Crime/Gangster


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Dead End

Monday, October 1st, 2012

Dead End (DVD)

Tagline – THE GREATEST GANGSTER THRILLER THAT EVER EXPLODED FROM THE SCREEN!

Starring – Sylvia Sidney (Drina), Joel McCrea (Dave), Humphrey Bogart (‘Baby Face’ Martin), Wendy Barrie (Kay), Claire Trevor (Francie), & The Dead End Kids

Released – August, 1937

Directed By – William Wyler

Produced By – The Samuel Goldwyn Company

Distributed By – United Artists

Description – A lot can happen of the East Side of New York in 24 hours. Along side the luxury apartments built by the wealthy, to take advantage of the picturesque East River, are the filthy tenements that house the poor and destitute.

At the end of the block is a dock on the East River that is the territory of the Dead End Kids, a small gang of youths that are already on their way to a life of crime. Tommy Gordon is the leader of the gang and idolizes Baby Face Martin, a former resident, who has graduated to “full-fledged” mobster.

Tommy has a sister, Drina, who dreams of marrying a rich stranger who will take her and Tommy out of the slum before Tommy turns out no better than Baby Face, who just so happens to have returned to his old stomping ground to visit his mother and old girlfriend.

Dave Connell also lives in the neighborhood. He is a childhood friend of Drina and an unemployed architect who gets by taking odd jobs. Dave is in love with Kay Burton, but not even love is simple here. Kay is a rich man’s mistress who, although she loves Dave, knows that he could never provide her the lifestyle that she desires.

Their hard life is about to get a little harder. Tommy and the gang decide to rough up one of the rich kids who lives in the luxury apartments. The boys father intervenes and Tommy stabs him in the arm and must go into hiding from the police.

As for Baby Face, his mother rejects him due to his life as a gangster. While visiting his former girlfriend Francie, Baby Face is disgusted by her current life. Francie has become a prostitute and is sick with syphilis.

With his homecoming visit a dismal failure, Baby Face Martin decides to kidnap the rich kid for ransom in order to have made his trip somewhat rewarding. From this point on everyone’s life seems destined for disaster.

NOTABLE: Dead End received Oscar nominations for Best Picture, Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Claire Trevor), Best Art Direction, and Best Cinematography.

Claire Trevor’s Oscar nomination was a bit of a surprise considering her time on screen was limited to one scene lasting under five minutes.

Director William Wyler had hoped to shoot the film on location, but Producer Samuel Goldwyn insisted it be done in the studio. The result was such a convincing re-creation that Art Director Richard Day received an Oscar nomination.

Although it is clear in the story that the character of Francie is a prostitute suffering from syphilis the censors required that the actual terms of her employment and disease be veiled.

Dead End is based on an original Broadway play that ran for 687 performances.

The role of Baby Face Martin was given to Humphrey Bogart after first being refused by actor George Raft. Bogart was chosen after his performance, a year earlier, in the film The Petrified Forest.

Dead End provided the film debuts of Billy Halop, Huntz Hall, Gabriel Dell, Bobby Jordan, Bernard Punsly, Leo Gorcey, David Gorcey. The group would later evolve into The East Side Kids and then the Bowery Boys. In total, they would appear in seven films.

The Petrified Forest

Thursday, October 6th, 2011

The Petrified Forest

Tagline – AGAIN THEY TRIUMPH!…The stars of ‘Of Human Bondage’ in a picture greater than the play!

Starring – Leslie Howard (Alan Squier), Bette Davis (Gabrielle Maple), Genevieve Tobin (Mrs. Chisholm), Dick Foran (Boze Hertzlinger), Humphrey Bogart (Duke Mantee).

Released – February, 1936

Directed By – Archie Mayo

Produced By –  Warner Brothers

Distributed By – Warner Brothers

Description – ‘Gabby’ Maple lives and works at her fathers small diner in the Petrified Forest area of Arizona. It is a dead-end existence for Gabby, as she yearns for something more exciting to live for, hopefully in France where her mother lives after having left Gabby’s father.

Wandering into the diner comes Alan Squier, a one time British writer who has become a depressed alcoholic. Squier claims to be on his way west to see the Pacific, and maybe to drown in it.

Alan’s story’s of his life and adventures in Europe instantly cause Gabby to become infatuated with him. But, Gabby has a boyfriend. Boze Hertzlinger becomes increasingly jealous of the Englishman and his captivating effect on Gabby.

Alan assures Boze that he has nothing to worry about as he will soon be leaving. Alan has found a ride further West with wealthy tourists Mr. and Mrs. Chisholm. However, fate has something else in mind for the group at the diner this day.

Gangster Duke Mantee and his gang, on the run from police pursuit, enter the diner and hold the group hostage to wait for Mantee’s girlfriend and further plan their getaway.

The intense hours that follow will cause each hostage to reveal their true nature. All fear for their lives except Alan who believes he is living in a world where he doesn’t fit and has no fear of death.

The police have located the diner and know that Mantee and his gang are inside. It doesn’t look like there is any way out for the gang, or the hostages.

NOTABLE: Both Leslie Howard and Humphrey Bogart starred in the Broadway version of Robert E. Sherwood’s play. Sherwood had based the character of Duke Mantee on real-life gangster John Dillinger and gave the stage role to Bogart due to his resemblance to Dillinger.

Warner Brothers had intended to cast Edward G. Robinson, a very bankable star, to play the role of Mantee, but Howard insisted that Bogart play the role. It was the first major role for Humphrey Bogart and it made him a star. Bogart was grateful to Leslie Howard for the remainder of his life and he and wife Lauren Bacall named their daughter Leslie Howard Bogart in his honor.

Personal Note: The Petrified Forest is considered to be a precursor to the Film Noir genre and provides a good story, a solid ensemble cast, and tight direction by Archie Mayo.

The Informer

Monday, March 7th, 2011

The Informer

Starring – Victor McLaglen (Gypo Nolan), Heather Angel (Mary McPhilip), Preston Foster (Dan Gallagher), Margot Grahame (Katie Madden), Wallace Ford (Frankie McPhilip), Una O’Connor (Mrs. McPhilip).

Released – May, 1935

Directed By – John Ford

Produced By – RKO Radio Pictures

Distributed By – RKO Radio Pictures

Description – The 1922 Irish War of Independence is tearing the country apart. In Dublin, Gypo Nolan is a brute of a man who has been kicked out of the rebel movement and, along with his prostitute girlfriend Katie Madden, is on the verge of starving.

While walking the streets of Dublin, Gypo sees a “wanted for murder” poster offering a reward of 20 pounds for information aiding the capture of Gypo’s best friend and rebel Frankie McPhilip. After being insulted by Katie regarding their poverty, and knowing of her wishes to go to America, Gypo’s loyalty to his friend begins to weaken.

Gypo goes to the headquarters of the British Army and reveals that Frankie is at the home of his mother. The arrest goes badly, and Frankie is killed in front of both his mother and sister. Gypo is given the 20 pounds reward and heads for a pub.

At the pub, he tells Katie that he has gotten the money from robbing a drunken American sailor. Gypo attends Frankie’s funeral and rouses the suspicion of members of the Irish rebel army with the money in his pockets and by his defensive behavior.

The rebels take Gypo to see Dan Gallagher, the commander of their forces, who tells Gypo that if he knows who the informer is, and tells them, he will again be allowed to join in with them. Fearing for himself, Gypo claims that the informer is tailor Pat Mulligan and invents a motive to go along with his claim.

Meanwhile, Dan Gallagher speaks with Frankie’s sister Mary and learns that Gypo had been with her brother the night of his death. Further conversation with a stunned Pat Mulligan, over Gypo’s allegation, cause Dan and the rebels to turn their attention right back to Gypo.

NOTABLE: The Informer won four Academy Awards for Best Director (John Ford), Best Actor in a Leading Role (Victor McLaglen), Best Writing, Screenplay, and Best Music, Score. The motion picture was also nominated for Best Picture and Best Film Editing.

In a little bit of trickery, director John Ford told Victor McLaglen on the day before a critical scene regarding his characters trial to take the day off and relax. McLaglen did, and just as Ford expected, spent the day drinking. The next day he had to film the trial scene with a hangover, just the effect Ford wanted for the scene.

Dudley Nichols, who wrote the film is six days and won the Oscar for Best Writing, Screenplay, became the first person to refuse an Oscar citing Union reasons.

A presentation script copy for The Informer was found on a garbage pile in Madison, Wisconsin. The copy was brought to the television program Antiques Roadshow and appraised with a value of $4,000.

Initially, the film was a box office failure. However, after garnering four Oscars, The Informer was re-released and earned millions.

The Informer is director Samuel Fuller’s favorite film.

G-Men

Thursday, March 3rd, 2011

G Men

Tagline – Hollywood’s Most Famous Badman Joins the G-Men!

Starring – James Cagney (‘Brick’ Davis), Margaret Lindsay (Kay McCord), Ann Dvorak (Jean Morgan), Robert Armstrong (Jeff McCord), Barton MacLane (Collins), Lloyd Nolan (Hugh Farrell).

Released – May, 1935

Directed By – William Keighley

Produced By – First National Pictures

Distributed By – Warner Brothers

Description – Law school graduate Eddie Buchanan has joined the F.B.I., whose agents, at that time, were referred to as G-Men. Eddie encourages his friend ‘Brick’ Davis, also a law school grad, to join with him.

However, Brick is not interested and hopes to make it as an honest lawyer even though he has a connection to organized crime. Gangster ‘Mac’ MacKay his financed Davis’ education with his own interests in mind.

When Buchanan is gunned down trying to arrest hood Danny Leggett, Davis changes his mind and is determined to bring the killer to justice. Davis says goodbye to both MacKay, and the singer in the gangsters nightclub Jean Morgan, who has feelings for Davis, and heads to Washington, D.C. to begin his training.

Davis immediately has friction with his instructor Jeff McCord, but also finds himself attracted to McCord’s sister Kay.

Back home, gangster MacKay has retired to a mountain lodge, and without his control, his men go on a crime rampage. Davis recognizes one of the hoods as Danny Leggett, but not yet finished with his training can only aid agent Hugh Farrell with what he knows of the gang.

Farrell and his fellow agents unsuccessful attempt to arrest Leggett leads to them being gunned down and Leggett’s escape. Jeff McCord now assumes command of the investigation and selects Davis to be a part of his team.

Additional shootout’s follow with Davis being shot, Jean Morgan being brought in for questioning, a slip that leads to the location of the gang, another wild shootout, a kidnapping, and the cold-blooded killing of Morgan. How much more of a price is to be paid before justice is served?

NOTABLE: G-Men received an Oscar nomination for Best Writing, Original Story as a write-in nominee.

The production of G-Men was a deliberate attempt to counter the popularity of crime/gangster films made in the early 1930’s. Political and business leaders felt these pictures did too much to glorify the gangster lifestyle.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation opened its real-life training center the same year as this motion picture was released.

Director of the F.B.I., J. Edgar Hoover, personally approved the script for this film.

This film marked the screen debut for actor Lloyd Nolan.

Initially, agents were unarmed when conducting their duties, but after two notorious shootouts, the Kansas City Massacre, which was an attack on F.B.I. agents during the transportation of a prisoner, in which an agent, three policemen, and the prisoner were killed, and the 1934 battle between agents and the infamous John Dillinger and Baby Face Nelson lead to a change in the law allowing agents to be armed.

 

Charlie Chan In Paris

Thursday, February 17th, 2011

Charlie Chan In Paris (Region One USA DVD)

Starring – Warner Oland (Charlie Chan), Mary Brian (Yvette Lamartine), Thomas Beck (Victor Descartes), John Miljan (Albert Dufresne), Keye Luke (Lee Chan).

Released – January, 1935

Directed By – Lewis Seiler

Produced By – Fox Film Corporation

Distributed By – Fox Film Corporation

Description – Detective Charlie Chan is going to Paris on vacation. At least that is what he would like people to think. Chan is actually in Paris to investigate claims made by some London bankers and customers regarding a bond-forgery scheme involving the Lamartine Bank.

This “vacation” is not without extreme risk, as repeated attempts have been made on Chan’s life. Already murdered are Chan’s Paris assistant Nardi, and the ex-boyfriend of Yvette, the daughter of Mr. Paul Lamartine the current head of the Lamartine Bank. Yvette his been falsely accused of the murder.

It appears as though the murderer is a man named Xavier, a blind beggar and a disturbed veteran of World War I. Chan’s investigation leads him to believe that Xavier may not even really exist and that it is someone, or more than one someone, that assumes that identity in order to commit the murders.

With the help of young Victor Descartes, the ward of banker Paul Lamartine, Chan discovers the location where the forged bonds are being printed, when suddenly the lights go out followed by gunfire.

NOTABLE: Charlie Chan in Paris marked the first appearance of one of Chan’s children.

For many years it was thought that this film had been lost until a print was discovered in Czechoslovakia in the 1980’s.