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Angels with Dirty Faces (1938)


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Release Date: Jan 1, 1938 Limited



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Average Rating: 4.1/5
User Ratings: 9,278

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Movie Info

Childhood chums Rocky Sullivan (James Cagney) and Jerry Connelly (Pat O'Brien) grow up on opposite sides of the fence: Rocky matures into a prominent gangster, while Jerry becomes a priest, tending to the needs of his old tenement neighborhood. Rocky becomes a hero to a gang of teenaged boys (played by Dead End Kids Billy Halop, Leo Gorcey, Huntz Hall, Gabriel Dell, Bobby Jordan and Bernard Punsley). Father Jerry despairs at this, asking Rocky to lay off so he can keep the kids on the straight

Jan 25, 2005

Warner Bros. Pictures

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All Critics (23) | Top Critics (2) | Fresh (20) | Rotten (0) | DVD (12)

Although the movie trades heavily on gang-film staples, there's also ample comedy packed into the mix.

April 21, 2006 Full Review Source: Arizona Daily Star
Arizona Daily Star

the way Angels With Dirty Faces balances hard-bitten gangster drama with warmly stage-managed religiosity gives us an entertaining period piece, one which shows that after more than sixty years you still can't go wrong with a Jimmy Cagney movie.

April 7, 2006 Full Review Source:

James Cagney is in top form as a gangster with with redeeming qualities in this well-directed, Oscar nominated picture from Michael Curtiz, who scored in 1938 two Oscar nods; Bogart and Raft are also good.

July 17, 2005 Full Review Source: EmanuelLevy.Com

Envolvente do início ao fim (num desfecho, diga-se de passagem, poderosamente dramático), o filme traz Cagney em uma de suas atuações mais intensas e inspiradas.

July 13, 2005
Cinema em Cena

...most of all, it's Cagney: At the top of his game, the bad guy we have to love. He makes it all happen.

February 13, 2005 Full Review Source: Movie Metropolis
Movie Metropolis

An archetype of 1930s and '40s gangster films. The plotting and melodramatic storytelling are stilted by today's standards, but classic movie lovers enjoy that.

February 7, 2005

Angels With Dirty Faces benefits from the Production Code because it forces the gangster film to acknowledge its nihilism.

February 2, 2005 Full Review Source: Slant Magazine
Slant Magazine

Sometimes fierce

January 29, 2005 Full Review Source:

Wonderful morality story; one of Cagney's most memorable

October 23, 2004
Kansas City Kansan

If you're looking to study the gangster classics, I know a good place you can start.

July 25, 2002

Rocky Sullivan is riveting. His movements are quick and vital, his speech like machine-gun fire, his demeanor sharp and confident. He is all attitude and style.

May 8, 2002 Full Review Source: Decent Films Guide
Decent Films Guide

Angels With Dirty Faces (1938) is a classic example of a Warner Bros. gangster/crime melodrama of the 1930s

January 1, 2000 Full Review Source: Tim Dirks' The Greatest Films
Tim Dirks' The Greatest Films

Audience Reviews for Angels with Dirty Faces

13/07/2012 (DVD)
July 12, 2012

Super Reviewer

William "Rocky" Sullivan is just a no good kid. Starting off as your average juvenile delinquent, he blossoms into a career criminal. His draw is quick and his name has adorned many a penitentiary charts. His childhood cohort Jerry on the other hand, grows out of his old ways and turns to a life of piety. After his most recent stint in the big house, Rocky has come back to his old haunt. Father Jerry and Rocky share a rich history, but their future appears to be heading in different directions. Rocky is still interested in making some dough, while Jerry is focused on turning around a new generation of delinquents.
With this story, director Michael Curtiz touches on some serious issues. In a way, Rocky & Father Jerry represent patriarchs of two divergent paths. Both sure know the one that yields more material gain. But as lucrative as it may be, Father Jerry doesn't want the world building their fortunes on rotten foundations. Maybe I am assigning to much meaning to an old gangster picture, but I really feel like there is a good nature vs. nurture argument here. Is there an honorable James Sullivan deep inside? Or was he always destined to be Rocky? Do these kids have it in them to be stand up citizens? Or is it in their blood to be social pariahs?
After all, this would have been a hot topic in America during this period in history. Juvenile delinquency was on the rise during the 1930's, disrupting a relatively stable American youth culture. This being the depression years, upward mobility wasn't always within reach. But with a life of crime, many felt that the sky was the limit. Criminals were often glorified for taking their piece of the American dream when it was scarcely available. Curtiz deconstructs these criminals in a very fascinating way.
If these aren't good enough reasons to capture your interests, the bold & somewhat ambiguous ending will surely keep you thinking long after the credits roll.
March 3, 2012
Reid Volk

Super Reviewer

This is my one of my favourite gangster movies. It's not the only movie with the story of two boyhood friends who grow up to be enemies, but it's the best of them. Plus, it has a great cast.
September 19, 2010

Super Reviewer

Michael Curtiz has made some great films, yet the only one that tends to be well received among film fans is his contender for the best movie ever made - obviously Casablanca (and Robin Hood, to a lesser extent). However, the man has a wealth of other influential classics under his belt that don't tend to get the recognition that they deserve, and Angels With Dirty Faces is one of those films. To sum the film up easily, one would say that it is a crime drama. However; like the best crime dramas, this one has multiple themes that elevate it from being merely a film about crime, to being a character study, a portrait of what it is that makes a hero and a condemnation of criminals on the whole. The story follows Rocky Sullivan and Jerry Connolly; two young New York thugs, the former of which is caught by the police and sent to a reform school, where, ironically, he learns to be a criminal. The latter escapes punishment and goes on to become a priest. The story follows these two men as they meet up as adults and have an effect on the lives of the kids of their old neighbourhood.

The focus of the film is always centred on the neighbourhood. This allows Curtiz to show us the effects that Rocky's criminal endeavours have on the kids of the neighbourhood more effectively. This sort of narrative would be employed in later films, such as the critically acclaimed 'City of God', and works well here too. The way the film shows how impressionable young kids can be influenced by adults works brilliantly, and Curtiz is able to continue this theme up until the powerful ending. James Cagney would later go on to achieve major fame in the incredible 'White Heat', but here he shows us what the quintessential New York gangster would be like. His performance, in short, is incredible and easily ranks among the best gangster roles of all time. The rest of the cast do well in their roles, with distinct New York accents helping to firmly place the audience in the city that the film is taking place in. Furthermore, the film is economic in the way it's plotted and it's also very exciting, and therefore guaranteed to delight it's audience.

Angels With Dirty Faces is an absolute cinema classic and quite why it isn't more famous is anyone's guess. Although not quite as good as Casablanca, this is a major notch in Michael Curtiz's filmography and I wouldn't have any qualms with recommending this to film fans at all.
March 1, 2010

Super Reviewer

    1. Rocky Sullivan: Good afternoon, gentlemen. Nice day for murder.
    – Submitted by Jason S (2 months ago)
    1. Rocky Sullivan: Like sittin' in a barber chair. They're gonna ask me, "Got anything to say?" and I say, "Sure. Give me a haircut, a shave and a massage. One of those nice, new electric massages. Heh heh."
    – Submitted by Jason S (2 months ago)
    1. Rev. Jerry Connolly: Alright, fellas. Let's go and say a prayer for a boy who couldn't run as fast as I could.
    – Submitted by Jason S (2 months ago)
    1. Rocky Sullivan: What did you hear? What do you say?
    – Submitted by Samantha V (2 years ago)
View all quotes (4)

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