Wild Boys of the Road (Dangerous Days) (1933)




Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

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Movie Info

This earnest, socially-conscious road drama centers on two California teenagers who find their comfortable lives thrown into turmoil during the Great Depression. To find work for themselves, the adventurous lads sneak aboard a Chicago-bound train.
Action & Adventure , Drama
Directed By:
Written By:
In Theaters:
Warner Home Video

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Frankie Darro
as Eddie Smith
Edwin Phillips
as Tommy Gordon
Ann Hovey
as Lola
Anne Hovey
as Lola
Arthur Hohl
as Dr. Heckel
Grant Mitchell
as Mr. Smith
Claire McDowell
as Mrs. Smith
Charles Grapewin
as Mr. Cadmust
Charley Grapewin
as Mr. Cadmust
Adrian Morris
as Buggie Maylin
Robert H. Barrat
as Judge White
Minna Gombell
as Aunt Carrie
Willard Robertson
as Captain of Detectives
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Critic Reviews for Wild Boys of the Road (Dangerous Days)

All Critics (8) | Top Critics (2)

The underrated William A. Wellman made many neglected classics during the Depression, and this 1933 feature is one of the very best.

Full Review… | June 5, 2014
Chicago Reader
Top Critic

Wild Boys of the Road... is disappointing, primarily because it might have been so much more than it is.

Full Review… | August 7, 2006
New York Times
Top Critic

The film -- as propulsive as a locomotive -- is sympathetic to the plight of the young, the unemployed, the female and the ethnic (the 'boys republic' is open to black and Jewish youngsters).

Full Review… | February 17, 2011
Commercial Appeal (Memphis, TN)

No mere Dear-Mr.-Roosevelt pamphlet, but a proto-Neorealist howl

Full Review… | November 3, 2010

Loved the energy of this heartfelt Depression-era social-conscious road film.

Full Review… | June 16, 2010
Ozus' World Movie Reviews

It's a cinematic blast of anger and outrage and exasperation sprung from the immediacy of the depression.

Full Review… | March 24, 2009
Parallax View

Audience Reviews for Wild Boys of the Road (Dangerous Days)


Wild Boys of the Road is a depression era film that doesn't gloss over the extreme nature of the troubled times during that dark period. In fact, this film tends to get painted as one of the darker toned films dealing with the depression and the incredible torment that it brought to people and their families. The film starts off innocently enough as it introduces Eddie Smith and his friend Tommy. They are that typical best buds type of childhood friends and nothing can separate them. The neighborhood and people all seem like a typical idyllic early Americana characters with nary a whiff of negativity in the air. Things go sour very quickly however as we learn that Tommy needs 75 cents to enter school and his mom lost her job a few months back and he knows she can't afford it. Eddie decides he can ask his dad for the money but soon learns that his father has also suddenly lost his job. Things become worse and worse as the bills mount in Eddie's household. His parent try to maintain a positive attitude but Eddie is not fooled. He hocks his beloved beat up jalopy to help his parents out and attempts to pass it off as "no big deal". His father is no fool either as slowly Eddie breaks down and his father attempts to comfort him in a very touching scene. Eddie and Tommy decided that they need to leave town in hopes of finding jobs somewhere else. If they aren't around they won't be a burden to their parents and if they can find jobs they can send the money back home. Quickly deciding upon this course of action they pack up a few things and hop on a train out of town. Very quickly they meet another person stowing away on their particular car who, in a bit of quick false accusation, turns out throws a mean right hook and...she's a girl. Her name is Sally and she's from large family and was also tired of being a burden. She however has a destination. She has an aunt in Chicago and hopes to stay with her while she looks for a job. The three quickly bond over food and they hop trains all the way to Chicago. Things quickly go from bad to worse over and over again and the kids slowly amass a large gang of rail riding children from all over in their attempt to find a destination that allows them to work and live like normal citizens. This film is unwavering in its delivery of the kids and their plight as it actually happened in the '30s. The film is shot on actual locations and and so there's a incredible sense of realism to the film which only further helps to strengthen the depressing nature of their plight and their living conditions. The kids are constantly beset upon by railroad cops and the towns in which they attempt to live at by constructing small shanty towns will not have them and they are forced out from town after town. Things get darker as one of the other girls riding with them gets separated from them in a struggle and she is sexually assaulted by a train worker. After the kids have chased the cops away (yes you read that right), the worker comes back to tell the kids to shove off his train. When the girls screams and identifies him as the attack the kids attack him in force and he ends up falling off the train to his death. Fearing for their safety the kids bail out of the moving train in a truly scary sequence involving non-stunt kids BAILING OFF OF A MOVING TRAIN! Tommy gets tripped up and a train runs over his leg and it has to be amputated. The kids eventually make their way to New York in last ditch effort to make money and not die by starvation. The luck finally pays off as Eddie gets a job but he needs a uniform in order to get it. He goes out to panhandle for the money and gets tricked into committing a crime by some local gangsters. The three of them are arrested and brought before the judge but they will not tell the judge anything as they don't want to burden their parents with their misfortune. The judge admits to them that he can't help them unless he tells them something at which point Eddie breaks down and yells out a great speech echoing the pain and heartache that so many people were feeling at that time all around the United States. Unfortunately this is where the intensity of the movie and the point it is trying to make by demonstrating the horrors that the kids have to put up with is kind of deflated. Suddenly the judge basically goes out of his way to make everything all nice and perfect for them. He's going to get Eddie his job, He's going to put Sally in a nice home where she can work and he's going to see that Tommy gets some medical help. He then makes a bold statement about how America is turning around and soon everyone will be back to work. Yay! Everything is awesome! Apparently that was a changed ending forced upon the director by the studio guys feeling pressure about making films involving stark realism that is a bit too stark for the public in their eyes. Originally Eddie goes to reform school and Sally went to jail for 10 years and...well we don't know what happens to Tommy. The only problem I have with that is why would Sally go to prison and not Eddie? Anyways, the suddenly turn around in tone kind of takes the seriousness out of the picture and is a little disappointing. Regardless it's still a fine film that documents the struggles of the common ma...er kid during those troubled times in a way no film ever did. The tone is simple and without artistic flourish and, those this may disappoint the more artistically inclined fans of more aesthetically driven directors, the matter of fact approach adds to the almost documentary feel of the film. I recommend the film but the ending will probably disappoint you. Just pretend the film ends with Eddie's speech and everything will be OK.

Damon K.
Damon K.

This is by far one of the most interesting, sincere, and meaningful depictions of the Great Depression to ever actually come from the time period itself. It feels so fresh, so relevant, and so conceivably different than anything else from it's time you may not even realize that it was from 1933. This movie shows the struggle of teen runaways in the 30's who felt like they were burdens on their poverty stricken families and so took to the rails hitching rides, pan-handling on street corners, taking any job they could get without asking any questions and the harsh realities and consequences a life like this will get you. (One of the boys loses his leg in a very harrowing scene). There's a very shocking and terrifying scene of one of the girl's being taken advantage of that is very chilling. Followed by the other boys she's traveling with finding out and taking their revenge. You get to see the cruelty that adults inflicted on them because they were still kids with little rights and just the general lack of understanding by the adult community in general. This is one of the first movies to really show the zeitgeist of a generation of teenagers and was not in the least demeaning. This movie doesn't back away and it really told-it-like-it-was and I think it is worth watching for anyone interested in this time period. The only real complaint is the ending which does feel very shoe-horned in, but I guess at the time one could argue that people needed hope a bit more than a realistic harsh bitter ending that might have come off as too nihilistic for the 30's audience that was probably not ready for a movie like that.

Stephanie Merchant
Stephanie Merchant

Wild Boys of the Road (1933) -- [7.5] -- It's the Great Depression, and young boys (and a few girls) are running away from home to lessen the burden on their poor families. This movie follows two boys, played by Frankie Darro and Edwin Phillips, who hop aboard train after train trying to find food and work. Along the way, they befriend a girl played by Dorothy Coonan Wellman. The three become part of an ever-growing horde the press label 'Wild Boys of the Road'. This ragtag group of youngsters band together, forging a community, dodging railway personnel, escaping the police, surviving hunger and sustaining injury. It's hard not to get caught up in their quest for survival. The three-way friendship is the heart of the movie. It reminded me of director William Wellman's earlier Oscar-winning film, "Wings". The relationships develop naturally, and without any forced sentiment. After the climax, when things are at their darkest, there is a pat courtroom scene that resolves everything a little too pleasantly, but to be honest, I don't think I could have taken a sad ending. This is a sweet film with a good heart.

Scott Schirmer
Scott Schirmer

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