Angels With Dirty Faces

Critics Consensus

James Cagney's explosive charisma and Pat O'Brien's steadfast decency are a match made in heaven in this touching battle for a community's soul.

100%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 22

92%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 9,542

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Movie Info

Rocky Sullivan (James Cagney) and Jerry Connolly (Pat O'Brien) were brought up in one of New York's toughest neighborhoods, Hell's Kitchen. While his buddy Rocky gets caught up in racketeering in reform school, Jerry decides to become a priest. Years later, Rocky is released from prison and returns to Hell's Kitchen, where Jerry works with at-risk children. Rocky wants a temporary safe haven with his old friend before resuming his life of crime, but Jerry hesitates, testing their relationship.

Cast & Crew

James Cagney
William "Rocky" Sullivan
Pat O'Brien
Rev. Jerry Connolly
Humphrey Bogart
James Frazier
Ann Sheridan
Laury Ferguson
William Pawley
Bugs (uncredited)
John Hamilton
Police captain (uncredited)
Earl Dwire
Priest (uncredited)
William Worthington
Warden (uncredited)
Rowland Brown
Writer (Story)
Max Steiner
Original Music
Sol Polito
Cinematographer
Owen Marks
Film Editor
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Critic Reviews for Angels with Dirty Faces

All Critics (22) | Top Critics (2) | Fresh (22)

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

    February 2, 2005 | Rating: 4/4 | Full Review…
  • 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 | Rating: B | Full Review…
  • If the Dead End Kids - complete with their Three Stooges routines and slaphappy slapstick - weren't involved, the movie could have moved more smoothly and featured a more focused message.

    July 24, 2020 | Rating: 6/10 | Full Review…
  • Angels With Dirty Faces is a very exciting gangster film. The scenario is by Rowland Brown and the direction is by Michael Curtiz, who has a fine sense of visual rhythm.

    June 14, 2018 | Full Review…
  • Although the movie trades heavily on gang-film staples, there's also ample comedy packed into the mix.

    April 21, 2006 | Rating: 4/4 | Full Review…
  • 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…

Audience Reviews for Angels with Dirty Faces

  • Mar 03, 2012
    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.
    Reid V Super Reviewer
  • Dec 28, 2011
    Early Bogart, Classic Cagney. Cagney is Rocky Sullivan who is cheated by James Frazier (Bogart) when he's released from prison. Rocky's old friend, the priest Jerry Connolly (played by Pat O'Brien) tries to stop him from venturing down the same path again but to no avail. Excellent performances by the 3 men in this film. A well written script with some very classic tough guy dialogue. The basketball game is hilarious to watch. A memorable part was where the cops question Rocky about kidnapping Frazier and he says he wants his lawyer, they ask him who and he replies "Frazier". The only bad things are the sometimes campy things that they say and the melodramatic performance by Ann Sheridan as Laury. An interesting film which has some serious and deep things to say about glorifying criminals.
    G S Super Reviewer
  • Sep 05, 2010
    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.
    Aj V Super Reviewer
  • Mar 01, 2010
    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.
    Cassandra M Super Reviewer

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