Tag Archives: James Cagney

Angels with Dirty Faces (1938, Michael Curtiz)

Angels with Dirty Faces runs less than ninety minutes, but doesn’t really fill them. The first fifteen minutes of the film are flashbacks, tracking James Cagney’s character from troubled boyhood to juvenile detention to prison. Once the present action starts, Cagney immediately reunites with Pat O’Brien’s now priest, former similarly troubled youth. But Angels doesn’t have a story for O’Brien separate from Cagney and it doesn’t have much of a story for Cagney separate from the Dead End Kids.

For much of the film, Angels uses the Dead End Kids in a reduced capacity, or at least it immediately qualifies the scenes they get to themselves, tying it into Cagney’s recently released gangster storyline. The film’s last act, however, almost entirely removes Cagney and O’Brien. It does remove them separate from the Dead End Kids’s storyline; poor Ann Sheridan, as Cagney’s unlikely love interest, does entirely disappear for the third act.

So while they never have quite enough story to make a full film, even a ninety minute one, screenwriters John Wexley and Warren Duff certainly seem like they should have enough material for one. But since the Dead End Kids are all caricatures, maybe it’s just not possible. Cagney, O’Brien and Sheridan only get slightly better scenes–they’re just better actors. Director Curtiz expects more from them and gets it.

Curtiz directs some great sequences, like the lengthy, thrilling final shootout sequence or anything with Sheridan and Cagney.

Cagney’s fantastic performance almost carries Angels; the structure’s just too wobbly.

2.5/4★★½

CREDITS

Directed by Michael Curtiz; screenplay by John Wexley and Warren Duff, based on a story by Rowland Brown; director of photography, Sol Polito; edited by Owen Marks; music by Max Steiner; released by Warner Bros.

Starring James Cagney (Rocky Sullivan), Pat O’Brien (Jerry Connolly), Humphrey Bogart (James Frazier), Ann Sheridan (Laury Ferguson), George Bancroft (Mac Keefer), Billy Halop (Soapy), Bobby Jordan (Swing), Leo Gorcey (Bim), Gabriel Dell (Pasty), Huntz Hall (Crab) and Bernard Punsly (Hunky).



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THIS POST IS PART OF THE LUCK OF THE IRISH BLOG O'THON HOSTED BY THE METZINGER SISTERS OF SILVER SCENES.


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Taxi! (1932, Roy Del Ruth)

Even when the story falls apart, Del Ruth’s direction still keeps Taxi! somewhat afloat. It only runs seventy minutes and the first half is pretty good stuff. When it starts, the film’s about one cab company trying to muscle out its competitors-Guy Kibbee and James Cagney being some of those competitors. But Taxi! soon becomes a romance between Cagney and Kibbee’s daughter, played by Loretta Young. In fact, after the opening confrontations and Cagney’s profession, the title has nothing to do with the rest of the film.

Instead, it’s an urban romance between Cagney and Young. He’s a hot-head, always getting into fistfights, and she’s trying to cool him off. During their courtship, Taxi! works its best. Leila Bennett plays Young’s friend and she’s excellent. While the film definitely seems listless, it’s well-made and well-acted.

But then the plot takes over around the forty minute mark and everything starts to fall apart. It doesn’t help Dorothy Burgess turns up and she’s awful. Kubec Glasmon and John Bright’s dialogue, at least for the first half, is quite good. They bring a personality to the New York setting and there’s some great banter between Cagney and Young. Burgress butchers the dialogue, but then it too gets worse so no one’s able to do anything with it.

Except Bennett. She, director Del Ruth and cinematographer James Van Trees are Taxi!‘s constants.

If it were just a dumb ending, Taxi! might overcome it, but the whole third act is lame.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Roy Del Ruth; screenplay by Kubec Glasmon and John Bright, based on the play by Kenyon Nicholson; director of photography, James Van Trees; edited by James Gibbon; produced by Robert Lord; released by Warner Bros.

Starring James Cagney (Matt Nolan), Loretta Young (Sue Riley Nolan), George E. Stone (Skeets), Guy Kibbee (Pop Riley), Leila Bennett (Ruby), Dorothy Burgess (Marie Costa), David Landau (Buck Gerard), Ray Cooke (Danny Nolan), George MacFarlane (Father Nulty), Nat Pendleton (Bull Martin) and Berton Churchill (Judge West).


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