Angels With Dirty Faces

04 Mar


Directed by Michael Curtiz
Produced by Samuel Bischoff
Written by John Wexley
Warren Duff
Based on Angels With Dirty Faces by Rowland Brown
Starring James Cagney
Pat O’Brien
The Dead End Kids
Humphrey Bogart
Ann Sheridan
George Bancroft
Music by Max Steiner
Cinematography Sol Polito
Edited by Owen Marks
Distributed by Warner Bros.
Release dates
November 26, 1938
Running time
97 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget Unknown
Box office $1.7 million[1]
Angels with Dirty Faces is a 1938 American crime film directed by Michael Curtiz for Warner Brothers. It stars James Cagney, Pat O’Brien, The Dead End Kids, Humphrey Bogart, Ann Sheridan, and George Bancroft. The screenplay was written by John Wexley and Warren Duff, and is based on the story by Rowland Brown. The film chronicles the rise and fall of the notorious gangster William “Rocky” Sullivan. After spending three years in prison for armed robbery, Rocky intends to collect $100,000 from his co-conspirator, Jim Frazier. All the while, Father Jerry Connolly tries to prevent a group of youths from falling under Rocky’s influence.

Angels with Dirty Faces was released on November 28, 1938 to positive reviews. At the 11th Academy Awards, the film was nominated in three categories: Best Actor (Cagney), Best Director (Curtiz), and Best Story (Brown).

In 1923, Rocky Sullivan (Frankie Burke) and Jerry Connolly (William Tracy) attempted to rob a railroad car carrying fountain pens. Jerry, the faster runner, escaped from police, while Rocky was caught and sentenced to reform school.

Thirteen years later, Rocky (James Cagney) is arrested for armed robbery. His lawyer and co-conspirator, Jim Frazier (Humphrey Bogart), asks him to take the blame and, in exchange, he will give Rocky the $100,000 stolen on “the day” he is released. Rocky agrees, and is sentenced to three years in prison. After serving his sentence, he returns to his old neighborhood and visits Jerry (Pat O’Brien), who is now a Catholic priest. Jerry advises Rocky to get a place “in the old parish”; he does so, renting a room in a boarding house run by Laury Martin (Ann Sheridan), a girl he bullied in school. He then pays a visit to Frazier’s casino. Frazier claims to have been unaware of Rocky’s release, but promises to have the $100,000 ready by the end of the week. In the meantime, he gives Rocky $500 spending money.

Rocky is pickpocketed after leaving the casino. The culprits turn out to be a group of youths: Soapy (Billy Halop), Swing (Bobby Jordan), Bim (Leo Gorcey), Pasty (Gabriel Dell), Crab (Huntz Hall), and Hunky (Bernard Punsly). They admire Rocky’s reputation and criminal lifestyle so, after retrieving his wallet, Rocky invites them to dinner. While they are eating, Jerry shows up and asks the gang why they haven’t been playing basketball. With Rocky’s help, he convinces them to play against another team. At the match, Jerry and Laury express equal concern over the negative influence Rocky may be having on the gang.

While walking home, an attempt is made on Rocky’s life by Frazier’s hit squad. Rocky survives, and retaliates by kidnapping Frazier and raiding his house at gunpoint, stealing $2,000 and a ledger. Frazier’s business partner, Mac Keefer (George Bancroft), gives Rocky his $100,000 in full, but informs the police of the kidnapping. Rocky is arrested, but after discovering he has possession of the ledger, Frazier tells the police it was all a “misunderstanding” and Rocky is released. Jerry learns of the kidnapping, and decides to go to the press in an effort to expose the corruption in New York. Rocky tries to reason with him, but to no avail. On the radio, Jerry publicly denounces the corruption; as well as Rocky, Frazier and Keefer. Frazier and Keefer assure Rocky that no harm will come to Jerry, but Rocky overhears their plans to kill the both of them. Rocky kills Frazier and Keefer instead, and makes his way to an abandoned warehouse after escaping the casino. There, he kills a police officer and a standoff ensues with the rest of the force. Jerry arrives and tries to reason with Rocky, telling him the entire building is surrounded, but Rocky takes him hostage. While trying to escape, the latter is shot in the leg and caught. After standing trial, Rocky is sentenced to death.

On the night of his execution, Jerry pleads with Rocky to show people that he died a coward by begging for mercy on his way to the death house, citing the negative influence he has had on Soapy and the gang as his reason. Rocky refuses, but on his way to the electric chair, he does start begging and screaming for mercy, though his motive is unclear to the viewer. The final scene shows Soapy and the gang reading of how Rocky “turned yellow” in the face of his execution, and they lose all respect for him.


Posted by on March 4, 2017 in 1940s, classic movies


Tags: ,

30 responses to “Angels With Dirty Faces

  1. carolineturriff

    August 5, 2016 at 5:12 am

    I’ve heard of this film but never seen it. It sounds great from your description although I’m not a specialist in crime drama as I can’t watch too much violence in films or read about it as I have PTSD. I’m still negatively affected by a scene from Friday the 13th which I saw when I was 8! Thanks for following my blog.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. America On Coffee

    August 5, 2016 at 11:28 am

    Hello carolineturriff, thanks for your feedback. There are different types of films on our site, check them out, “Angels with Dirty Faces” is not a crime film but a film about a criminal – protagonist. However, there are some criminal elements, but the young urban boys (the eastside kids), learn good and change from a criminal, a wonderful priest and other upporting casts. In todays films we have lost a lot of heroes and evil prevails.


  3. penneyvanderbilt

    August 8, 2016 at 8:09 am

    Reblogged this on PenneyVanderbilt.


  4. Tamara Kulish

    August 11, 2016 at 10:10 am

    I’ve never heard of this film. Thanks for bringing it to our attention!

    Thanks for stopping by my blog and for the follow!

    Peace, Tamara

    Liked by 1 person

  5. America On Coffee

    August 11, 2016 at 9:05 pm

    Thank you as well, Tamarakulish….AOC will checkout more of your interesting works.


  6. America On Coffee

    August 23, 2016 at 3:41 pm

    You got it Tamara! Enjoy!


  7. America On Coffee

    August 23, 2016 at 3:44 pm

    Thank you again Penney.


  8. lilvix811

    September 6, 2016 at 11:45 am

    Love the posts and thanks for the feedback on mine. You are invited to visit my site / it was originally – Many thanks, continued $ucce$$ and God bless!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. patriciaruthsusan

    September 7, 2016 at 5:51 am

    I like those old classics also. I’ve seen this one. :) — Suzanne

    Liked by 1 person

  10. America On Coffee

    September 7, 2016 at 5:07 pm

    patriciaruthsusan, the old classics are so great! I love them all, too. And, the Angels With Dirty Faces movie results in good morals from bad deeds, needed in lives and films today. Thank you for commenting.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. grevisangel73

    September 12, 2016 at 8:10 pm

    I’ve seen this film, as a fan of old films. This was the first one that I had seen with what would later become the Bowery Boys. I


  12. usathroughoureyes

    September 18, 2016 at 8:33 am

    This was a great movie and thank you for the synopsis.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. America On Coffee

    September 19, 2016 at 2:06 am



  14. Susan Halloran

    September 20, 2016 at 8:39 pm

    I love old Cagney films!


  15. Author Winona Rasheed

    September 21, 2016 at 10:13 am

    I love the oldies but goodies movies. I prefer them over the latest arrivals.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. America On Coffee

    September 21, 2016 at 10:40 am

    A good cup of coffee helps so many of us to relax and reflect on the good old days. Have a great day.


  17. America On Coffee

    September 23, 2016 at 10:37 pm

    Me too! A great actor was Cagney with tremendous charisma! His films are Memorable. And, he was a fantastic dancer!


  18. Ellie

    September 28, 2016 at 4:44 am

    Really enjoy all types of movie reviews and I am so grateful you found and are following my posts now! I look forward to reading more of yours too!


  19. philipfontana

    September 28, 2016 at 12:49 pm

    Great movie! Great Website! Thanks for the “Follow” on my website, Phil

    Liked by 1 person

  20. America On Coffee

    September 28, 2016 at 10:11 pm

    Thank u! Your website is so nifty! Glad you appreciate classical movies.:-)

    Liked by 1 person

  21. gorgeousgael

    September 30, 2016 at 2:01 am

    wonderful film. Bogart and Cagney, the dream team!


  22. America On Coffee

    September 30, 2016 at 4:30 am



  23. America On Coffee

    September 30, 2016 at 5:12 am

    Thank you for enjoying ‘miss back in the day usa’. The New Creations Ministries is lovely blog! We love the Lord, family and traditions. Thank you for more forthcoming, beautiful inspirations.

    Liked by 1 person

  24. Ellie

    October 1, 2016 at 4:57 am

    Aaah thank you, what a sweet compliment and I hope you continue to stay in touch, :)


  25. bernard25

    October 2, 2016 at 1:01 am


    Quelle belle histoire entre nous

    Je t’envoie un bouquet de fleurs

    Chargé de parfum que ta demeure soit embaumé de celui-ci
    Comme guidé par un vent d’amour , les anges viennent te protéger
    Je te souhaite un merveilleux dimanche
    Ici le temps est chargé de pluie mais il en fallait un peu

    Pour toi en guise de mon Amitié

    Une douce pluie de tendresse et de bisous



  26. America On Coffee

    October 3, 2016 at 6:02 am


    Merci beaucoup!

    ‘in english have a good week’

    Liked by 1 person

  27. tigre23

    October 16, 2016 at 1:38 pm

    Thanks for sharing this as I haven’t heard of this movie until now – sounds like a classic! Also, thanks for the ‘like’ on my blog. Peace and blessings! :)

    Liked by 1 person

  28. America On Coffee

    October 16, 2016 at 2:53 pm

    Thank you in return for your blog inspirations.

    Liked by 1 person

  29. Dr. Rex

    November 16, 2016 at 12:14 pm

    On another note … Hey!! Thanks for stopping by “It Is What It Is” … and the follow. Hope you enjoy your visits there!! Hugs … Peace!!’ __/l\__


  30. America On Coffee

    November 18, 2016 at 12:28 pm


    Liked by 1 person


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