Thoughts From The Music(al) Man (2022) on… Angels With Dirty Faces (1938)

Like Doris Day with our look at Lullaby Of Broadway (1951) earlier this month, we’ve been a little overdue for another James Cagney film. And what better way to come back to him than with one of his more famous gangster films, Angels With Dirty Faces (1938), also starring Pat O’Brien!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Teacher’s Beau (1935)

(available on Blu-ray as part of The Little Rascals: The ClassicFlix Restorations, Volume 5 (1935-1936) from ClassicFlix)

(Length: 19 minutes, 3 seconds)

The Gang’s teacher, Miss Jones (Arletta Duncan) announces that she will get married, and that they will have a new teacher for their next year, Mrs. Wilson. Not wanting a new teacher, the Gang try to find ways to break up the engagement. This was yet another hilarious short. Most of the fun stems from the ways that Spanky (George McFarland) tries to interfere, only for his plans to backfire. In particular, him and Alfalfa (Carl Switzer) trying to dress up as a “rival” (who doesn’t fool the fiancé for one minute) really left a strong impression on me. To a large degree, this one feels fairly similar to the earlier talkie School’s Out (1930), but it still feels fresh enough (and funny enough) that I would gladly watch it again!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Out Where The Stars Begin (1938)

(Available as an extra on the Angels With Dirty Faces Blu-ray from Warner Archive Collection)

(Length: 19 minutes, 15 seconds)

A Broadway dancer (Evelyn Thawl) has come out to Hollywood to get into the movies. With the help of a makeup man (Jeffrey Lynn) and the director’s assistant (Charley Foy), she becomes the movie’s prima ballerina. This was a fun little musical short. The music itself is fun (although not exactly memorable), with a dance sequence that takes up the majority of the short. Mostly, it’s entertaining seeing some of the various stars and movie sets of big 1938 films in 3-strip Technicolor. I know I enjoyed it enough to see it here and there!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Porky And Daffy (1938)

(Available as an extra on the Angels With Dirty Faces Blu-ray from Warner Archive Collection)

(Length: 7 minutes, 32 seconds)

Daffy Duck is a boxer being managed by Porky Pig. When Porky sees an ad offering money to somebody who can beat the champion rooster, Porky immediately gets Daffy in the ring! This rather fun short was from the era when Daffy was still relatively new, and very, very zany. In this short, most of the humor is derived from the wacky ways that Daffy tries to fight with the rooster. That’s not a problem for me, as I always enjoyed Daffy, regardless of how screwy he could be (and here, he IS screwy), so I don’t mind coming back around to this one as well!

And Now For The Main Feature…

Two young kids, William “Rocky” Sullivan and Jerry Connolly, try to steal some fountain pens from a train car, but Rocky is caught when they try to evade the police. Jerry wants to come forward to help Rocky out, but Rocky insists that Jerry should clam up. Fast forward nearly fifteen years, and Rocky has been through reform school and spent several years behind bars. Upon being released from prison, Rocky (James Cagney) returns to his old neighborhood, where his friend Jerry (Pat O’Brien) is now a priest and trying to keep the local kids out of trouble. At Jerry’s insistence, Rocky finds a place to stay in a boarding house, where he runs into another old friend, Laury Martin (Ann Sheridan), whom he takes an interest in. Rocky’s next order of business is to see his lawyer, Jim Frazier (Humphrey Bogart) (who had insisted that Rocky take the fall for a robbery the two of them were involved with while promising Rocky that he would get his share of the money when he got out of prison). Jim, now working for gangster Mac Keefer (George Bancroft), doesn’t have the money readily available, and offers to get it together within the week. After leaving Frazier’s office, Rocky runs into some local boys, who pick his pockets. However, he follows them to their hideout (which also used to be HIS hideout when he was younger), where they learn just who he is. He quickly gains their confidence, and helps Jerry to get the kids to behave (although Jerry wonders whether Rocky will end up being a bad influence for the kids). On his way home, some thugs sent by Frazier attempt to kill Rocky, but he turns the tables on them. Afterwards, Rocky kidnaps Frazier and, in the process, also gets his hands on some information that Mac and Frazier were using to blackmail the city officials. With Frazier in his hands, Rocky demands a ransom from Mac of nearly $100,000. After giving him the money, Mac then tries to have Rocky arrested, but finds out from a newly freed Frazier that Rocky has the blackmail information. As a result, they drop the charges, essentially making Rocky another partner. Rocky tries to give some of the money to Jerry to help build a gym, but Jerry wants nothing to do with the tainted money. In fact, he warns Rocky that he’s going to go after all the gangsters in town, including Rocky himself. Jerry’s efforts start to gain traction, leaving Mac and Frazier trying to figure out how to get rid of both him and Rocky. Rocky manages to put an end to their plan (and to them as well), but is caught by the police. Will Rocky continue to be a hero to the end for the boys (as a gangster), or will Jerry be able to show them that Rocky’s way is wrong?

In the mid-1930s, James Cagney had a big contract dispute with Warner Brothers when he sued them for pushing him to do more films in a year than he was willing to do. While the court case went on, he made some movies for Grand National Pictures. Writer and director Rowland Brown came up with the story for Angels With Dirty Faces and, after pitching it at some of the various studios, was able to sell it to Grand National Pictures, who wanted Cagney to do it. However, Cagney had tried to avoid becoming typecast in tough guy roles and took on Something To Sing About for the smaller studio (with the film underperforming at the box office). With the lawsuit getting resolved and Cagney coming back to work for Warners, he brought the story with him (which the studio decided to buy). For the role of Rocky Sullivan, James Cagney (who had grown up on the Lower East Side of New York) was inspired by a drug-addicted pimp he had known (who particularly inspired some of Rocky’s mannerisms and the phrase “Whaddya hear? Whaddya say?”) as well as his childhood friend Peter “Bootah” Hessling (who was convicted of murder and executed in the 1920s). It all worked out well for Cagney, as the picture itself was a big hit, and his performance resulted in his first Oscar nomination.

It’s taken me a long time to finally get around to seeing Angels With Dirty Faces. I’ve known of the film for a long time (especially having grown up with the first two Home Alone films and their title spoofs of the “movies” Angels With Filthy Souls and Angels With Even Filthier Souls that Macaulay Culkin’s Kevin McCallister watched), and the combined star power of James Cagney and Humphrey Bogart made the film an attractive one. However, apart from a clip used in the TCM Scene It? DVD game, I’ve never had the chance to see the movie until this last year. Quite simply stated, it lived up to (and beyond!) my expectations. James Cagney alone carries the movie as a tough gangster who still has a soft spot for his old friend Jerry Connolly (played by Cagney’s offscreen friend Pat O’Brien) and the church. From start to finish, I was mesmerized by him! The ending for his character is ambiguous, and, although it was likely demanded by the Hays Office as part of the Production Code in force at the time, it still feels genuine to me. And, although it’s still early in his career, Humphrey Bogart also leaves a strong impression as a lawyer who thinks he can outwit Cagney’s Rocky (yet is caught every time). The movie kept me on the edge of my seat frequently, especially when the thugs came after Rocky and again when the police were hunting him down. This film is considered a major classic, and I definitely think it deserves that status! I personally might go so far as to call it my favorite gangster film, so I have no hesitation in giving it some of my highest recommendations! Seriously, go see it as soon as possible!

What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2021) with… Angels With Dirty Faces (1938)

This movie is available on Blu-ray from Warner Archive Collection. The transfer comes from a 4K scan of the original nitrate camera negative. It’s a typical Warner Archive release. In short, beautiful picture quality with the level of detail being shown off perfectly, and all the dust, dirt and debris has been removed. It’s a perfect release for a (in my opinion) perfect movie, and it’s highly recommended!

Film Length: 1 hour, 37 minutes

My Rating: 10/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Footlight Parade (1933)James CagneyEach Dawn I Die (1939)

Stand-In (1937)Humphrey BogartThe Maltese Falcon (1941)

Ann Sheridan – Dodge City (1939)

As an Amazon Affiliate, this site gets a small percentage for every purchase made upon using one of the Amazon links, even if it’s not the movie I linked to (and it’s at no extra cost to you). If you like what I’m doing with the blog, please consider using them so that I can continue to do more!

“Star Of The Month (November 2021)” Featuring Humphrey Bogart in… The Petrified Forest (1936)

Now that it’s November, we’ve moved on to the new Star: Humphrey Bogart! Now, for my first Bogart film this month, I went with a movie where he may not be the main star, but he still has an important part in it! It’s the 1936 drama The Petrified Forest starring Leslie Howard and Bette Davis.

Coming Up Shorts! with… Rhythmitis (1936)

(available as an extra on the The Petrified Forest Blu-ray from Warner Home Video)

(Length: 19 minutes, 37 seconds)

According to a doctor, Hal (Hal Le Roy) is suffering from “rhythmitis,” but a pill that the doctor gives him to “cure” it only makes it worse! Of course, star Lola Green (Toby Wing) and her agent are passing by, and decide to make Hal a star. This was a fun little musical short. Hal Le Roy does some pretty good dancing here. This short isn’t anything special, but it’s entertaining, with a twist for the ending that I didn’t see coming (as I had expected a different twist). Certainly one that would be fun to see every now and then!

Coming Up Shorts! with… The CooCoo Nut Grove (1936)

(available as an extra on the The Petrified Forest Blu-ray from Warner Home Video)

(Length: 6 minutes, 46 seconds)

In this short, we visit a Hollywood nightclub and see some of the various celebrities. This is another fun cartoon in the vein of seeing some of the various Hollywood stars (here mostly from the 1930s) caricatured. Personally, I recognize most of them, which still allows for some of the humor to work quite well. I’ll admit, I’ve seen other cartoons with celebrity caricatures that were better, but this one was entertaining enough, even if it really didn’t have much of a plot.

And Now For The Main Feature…

In an Arizona desert, there is a fairly isolated gas station/diner called the Black Mesa Bar-B-Q. The place is run by Jason Maple (Porter Hall) with the help of his daughter Gabrielle (Bette Davis), his father (affectionately known as “Gramp,” as played by Charley Grapewin) and Gabrielle’s wannabe boyfriend, Boze Hertzlinger (Dick Foran). Gabrielle feels stuck there, and wants to go to Paris to see her mother and study art, but cannot afford to make the trip (so is stuck waiting for her inheritance when her grandfather dies). One day, a penniless hitchhiker named Alan Squier (Leslie Howard) stops at the diner, and captures Gabrielle’s imagination with his philosophy and tales of his travels. She falls for him, and decides to show him her artwork (something she’s not willing to do for much of anybody). However, he can feel that she is falling for him, and decides to leave. Understanding his desire to leave, she helps him catch a ride with a rich couple (Mr. and Mrs. Chisholm, as played by Paul Harvey and Genevieve Tobin, respectively) that are passing through. Their trip away from the diner ends quickly when they run into gangster and killer Duke Mantee (Humphrey Bogart) and his men, who steal the car and head towards the diner. While the Chisholms and their chauffeur try to see if they can repair the bullet-ridden car that Duke had abandoned, Alan tries to get back to the diner on foot to warn Gabrielle. He is too late, though, as Duke and his men had already gotten there, and decided to hold everybody hostage (including the Chisholms when they walk back). Duke’s men urge him to keep on going to the border, but he is intent on staying there, as he had promised to meet his girlfriend there. During one moment when Duke is distracted, Boze tries to wrest a gun away, but fails (and gets shot in the hand for his efforts). Feeling like he is doomed to die, Alan decides to sign his life insurance over to Gabrielle (so that she can afford to go to Paris), and asks Duke to kill him before he leaves. Will Alan and Duke go through with this plan? Or will Gabrielle give up on her dreams of Paris (and convince Alan to live)?

When he originally wrote the play The Petrified Forest, playwright Robert Sherwood originally based the character of Duke Mantee on John Dillinger (who was then public enemy #1). When the play was cast, Humphrey Bogart was chosen to play the role at least partly because of his resemblance to Dillinger. He put the time in to study footage of Dillinger and adopt some of his idiosyncrasies for his performance. It paid off, helping make the show a big hit. However, that wasn’t quite enough for Hollywood. When Warner Brothers bought the film rights, they brought along the show’s lead, Leslie Howard (already an established star in Hollywood). There were no plans to bring Bogart, however, as Warners wanted to cast their own star, Edward G. Robinson, in the role. Leslie Howard had promised Bogart that he would get the role for the movie, and threatened to walk off the picture if Bogart didn’t do it. So, the studio relented, Bogart was cast, and the film did well enough that he was put under a long-term contract with the studio. It wasn’t a major step (as he still had a few years ahead of playing second fiddle to some of the bigger stars, and doing leads in “B” pictures), but he had finally become a star in Hollywood.

It’s been a couple of years since I’ve had the chance to see a “new” Humphrey Bogart film (well, new to me, anyways), so this is a nice way to start off the month. Obviously, it’s still early Bogie, so the fact that he really isn’t the main character isn’t much of a surprise. That being said, his performance was definitely one of the high points of the film. He certainly manages to give us a sense of menace, while also still trying to be human (as he waits for his girlfriend). It was quite fascinating to watch him. Apart from him, the movie can be a bit slow. In particular, it really feels like it gets bogged down with some of the philosophy that Leslie Howard’s Alan Squier spouts. And for that matter, I’m not sure that I care much for Leslie Howard’s performance. The rest of the film is interesting, and I’m impressed with how it achieves so much with so little, since we spend most of the film in the diner (although the action does move away here and there). Apart from Leslie Howard, I find the rest of the cast doing well acting-wise, and it made it easier to sit through the movie. Amongst the gangster films I’ve seen (as of this writing, we’re talking about The Public Enemy, Little Caesar and Each Dawn I Die), I think this is the second best. Certainly one that I would recommend!

This movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Warner Home Video, either individually or as part of the four film Ultimate Gangsters Collection: Classics.

Film Length: 1 hour, 22 minutes

My Rating: 8/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Leslie Howard – Stand-In (1937)

Bette Davis – Jezebel (1938)

Humphrey BogartStand-In (1937)

As an Amazon Affiliate, this site gets a small percentage for every purchase made upon using one of the Amazon links, even if it’s not the movie I linked to (and it’s at no extra cost to you). If you like what I’m doing with the blog, please consider using them so that I can continue to do more!

Thoughts From The Music(al) Man (2021) on… Little Caesar (1931)

Well, we’ve looked into a few gangster films earlier this year (mainly during my month-long celebration of actor James Cagney), but we’re back for another gangster classic, the 1931 film Little Caesar starring Edward G. Robinson and Douglas Fairbanks, Jr.

Coming Up Shorts! with… The Hard Guy (1930)

(Available as an extra on the Little Caesar Blu-ray from Warner Home Video)

(Length: 6 minutes, 28 seconds)

In the Depression, Guy (Spencer Tracy) and his wife Ellen (Katharine Alexander) wonder how they will be able to afford food for their sick daughter. With him reading about crimes in the news, his wife wonders if he may resort to that when she finds a gun in his coat pocket. It’s an interesting short, mainly appealing for an early look at Spencer Tracy as he was trying to break into the movies. Some of the acting is a little stiff (not surprised considering when it was made), but Spencer Tracy shows enough promise of what is to come to make this at least interesting. Apart from him, it’s not otherwise memorable.

Coming Up Shorts! with… Lady, Play Your Mandolin! (1931)

(Available as an extra on the Little Caesar Blu-ray from Warner Home Video)

(Length: 7 minutes, 17 seconds)

Foxy comes to a Mexican café, where everybody is singing “Lady, Play Your Mandolin.” This short was the first in Warner’s “Merrie Melodies” series of animated shorts, in an attempt to showcase the title song. There really isn’t much of a plot here, just the music (with a few gags here and there). It’s not that memorable (nor, quite frankly, is the song), and, given that it features the Mickey Mouse-esque Foxy (and his requisite lady fox), it doesn’t come off as well as the more original Disney cartoons of the era.

And Now For The Main Feature…

Small town crooks Caesar Enrico “Rico” Bandello (Edward G. Robinson) and his friend Joe Massara (Douglas Fairbanks, Jr.) have just gotten away with robbing a gas station. Rico dreams of doing bigger things, and he decides they will both go to Chicago. In Chicago, there are two rival gangs, one led by Sam Vettori (Stanley Fields) and the other led by Little Arnie Lorch (Maurice Black). They both answer to Pete Montana (Ralph Ince), who answers to Big Boy (Sidney Blackmer). Rico joins up with Sam Vettori’s gang, and Joe becomes half of a dance team with Olga Stassoff (Glenda Farrell) (who becomes his girlfriend) at the Bronze Peacock nightclub owned by Little Arnie. Olga slowly starts trying to influence Joe to get out of the gang life, but he resists. Sam Vettori decides to have his men rob the Bronze Peacock on New Year’s Eve, and they decide to use Joe as an inside man. Of course, Big Boy has sent word to all the men to avoid killing due to the tough new crime commissioner breathing down their necks. The robbery almost goes right, except the crime commissioner walked in on them committing the crime, and Rico decided to take a shot at him. They get away successfully (although Joe, who witnessed the killing, is now starting to hesitate about staying in the gang). Policeman Sergeant Flaherty (Thomas E. Jackson) comes to Sam Vettori’s place looking for information, but doesn’t find anything. Rico starts believing that Sam Vettori is getting too soft to be in charge, and leads the other men in a successful mutiny. Little Arnie feels that Rico is getting too big for his own britches, and tries to have him bumped off. When Little Arnie’s men fail, Rico comes calling, and tells him to get out of town or else (he chooses to get out of town). Rico is called in to meet with Big Boy himself, who decides to give him the territory that Pete Montana had been in charge of. Things are starting to look good for Rico. However, his old friend Joe is quickly becoming a liability, and he needs to do something about it. Will Joe be able to convince his friend to let him out of the gang, or will things end badly for one (or both) of them?

Little Caesar was adapted from the novel of the same name by William R. Burnett. Several characters and events in the movie were patterned on real-life people and events, with Rico in particular being based on famous gangster Al Capone. Actor Clark Gable was considered at one point for one of the leads in the movie (although which role he was in consideration for varies depending on the source), but he was turned down. Edward G. Robinson (who had actually played a gangster onstage and in one previous movie) was considered for the role of Rico’s “yes man” Otero (who would be played in the movie by George E. Stone) before producer Hal Wallis decided he would be perfect as Rico. Of course, off-camera, Robinson was far different from the character he portrayed onscreen, with a particular aversion to gunfire which forced them to tape up his eyelids to keep him from messing up the takes when he pulled the trigger. While not the first gangster film, it proved popular enough that Robinson became typecast as a gangster for a time, and pushed Warner Brothers to focus on the genre (helped by the success that same year of Cagney’s The Public Enemy).

Like some of the other gangster movies that I’ve seen this year, this was my first time seeing Little Caesar, and I have to say that I enjoyed it quite a bit! Like James Cagney in The Public Enemy, Edward G. Robinson did indeed carry the film with quite a wonderful performance as a conceited, power-hungry killer. It was mesmerizing watching him as he slowly wormed his way into the affections of the other men, all the while making his leaders look “soft” enough that he could take over. I’ve seen some say that the acting in this movie is a bit wooden, and while I can’t completely disagree, I think it’s at least better overall than in The Public Enemy, with Robinson receiving better support from the other members of the cast. I admit that I found the banquet scene with all the gang members quite memorable (with that scene being based on an actual party held in honor of gangsters Dion “Deanie” O’Bannion and Samuel J. “Nails” Morton). Not going to lie, that scene made me think of the opening scene in Robin And The 7 Hoods (I know, that film was made later and was probably spoofing this scene, helped by the presence of Robinson himself, but I’ve seen that movie many times over the years, versus once for Little Caesar at the moment). The ending itself is also quite haunting (although you can probably predict it coming essentially from the start of the film with the intertitle quoting Matthew 26:52). It’s not a perfect film by any means, but, like I said, Robinson carries the film quite well (and I can certainly understand why he got typecast for a while after this one). Certainly worth recommending!

This movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Warner Home Video, either individually or as part of the four film Ultimate Gangsters Collection: Classics.

Film Length: 1 hour, 19 minutes

My Rating: 8/10

As an Amazon Affiliate, this site gets a small percentage for every purchase made upon using one of the Amazon links, even if it’s not the movie I linked to (and it’s at no extra cost to you). If you like what I’m doing with the blog, please consider using them so that I can continue to do more!

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Edward G. Robinson – The Sea Wolf (1941)

Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. – Having Wonderful Time (1938)

“Star Of The Month (July 2021)” Featuring James Cagney in… White Heat (1949)

It’s time again for another James Cagney movie as we continue to celebrate him as the Star Of The Month! This time, it’s his 1949 classic White Heat, also starring Virginia Mayo!

Coming Up Shorts! with… So You Think You’re Not Guilty (1950)

(available as an extra on the White Heat Blu-ray from Warner Home Video)

(Length: 10 minutes, 31 seconds)

Joe McDoakes is fined for going through a (malfunctioning) traffic signal, but, in his stubbornness to admit to his guilt, that small fine quickly turns into a stretch in prison! This was a fun one, with the increasing ridiculousness as everything snowballs! Of course, being directed by Richard Bare (who later directed the TV series Green Acres), I’m not surprised about that! This one may not be realistic on a number of levels, but it’s certainly a funny short!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Homeless Hare (1950)

(available as an extra on the White Heat Blu-ray from Warner Home Video)

(Length: 7 minutes, 6 seconds)

When a construction worker destroys Bugs’ home, he vows revenge. Another type of Bugs cartoon in which he is wronged, and decides to fight back. You just know that construction worker won’t know what hit him. Of course, I was surprised to see him get one good shot in on Bugs partway through, but at least that allows for some variety. Still worth a few good laughs! (Compared to the previously reviewed version included as an extra on Young Man With A Horn, this one is not restored in any way).

And Now For The Main Feature…

Cody Jarrett (James Cagney) and his gang rob a train of nearly $300,000. The engineers are killed when they accidentally learn Cody’s name, but, when one of them is shot, they accidentally release a steam valve, scalding one of Cody’s men. Cody and his crew go to a mountain hideout, where his mother (Margaret Wycherly) and his wife Verna (Virginia Mayo) are hiding out. One of his men, Big Ed Somers (Steve Cochran), wants to take over the gang and have Verna to himself, but he is just afraid enough of Cody to avoid doing anything. When a big storm comes, they make their move and leave behind the scalded man. Later, some members of the Treasury Department discover the (now dead) scalded man, and are able to learn about Cody and his associates. They almost catch up to Cody, but his mother warns him in time, and Cody, along with his mother and wife, manage to get away. They split up, and Cody decides to turn himself in for another, lesser robbery committed at the same time they robbed the train. Unable to trap him for the train robbery, the feds decide to send in an undercover man, Hank Fallon (Edmund O’Brien), under the alias Vic Pardo, to find out more. Outside the prison, Ma runs the gang, with Big Ed going along with her. In prison, Hank tries to get in Cody’s good graces, but has no luck. That is, until a friend of Big Ed’s tries to bump off Cody, and Hank manages to save him. Cody’s mother comes in to see him right after, and, realizing Big Ed had tried to off her son, she tells Cody that she will deal with him personally. Less than thrilled with this development, Cody turns to Hank for help in breaking out of prison. Hank makes plans with another agent acting as his wife on visiting day, but, before they can follow through on their plans, Cody learns from a new inmate that his mother is dead. He suffers a breakdown, and is taken to the doctor. Another inmate smuggles a gun in to him, and they, along with Hank and a few others, successfully escape from the prison. Meanwhile, Verna is getting nervous about Cody coming after her and Big Ed (since she had killed Cody’s mother), but when she tries to escape Big Ed, Cody catches her. Thinking quickly, she accuses Big Ed of shooting Cody’s mother in the back, and helps him past Big Ed’s defenses, so that he can shoot Big Ed. Under the advice of his fence, Daniel “The Trader” Winston (Fred Clark), Cody and his crew decide to rob a payroll. Hank tries to get word out to the police, who tip the feds. At the place they are robbing, Hank is recognized by another con brought in to help them (whom he had arrested years earlier), but they are quickly surrounded by the feds. Will Cody finally be brought to justice, or will he evade the authorities again?

After Yankee Doodle Dandy, James Cagney had once again ended his contract at Warner Brothers. With his brother William, he had formed his own production company. However, they only made a handful of films, and they weren’t very successful. So, Cagney once again returned to Warner Brother, although this time with a little more freedom, since he still retained his production company. He returned to the gangster genre (which he had tried to leave behind, with his last one being the 1939 film The Roaring Twenties) with the film White Heat. At first, he wasn’t thrilled with the script, and made some suggestions to the writers about making Jarrett and his mother more like the outlaws Ma Barker and her family (and making Jarrett himself psychotic). His suggestions worked, as the film turned out to be a hit with audiences and the critics, and it is considered one of Cagney’s best roles.

To say that Cagney is good in this role is an understatement! As Cody Jarrett, he takes things even further than he had as Tom Powers in The Public Enemy. Once again, he only cares for his mother (but, this time, she knows about his life of crime and very actively encourages him in it). While Cody is a married man, he doesn’t really trust his wife that much and can be cruel to her (but certainly doesn’t want anybody else to have her, either). He suffers from headaches that really lay him low, but, with his mother’s help, he recovers from them and maintains his image as a tough guy. And we can see from Cagney’s performance that it is when he suffers a headache in prison and Edmund O’Brien’s Hank Fallon helps him out like his mother (with similar encouragement) that he finds himself trusting Hank more. But he is indeed a very tough guy! At one point, we see his wife worrying that he will just keep coming even if he is shot, which we see she is right to be afraid about (although when in the story is for you to see for yourself)!

I’m coming off my first time seeing this movie, and I would definitely go so far as to say that I liked it! James Cagney was the main appeal of The Public Enemy, and he was again here (although, compared to that film, he was supported much better by the other actors and actresses here). Virginia Mayo as his wife Verna is also good as a woman who wants riches and is constantly playing angles to survive and get what she wants from whomever she is dealing with (although with mixed success). As Cody’s mother, Margaret Wycherly is almost as tough as her son, and served by a sixth sense that is able to help keep them out of trouble (but, as we find out, even she can’t predict everything). But, again, Cagney is what makes this movie, as a psychotic man who seemingly can’t be killed by anybody else, and is therefore a big threat to everybody. I was fascinated by the whole movie, and I have no problem whatsoever in giving this movie a very high recommendation!

This movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Warner Home Video, either individually or as part of the four film Ultimate Gangsters Collection: Classics.

Film Length: 1 hour, 53 minutes

My Rating: 9/10

As an Amazon Affiliate, this site gets a small percentage for every purchase made upon using one of the Amazon links, even if it’s not the movie I linked to (and it’s at no extra cost to you). If you like what I’m doing with the blog, please consider using them so that I can continue to do more!

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942)James CagneyLove Me Or Leave Me (1955)

Out Of The Blue (1947) – Virginia Mayo – Great Day In The Morning (1956)

What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2021) with… Each Dawn I Die (1939)

We’re pulling double-duty yet again, as we look into another recent Blu-ray release! This time, we’re looking into the 1939 film Each Dawn I Die, featuring this month’s Star, James Cagney, as well as George Raft!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Railroadin’ (1929)

(available on Blu-ray as part of The Little Rascals: The ClassicFlix Restorations, Volume 1 (1929-1930) from ClassicFlix)

(Length: 18 minutes, 53 seconds)

The kids are all hanging out at the train yard where Joe’s (Joe Cobb) father works, when a bum starts the train and the kids find themselves unable to stop it. This short (which is also the first of 22 appearances of Norman “Chubby” Chaney in the gang) is something of an improvement over Small Talk, with the acting a bit more natural (still needs some work, but it’s improved). The humor also needs a bit of work, with the main joke being the kids’ inability to stop the train completely (and only being able to switch directions), which goes on a little too long. The funniest moment within that whole section is when the train keeps running over Farina (Allen Hoskins), who has his foot caught in the track and keeps lying down (although it’s obvious that model work is used when actually showing it). Maybe not the series at its best (from what I have heard), but enjoyable enough that I want to keep watching, just the same!

Coming Up Shorts! with… A Day At Santa Anita (1937)

(available as an extra on the Each Dawn I Die Blu-ray from Warner Archive Collection)

(Length: 18 minutes,)

A little girl named Peaches inherits a racehorse when her father dies. She and the horse become so close, her presence is needed to help the horse stay calm and win. It’s a decent short, with a few cameos from movie stars like Al Jolson, Ruby Keeler, Hugh Herbert, Frank McHugh and Edward G. Robinson at the racetrack. It’s nothing original, with other gamblers trying to cheat to get their horse to win, and the little girl helping the horse. It’s interesting, but that’s about the only thing to be said about this one (besides the fact that it’s an early Technicolor short).

Coming Up Shorts! with… Detouring America (1939)

(available as an extra on the Each Dawn I Die Blu-ray from Warner Archive Collection)

(Length: 7 minutes, 57 seconds)

A narrator takes us on a tour of the U.S. This short is one of Tex Avery’s efforts while at Warner Brothers. There are some fun gags here, with one recurring bit about Mr. Butterfingers, “The Human Fly,” trying to climb the outside of the Empire State building. There are some dated moments, particularly with one black character who resembles the blackface look of the time (never mind a few other stereotypes). It’s fun, but it’s not as good as some of Tex Avery’s other directorial efforts.

Coming Up Shorts! with… Each Dawn I Crow (1949)

(available as an extra on the Each Dawn I Die Blu-ray from Warner Archive Collection)

(Length: 8 minutes)

John Rooster, egged on by the Narrator, is afraid he will become Farmer Fudd’s Sunday dinner. This is another type of cartoon with a narrator making an easy-going character paranoid about what’s going to happen to him (but that’s the fun right there). Elmer Fudd as the farmer is admittedly a minor character, but that works quite well. The rooster’s attempts to delay his execution are what drives this cartoon, and are certainly hilarious as everything backfires on him. Certainly one I enjoy coming back to now and again!

And Now For The Main Feature…

A corrupt district attorney, Jesse Hanley (Thurston Hall), is running for governor of the state, but when a newspaper calls him out on his corruption, he and his associate, Grayce (Victory Jory), decide to burn their books. Newspaper reporter Frank Ross (James Cagney) observes them doing it, and writes up a big story, with the support of his editor. However, the D.A. doesn’t like that, and decides to play dirty. He sends some thugs after Frank, who knock him out, stick him in a car, make him look like a drunk driver, and send the car off. Before crashing, he ends up killing three people, and, despite his protesting that he is innocent, he is sent to prison. On his way there, he meets convict “Hood” Stacey (George Raft). The two don’t really hit it off, but, once in the prison, Frank saves Stacey from being killed by another inmate with a grudge (and who is a bit of a stool pigeon for the guards), Limpy Julien (Joe Downing). Eventually, Limpy Julien is killed when the prisoners are watching a movie. Frank suspects Stacey of doing it, but he doesn’t say anything about it to anybody. Stacey comes to him and admits that he wasn’t the one who killed Limpy Julien, but, since Frank kept quiet, Stacey asks Frank to turn him in. Figuring he would get a trial at the courthouse and could escape from there, Stacey promises to help Frank find the men that framed him. Frank is initially resistant, but, after seeing his mother break down when she comes to visit him, he decides to make the deal with Stacey, and turns him in. Frank sneaks a message to his former colleagues from the newspaper that something will go down at the courthouse, which spooks Stacey when he makes his (successful) escape. The prison guards try to force Frank to tell them what he knew about the escape, but he clams up about it, resulting in him being stuck in solitary confinement. While the guards keep trying to get him to talk, he proves to be a very troublesome prisoner. Meanwhile, Frank’s girlfriend, Joyce Conover (Jane Bryan), worries about Frank since the newspaper is having no luck in trying to get Frank out legally, so she tries to reach out to Stacey through his lawyer. When she sees Stacey, she tries to convince him how loyal Frank has been, and is awaiting word. She gets through to Stacey, who sends some of his men to find out what they can. Meanwhile, Joyce talks to the prison warden, John Armstrong (George Bancroft), and persuades him to give Frank a chance. Frank tries to behave himself, but, when he comes up for parole, he finds the head of the board is Hanley’s man, Grayce, and is turned down. When Stacey finds out that the man who framed Frank is Polecat Carlisle (Alan Baxter) and he is in the same prison as Frank (and one of the stool pigeon prisoners, no less), Stacey turns himself in at the prison. But, with the other prisoners planning a prison break, can Stacey and Frank get the proof they need?

Each Dawn I Die was based on the 1938 novel of the same name by Jerome Odlum. When Warner Brothers bought the film rights, it was intended as a vehicle for James Cagney (although he was originally to play the part of the gangster “Hood” Stacey). However, the original plan was to have him star opposite Edward G. Robinson. That didn’t happen, and John Garfield was next slated to co-star (with Michael Curtiz directing). Once again, things changed, and William Keighley was given the director’s job. George Raft, an old friend of Cagney’s (and who had made a quick appearance in the 1931 James Cagney film Taxi), was coming off his contract at Paramount. When they cast him in the film (as the reporter), he suggested that he and Cagney should switch roles, and thus, we got the movie as it is. It proved to be popular (in an already crowded year, considering this was a 1939 release), which led to George Raft being signed to Warner Brothers.

I can’t deny that James Cagney’s performance in this movie is indeed what makes it worthwhile! We see him in action as a reporter on a crusade to deal with a corrupt district attorney running for governor of the state. Cagney’s Frank Ross is against crime and corruption, and yet, prison time makes him as much of a con with a grudge against the world as those that actually belonged there! Even worse, he can see how he has changed, like when he breaks down and cries at his parole hearing after he threatens the members of the parole board. Honestly, it’s hard not to feel for him, when everything he and his friends try to do honestly manages to fail.

I’m coming off my first time seeing this movie. Plain and simple, James Cagney’s presence in this movie is the main reason I saw it, and he doesn’t disappoint (not to mention the fact that this movie came from Hollywood’s golden year, 1939)! I really appreciate his performance here, as I’ve indicated. I’m no fan of George Raft, but, from the handful of films that I’ve seen with him in them, I would put this as one of his better performances, as a mobster who essentially came from a similar background to Cagney’s reporter (with their life choices being the main difference between them). The movie certainly doesn’t mince words when it comes to showing how poor prison life can be for inmates, with all the guards essentially trying to break the inmates (and making some of them worse), instead of trying to reform them. There will be those that take issues with some of the various plot devices used to move the story along, but I find it to be a wonderful prison/gangster movie. I certainly have no qualms in recommending this one highly!

This movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Warner Archive Collection. The Blu-ray transfer comes from a new 4K scan of the best surviving nitrate preservation elements (in this case, a nitrate fine grain master). While I’ve never seen the movie before this, I can say that the transfer on the Blu-ray is, as usual for Warner Archive, FANTASTIC! The clarity is there, and shows off all the detail. The dust and dirt and other debris is gone. Seriously, you can’t get much better than this!

Film Length: 1 hour, 32 minutes

My Rating: 9/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Angels With Dirty Faces (1938)James CagneyYankee Doodle Dandy (1942)

Spawn Of The North (1938) – George Raft – Black Widow (1954)

As an Amazon Affiliate, this site gets a small percentage for every purchase made upon using one of the Amazon links, even if it’s not the movie I linked to (and it’s at no extra cost to you). If you like what I’m doing with the blog, please consider using them so that I can continue to do more!

“Star Of The Month (July 2021)” Featuring James Cagney in… The Public Enemy (1931)

“I ain’t so tough.” – Tom Powers (James Cagney), The Public Enemy

Now that James Cagney is this month’s featured Star, we’ll start off with the film that established him in Hollywood, the 1931 gangster film The Public Enemy, co-starring Jean Harlow, Edward Woods and Joan Blondell!

Coming Up Shorts! with… The Eyes Have It (1931)

(available as an extra on the Blu-ray for The Public Enemy from Warner Home Video)

(Length: 9 minutes, 57 seconds)

Young Charlie McCarthy has been missing school because of his eyesight, and is sent to an eye doctor. This was an early showcase for ventriloquist Edgar Bergen, along with his most popular character, Charlie McCarthy (minus his monocle, for sake of the story). Not really a lot of plot to it, and Charlie’s comments towards the female nurse don’t age the best. Probably not the best spot to start in with Bergen and McCarthy, in my opinion.

Coming Up Shorts! with… Smile, Darn Ya, Smile! (1931)

(available as an extra on the Blu-ray for The Public Enemy from Warner Home Video)

(Length: 7 minutes)

Streetcar driver Foxy is singing the song “Smile, Darn Ya, Smile” as he makes his rounds. This short is mostly a showcase for the tune (which would later be used in Who Framed Roger Rabbit). Both Foxy and the lady fox are very obviously derivative of Disney’s Mickey and Minnie Mouse, just with fox tails and different shaped ears. Given the almost complete lack of plot, and the fact that similar shorts have been done elsewhere (and better), it’s a short that I will likely not feel the need to revisit anytime soon.

And Now For The Main Feature…

As kids, young Tom Powers and his buddy Matt Doyle are prone to getting into mischief. Tom’s older brother, Mike tries to get him to stay on the straight and narrow, to no avail. As they get older, Tom (James Cagney) and Matt (Edward Woods) start working for the local fence, Putty Nose (Murray Kinnell). Putty Nose lets them in on a robbery, promising to help them if they get in trouble. However, the robbery doesn’t go as planned, with one of their friends killed, and they end up killing a cop (and, of course, Putty Nose deserts them when they need him). When the U.S. joins the war (World War I), Mike (Donald Cook) enlists, but hopes Tom will try to take care of their mother (Beryl Mercer). With the arrival of Prohibition, Tom and Matt find themselves working for Paddy Ryan (Robert O’Connor), who helps them get into the (now illegal) brewery business. With the aid of mobster “Nails” Nathan (Leslie Fenton), they start forcing local speakeasies to take their beer or else (a problem with rival gang’s competing with them). One night at a speakeasy, Tom and Matt run into a pair of ladies, Kitty (Mae Clark), whom Tom is interested in, and Mamie (Joan Blondell), who catches Matt’s eye. The two couples end up staying together at a hotel when a newly-returned Mike throws Tom out of his mother’s house. Tom quickly grows tired of Kitty, and starts going with Gwen Allen (Jean Harlow) instead. One night when they go out as a group to celebrate Matt and Mamie’s engagement, Tom spots Putty Nose. Deciding to get even with him for abandoning them before, Tom and Matt follow him to his apartment, where they kill him. Soon, “Nails” Nathan dies when a horse he was riding knocks him off and kicks him in the head. In retaliation, Tom and Matt buy the horse and shoot it. With “Nails” out of the way, the city erupts in a gang war, resulting in Paddy’s bar being blown up. While he tries to get some men together to fight back, Paddy forces everybody to hide out. That doesn’t work very well, as the rival gang spots Paddy leaving the hideout, and a couple of men are stationed out front to get anybody that leaves. When Tom gets too stir crazy, he decides to leave. Matt goes with him, but they are shot at when they leave. Tom gets away safely, but Matt isn’t so lucky. Filled with a desire for revenge, Tom is determined to go after the rival gang. But will he succeed (and live to tell the tale)?

It’s hard not to think of The Public Enemy without discussing James Cagney himself. The movie was his fourth film. He was starting to rise through the ranks, and Warner Brothers was starting to become known for their gangster films, with the recent success of Little Caesar. For The Public Enemy, Cagney was actually originally cast as Matt Doyle, with Edward Woods getting the role of Tom Powers. However, director William Wellman thought he was miscast, having seen Cagney’s performance in Doorway To Hell, and so the roles were switched up. In the process, James Cagney forever became associated with the gangster genre, giving us a performance of an increasingly tough and ruthless man, with only a soft spot for his own family, whom he tries to take care of.

I’ve only recently had the opportunity to finally see this movie, and the main thing I can say is that the movie is worth seeing for Cagney’s performance alone, he’s that good. I can easily understand why the scene with the grapefruit is one that he’s well-remembered for (although, considering it’s a scene of domestic abuse, I feel sorry for Cagney, who was constantly being reminded of it by his fans who used to send him grapefruit). And the scene with him standing in the rain, as he’s about to go after the rival gang members is also pretty powerful. Outside of that grapefruit scene, most of the violence occurs offscreen, but it’s done quite well and leaves an impact. I will admit, though, that some of the rest of the cast isn’t always up to Cagney’s level here, acting-wise. Jean Harlow is a bit wooden in her performance, much to my surprise, which makes her scenes a little harder to sit through. Donald Cook as the older brother Mike is also a little too awkward, particularly in his final scene (and I think he drags down Robert O’Connor as Paddy in what scenes they do share). Still, even with some less-than-stellar performances, Cagney alone makes this film worth it. Indeed, it is a classic performance that stands the test of time, as he proves how good (or maybe I should say “bad”) a gangster he could be onscreen. Definitely would recommend this one!

This movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Warner Home Video, either individually or as part of the four film Ultimate Gangsters Collection: Classics.

Film Length: 1 hour, 24 minutes

My Rating: 7/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

James CagneyFootlight Parade (1933)

Jean Harlow – Dinner At Eight (1933)

Joan Blondell – Gold Diggers Of 1933 (1933)

As an Amazon Affiliate, this site gets a small percentage for every purchase made upon using one of the Amazon links, even if it’s not the movie I linked to (and it’s at no extra cost to you). If you like what I’m doing with the blog, please consider using them so that I can continue to do more!