#114 Angels with Dirty Faces (1938)

James Cagney returns in one of his most iconic roles of his career. It may have been another gangster role but this was a role with morality and humanity. Angels with Dirty Faces is when a priest tries to help an old friend of his, a gangster, not corrupt the minds of a bunch of street kids who look up to him.

I love that scene! ↑ Nothing like sweet revenge against an old bully of yours:) James Cagney plays Rocky who grew up in the slums of New York as a criminal with his best friend Jerry who is also a criminal. Jerry ended up becoming a priest whereas Rocky kept going in and out of prison as a gangster. A bunch of street kids, played by The Dead End Kids, look up to Rocky and find his activities as cool. When Rocky goes rock bottom, what will the kids think of him then? It was interesting to see a film where two childhood friends end up on opposite sides of the law to show that some are capable of growing up and others are just doing what they know well. If Jerry got caught when he was a kid like Rocky did, do you think Jerry would have ended up like Rocky?

This is the first of three films where we see James Cagney and Humphrey Bogart together. Both of these actors were known for playing gangsters in the 30s so it was nice to see these well-known actors in an antagonistic relationship. Bogart plays Rocky’s corrupt lawyer who owes him $100,000- a deal that was made if Rocky went down for his crime. Cagney and Pat O’Brien have been in six movies together with this one being their third. I liked seeing O’Brien play the girl of Rocky’s childhood who is no-nonsense to Rocky’s nonsense. The Dead End Kids made their debut in the play Dead End and would be in six films together and another 48 films as the Bowery Boys from 1946-1958.

Spoiler Alert!!!!! ↓↓↓↓↓↓↓↓↓↓↓↓

Because the Production Code was in place, they were forced to tell Jack Warner of Warner Brothers that some serious censorship needed to take place with rules such as the police were not allowed to die, no strip poker suggestions, and because Rocky was a kidnapper, a criminal, and a murderer, he was not allowed any sympathy. That is where the Dead End Kids come in for the purpose of making the character of Rocky sympathetic. Do you believe that Rocky went “yellow” in the end to listen to Jerry to avoid The Dead End Kids from looking up to him or was Rocky really not as tough as he made himself out to be? It was so heartbreaking to hear him beg and sounded so real. I like that this ending was up to interpretation considering it was rare back then for films to be ambiguous. This movie is definitely worth looking into as one of the best classic crime films.

Watch one of James Cagney’s best performances and let me know what you think:


#113 The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938)

Errol Flynn is back in yet another swashbuckling role. This role is what defined his Hollywood career as Robin Hood. The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938) is when the brother of the king plans to overthrow the throne in his absence, Robin Hood and his army plan to stop him as well as capture the heart of Lady Marian.

Prince John steals the throne from his brother, King Richard, and nobleman Robin Hood decides to stop him by recruiting an army to steal from the rich to give to the poor. What do you think about that? Do you find doing that right or wrong? This technicolor film involves the dashing, heroic Errol Flynn shooting many arrows, swooning the ladies, and very handy with a sword. We would see many plots like this in the future for films like Star Wars where the lower class outsiders would go against the powerful

Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland (who is 101!) still have the best chemistry with each other. Considering this is their third film together, they better! Just like in Captain Blood, this would be another romance that starts in two people who misunderstand each other to eventually falling into each other’s arms. It’s hard to believe that James Cagney was about to take on the roll. I don’t think I can picture him with an arrow instead of a gun:) This film had a $2 million budget which was the most expensive Warner Brothers film at the time. The Adventures of Robin Hood brought back swashbuckling from the silent film era and helped become one of the best action-adventure films. It won the Academy Award for Best Film Editing, Best Art Direction, and Best Original Score but lost Best Picture to You Can’t Take it With You. There would be many film adaptations and film series to follow of Robin Hood. Love romance, sword play, good vs. evil, and action/adventure? Here’s the film for you!

Here is a copy of the Errol Flynn classic and please comment what you think:

#111 The Life of Emile Zola (1937)

This next film was not only a Best Picture winner of 1937 but the second film of the Biography genre to win Best Picture with the first being The Great Ziegfeld. The Life of Emile Zola is the true story of a French author who decides to defend a Jewish army officer accused of being a spy.

French author Emile Zola lives a comfortable life as a successful author as he teaches readers that life is not 100% beautiful in gay old Paris. As his books become a success, it seems that Zola is living the life. Then a little drama kicks in when the wife of an Army officer asks Zola to help her husband, Captain Alfred Dreyfus, who is facing anti-semitic charges against him. It is interesting how the title of this film is not called “Emile Zola and the Dreyfus Affair” considering when I first think of the title, I think it will start out with Zola as a young boy with a sharp focus on his start in writing. The film considers the most pivotal moment of Emile Zola’s life to be when he defended this man that the police knew was innocent but still wanted him put away. We have seen Paul Muno, who plays Emile Zola himself, in I Am A Fugitive From a Chain Gang and Scarface. We know he can give heart-wrenching performances and it is easily demonstrated in this film; especially during the trial scene in which he gives his testimony towards Dreyfus. Muno kept wanting to do retakes of that scene despite nailing it on the first take. What a perfectionist! What did you think of that scene?

The Life of Emile Zola was the first film to receive ten nominations. It’s unfortunate that Paul Muno did not win Best Actor that year as he gave a tremendous performance. On the bright side, Joseph Schildkraut won Best Supporting Actor for the role of Dreyfus and the movie won Best Picture and Best Screenplay. Oh well! You can’t win ’em all like they say. Schildkraut was convinced that the Academy was not going to pay attention to The Life of Emile Zola so he stayed away from the ceremony. He got woken up to discover by an Academy representative that he was to accept his award and he made it in time! Way to go! This is a great film to see as we witness a man do a life-saving favor to a man without asking for anything in return and just how terribly hard it is to fight for justice. This was a great story to tell.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a link to this film so here is the trailer and please comment what you think: