Park Ave. it ain't!
Vincent Tesi | Brick, New Jersey | 07/21/2000
(4 out of 5 stars)
"In the film Dead End, the murky waters of Manhattan's East River served as an appropriate backdrop for the squalor that manifested itself within the conefines of tenament housing. City streets that offered little hope for the jobless, poor, and oppressed were truely "dead ends". Written by Lillian Hellman and directed by William Wyler, Dead End exposed the stark social and economic divisions between the affluent and the underpriveledged. Logistically, the film was easily adapted from Sidney Kingsley's stage play, as most of the scenes are shot within the shadows of Manhattan's East 53rd street highrises. Dead End is essentially about people and their relationship with the neighborhood that spawned them. Gangster Baby Face Martin ( Humphrey Bogart) returns to his old block seeking glorified acceptance from his mother, only to be rudely rebuffed. Plastic surgery may conceal Martin's outward identity, but his crimminal persona is clearly defined through his street wise and violent attitude towards survival. At first Martin basks in the limelight; preening with sharp suit, hat, and polished shoes. As if to make a social statement exclaiming the virtues and rewards of crime, Martin becomes an icon for a teenage street gang (The Dead End Kids). When Martin is shocked by his mother's repulsive behavior, he seeks out his old flame (Clair Trevor). When she reveals that she is now a prostitute, Martin once again becomes tormented that his homecoming is a lonely one. Sylvia Sydney plays Drina, a young unemployed woman struggling to forge an identity of her own while raising her teenage brother. Drina can only dream about escaping the confines of her depressing neighborhood, since her childhood beau ( Joel McCrea) has been enticed by a society girl ( Wendy Barrie) who resides in an exclusive penthouse overlooking the shoddy apartments that define Dead End. Huntz Hall, Gabriel Dell, Leo Gorcey, and the rest of the Dead End kids provide enough street talk to make an English teacher cringe with embarrassment. Is there a way out of Dead End? Most street toughs assumed a life of crime would free them from poverty. Others set up businesses relying on the patronage of tenanment residents to keep the bills paid. Others relied on marriage in hopes of "marrying up". Still others sought education as a way out. The year is 2000, and if you visit the streets of Manhattan above 110th street not much has changed since Wyler's 1937 film Dead End."
`Aren't they sweet?' `Yes, from a distance.'
Steven Hellerstedt | 05/14/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"William Wyler's DEAD END opens with a crane shot of the beautiful skyline of New York City before descending down to a festering tenement slum abutting an imposing, polished upper-class apartment that stands like a walled and guarded castle. Gentrification has hit the East Side.
DEAD END is about poverty and crime, an examination of the social roots of that obsession of `30's movies, gangsterism. DEAD END is also the movie that first foisted the Dead End/East End/Bowery Boys on the movie-going audience. Before settling into a mediocre and prolific b-movie career in the `40s and `50s, the studios paired the Boys with a number of tough guy stars - Humphrey Bogart, James Cagney, John Garfield. Of all the combinations this one is the most successful, in my opinion. At any rate, the Boys are more restrained, for once their schtick subservient to the script and the movie.
The rich moving in next door to the poor created tensions that attracted the attention of playwrights and Hollywood. The poor worry about labor strikes and putting food on the table. The rich practice their French at the breakfast table and hold swank parties deep into the morning. Drina Gordon (Sylvia Sidney) and Dave Connell (Joel McCrea) are two poor people who want a better life, want out of the slums. Although hard-working and educated, Connell has a college degree in architecture, they're stuck in a dead end, mired in hopelessness. The quickest out, of course, is through crime. `Baby Face' Martin (Humphrey Bogart) is a success story, of sorts. A famous gangster who dresses as good as the swells in the castle, Martin wants back in - at least in enough to enjoy a mother's warm welcome or a reunion with an old love who didn't become a prostitute and isn't suffering from late-stage syphilis. Claire Trevor's Francey plays Martin's old flame, and with the censorship of the day it takes a little effort and imagination to connect the dots and make sense of things when Bogart recoils in horror.
DEAD END still entertains. Don't be too fooled by the dvd cover art. Bogart is the third lead in this movie, and the main story takes place between the Sidney and McCrea characters. This urban melodrama is less about crime than the root causes of crime, and everyone is on the top of their game. Strongly recommended.
Bogie and The Dead End Kids
HardyBoys.us | Long Island USA | 06/15/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is the film that propelled the Dead End Kids (Leo Gorcey, Huntz Hall, Bobby Jordan et al) to stardom.
Humphrey Bogart portrays a gangster who returns to his old neighborhood only to come to grief.
The Dead End Kids portray slum kids living right next door to the luxurious apartment houses of the rich.
Sylvia Sidney and Joel McCrea are the star-crossed lovers who try to battle their way out of the slums.
Gangster melodrama at its finest!"