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Angels With Dirty Faces (1938)

Posted By : stillafool | Date : 28 Sep 2010 12:33:11 | Comments : 1 |
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Angels With Dirty Faces (1938) Directed by Michael Curtiz
DVDRip | XviD 1437 k/sec | English (English/French/Spanish subs .srt) | 01:37:13 | 640 x 480 | 1 GB | 23.97 fps | MP3 128 k/sec
Genre: Crime / Drama / Melodrama

For those who hold to the dubious belief that the Production Code produced better filmmaking through deviousness, there is no better ammunition than 1938's Angels with Dirty Faces. On the surface satisfying the crime-doesn't-pay, no-bad-deed-shall-go-unpunished virtuousness so beloved by censorship organizations and humourless types, the film succeeds in pushing to the margins that which seems reckless or corrosive by comparison. But there's subtext all over the place in this singularly agonized gangster melodrama, with the dreams and desperation of slum dwellers bubbling forth to envelop its platitudes and pieties. Angels with Dirty Faces is locked in mortal combat with itself, a repressed sinner wanting to do good while needing to blow its top, resulting in one hell of a potent "classic" that goes well beyond the standard pleasures of studio craftsmanship.
The line between the two extremes divides Rocky Sullivan (Frankie Burke as a teenager, James Cagney as an adult) and his friend Jerry Connelly (first William Tracy, then an incipient Pat O'Brien), the former of whom lands in police custody after an attempted theft by the pair. This single event creates a moral schism: the captured Rocky begins a slow and unstoppable descent into criminality while Jerry goes the other way to become the neighbourhood priest. Sprung from jail again, the now-notorious Rocky waits for lawyer/accomplice Jim Frazier (Humphrey Bogart) to give him the hundred grand he's owed--and while laying low, he reconnects with Jerry, who is disturbed by his former friend's influence on the neighbourhood (a.k.a. "Dead End") kids. When Jim welshes and tries to eliminate Rocky, he ignites his victim's defiance, transforming Rocky into a local legend and thus a problem Jerry must move quickly to squelch.

It would be easy to write off the film as a one-sided binary opposition from that synopsis, but Angels with Dirty Faces is far too knowing to let it go at that. If Rocky's a corrupting influence on the youth, the skid-row conditions they endure make him completely enticing: here is the apparent salvation from the pain and humiliation of poverty, decked out in the slick style and mocking arrogance that can be thrown in the face of the forces that keep them down. And as Dana Polan points out in his commentary for the DVD, everybody in the picture loves Rocky for reasons that go beyond his gangster chic: he's genuinely interested in raising high the kids in this Dead End, and having been brutalized by the system in an unfortunate twist of fate, his disaffection is particularly attractive.

That Jerry is inevitably forced to move against his friend--ostensibly to save the kids from a violent fate, but really to keep the wheels of the social order churning--is the film's cruel kicker, making it seem more hopeless than heart-warming. The fact that crime does not pay is no moral consolation if nothing else does, either, and Rocky's famous climactic sacrifice is like snuffing out the last light of fantasy in a poor boy's dreams. Pat O'Brien is a nice man, but he fights for order instead of solutions, content with the idea of peace when something less romantic is needed. If these thoughts flit briefly through its unconscious consciousness, they cast enough of a shadow to turn a popular melodrama into some New Deal Greek tragedy. Angels with Dirty Faces is compulsively sad and terribly watchable.











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Posted By: Howra Date: 28 Sep 2010 17:17:44
Thanks for the memories