The three play off of each other beautifully, and certainly have some of the best scenes in the film. I’m guessing Universal was unsure about immediately making the Little Tough Guys the headliners of their own feature, hence the presence of these well-known veterans.

    Jackie Searl and Helen Parrish are back on board – the former as (once again) a bratty rich kid, and the latter as his girlfriend, who also develops a bond with Frankie Thomas’ character. Parrish’s role in this film was definitely a better fit than the “Rita Belle” character from Little Tough Guy.

    Over all, Little Tough Guys in Society is an entertaining romp, with a fun premise – wild street urchins in a dignified setting. It also gives us a rare opportunity to see the not-as-well-known members of the Bowery franchise in action. Yes, David Gorcey actually gets plenty of line in this one.

    I’ve taken the liberty of posting the entire film on Dailymotion in two parts (DM won’t allow anything above an hour). My sincere apologies for the shoddy VHS quality – this is the only print I have!

    I’ll try to post more of the films that haven't been released to DVD yet as I go along.

    B

    Part 1:


    Part 2:


    Angels with Dirty Faces (11/26/1938) – Directed by Michael Curtiz. Produced by Samuel Bischoff, Hal Wallis, and Jack Warner. Written by John Wexley, Warren Duff, and Rowland Brown. Costarring James Cagney, Pat O’Brien, Humphrey Bogart, Ann Sheridan, George Bancroft.

    Rocky and Jerry, two young pals, go their separate ways when one is sent to jail. Fifteen years later, the duo is reunited – Jerry has become a priest, and Rocky a gangster. Jerry attempts to squander Rocky’s most recent ‘business’ deals, which are having a negative effect on the city – and on the Dead End Kids, who see Rocky as a hero.

    Angels with Dirty Faces is really more of a vehicle for James Cagney and Pat O’Brien, with the Dead End Kids acting as a sort of comic relief. Warners was testing the waters with the group at this point, before launching them into their own series.

    Angels is a wonderful crime drama from the great Michael Curitz, who provides us with memorable moments that are, in a way, poetic. The glue of this story, in my opinion, is the friendship between Rocky and Jerry – respectively played by real life friends Cagney and O’Brien. Their temporary split came about when the police spotted them robbing a railroad car. Jerry was literally able to outrun Rocky, who was quickly caught by the law. This idea of Jerry outrunning Rocky is brought up in the dialogue frequently, and it acts as a foundation for their characters throughout the film.

    Cagney and O’Brien are both perfect in their roles. In fact, some feel that this was Cagney’s best performance. Humphrey Bogart’s back, though he shares no scenes with the DEK this time. Bogart does a fine job opposite Cagney, particularly when his character meets his demise from Cagney’s.

    Ann Sheridan is also enjoyable as Rocky’s no-nonsense love interest.

    As mentioned, the Dead End Kids take more of a backseat in this film. They see Rocky as a hero, and attempt to emulate him by buying sharp suits and betting on pool games. It’s partially the fact that the boys are being influenced by Rocky that Jerry tries to put a stop to his crime.

    The film’s ending is quite interesting – Rocky is sent to the chair. As a last favor, Jerry begs Rocky to “turn yellow,” faking fear for his demise. The idea is to get the DEK to see Rocky in a different light. His uncaring attitude towards even his own death impresses the gang. Seeing their hero go out as a coward will change their mindset, ultimately preventing them from wanting to grow up to be like Rocky. Rocky initially refuses the request, but goes right into the act at the last minute. Why? We’re never told. It’s left up for the audience to interpret, which was a cool move.

    It’s worth noting that Angels with Dirty Faces was produced during a period where the Hays Office ruled the business. Crime films immortalizing gangsters were no longer deemed appropriate for the theaters. Instead, crime films would focus on the tough heroes who would bring the gangsters to justice. Angels gives us an example of how a production team was able to creatively get around censorship and still make a good movie.

    The younger Rocky and Jerry are respectively played by Frankie Burke and William Tracy. Burke looks, sound, and acts exactly like Cagney. Frankie would continue to have roles in Hollywood for the next few years, and get to work alongside the Dead End Kids a few times. William Tracy later played delivery boy “Pepi Katona” in 1940’s Just Around the Corner and the lead role in the Serial Terry and the Pirates, as well as “Sergeant Doubleady” in a series of Hal Roach service comedies opposite character actor Joe Sawyer.

    A condensed version was performed on the Lux Radio Theater that same year. Only Cagney and O'Brien reprised their film roles. DEK's parts were played by (among others) Frankie Darro and Harris Berger.

    Angels was also one of the many Turner-owned properties to be colorized in the 1980s – the only Bowery film to receive this treatment so far.

    If you want a more detailed analysis of this film, I’d recommend the DVD audio commentary by Dana Polan.

    A:)
     

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