Wednesday, November 19, 2014

DEAD END (1937)

Interesting, but dated social commentary piece set in a NYC tenement block located right outside of a luxury apartment building.  Why anybody with enough money to buy a luxury condo would want to have their balcony overlooking a ghetto filled with nonstop screaming and shooting, I have no idea but that's what happens here.  Anyway, down in the Depression-era 'hood you got a bunch of teenage boys who holler and yell 24/7.  All day long they talk shit about people and about how their gonna beat the crap out of everybody.  Then you got the sad sack adults who walk around all day like zombies.  One scumbag woman even steals a cookie from a baby!  There's also unemployed Joel McCrea who has the hots for a rich girl and Sylvia Sidney who has the hots for Joel McCrea.  Entering into this heavy drama are hoodlums Humphrey Bogart and Allen Jenkins.  Bogie is wanted for multiple murders, but it risks coming out in the open to see his mom and ex-girlfriend.  Things don't go as planned and further drama unfolds in da 'hood.

The story for DEAD END is okay and the acting is passable, but it's all so dated and cliche that there's really no power left in it.  It's an interesting watch, from a historical point of view and/or from the career perspective of the stars (I was really into the scenes between Bogart and Claire Trevor since I knew they would work together again in KEY LARGO), but if you don't have the time to spend you'd be better off watching something like I AM A FUGITIVE FROM A CHAIN GANG or even GRAND HOTEL.

On a positive note: the Dead End Kids weren't as annoying here as they were in ANGELS WITH DIRTY FACES, there was a strong supporting cast (including Ward Bond, Marjorie Main, James Burke, Minor Watson, Charles Halton) and the set was very impressive.  Director William Wyler wanted to shoot the film on location in the slums of NYC, but Samuel Goldwyn shot him down and had set designer Richard Day recreate the waterfront location entirely on a sound stage.  Day ended up receiving a Oscar nomination for his work.