Screening #3: Angels With Dirty Faces (1938)

Angels with Dirty Faces (1938)

James Cagney, one of Hollywood’s greatest “tough guys”, plays opposite of Pat O’Brien in this classic gangster film about two former friends who had chosen different paths when growing adult.

Also starring the legendary Humphrey Bogart (who was selected by the AFI in 1999 for being US cinema’s greatest male star) and glamorous Ann Sheridan at the beginning of their careers.

The film is directed by Hungarian born director Michael Curtiz who won in 1942 an Academy Award as Best Director for the classic “Casablanca” (starring Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman).

Warner Bros. produced a number of other significant gangster films during the Thirties that have distinct themselves from the usual escapist entertainment of that period: Little Cesar (starring Edward G. Robinson, 1930), The Public Enemy (with James Cagney, 1931), Scarface (with Paul Muni, 1932), I Am a Fugitive From a Chain Gang (with Paul Muni, 1932), The Petrified Forest (with Humphrey Bogart, 1936) and The Roaring Twenties (with Cagney and Bogart, 1939). Ten years later, James Cagney returned one more time to the portrayal of a gangster for Warner Bros. in the classic film noir “White Heat” (1949).

Angels With Dirty Faces received three Academy Award nominations for Best Director (Curtiz), Best Writing Original Story (Rowland Brown) and Best Actor in a Leading Role (Cagney).

James Cagney about actors: “Without you, they have an empty screen. So, when you get on there, just do what you think is right and stick with it.” He was strongly admired as one of the greatest actors of all time by many famous film professionals, among them Orson Welles, Marlon Brando, Stanley Kubrick, Clint Eastwood and Malcolm McDowell.

IMDb link:


28 thoughts on “Screening #3: Angels With Dirty Faces (1938)

  1. Ah, I can feel a sense of getting toward more modern films with the way this film was laid out. It actually pretty much felt like watching a movie made in the present aside from the fact that it was black and white, the old music, and everyone sounded funny.

    So basically, this movie was about two bad kids who stole stuff and got caught, got sent to juvie, then they grow up and somehow one ends up a preacher or whatever and one a well known gangster. Apparently something went wrong there. And then there’s friendship, betrayal, and other fun stuff. Anyways, I overall enjoyed the movie and don’t have all too much to say based off my previous comment of how this seems to be close to a more current movie. However there are a little things I want to point out.

    The main female role shows up a bit into the movie… then near the end, she doesn’t do anything. She’s barely there. Actually, she doesn’t really contribute anything to the movie. She said she loved Rocky, the gangster, but that doesn’t develop into anything. Also, what’s with the kids? I get they’re not in a very good life but what of their parents? Are they orphans or something? Nothing is told. The ending I don’t know how to feel about. We can see the reason behind it and that it’s for the “greater good” but at the same time he’s given up all he’s got left and faked character. It was his last moments on earth. Whether or not he really wanted to do it on his own accord, we can’t really tell. Then there’s the possibility that he might have not been faking and actually been afraid of dying. It’s quite complicated and I feel like the film’s ending is left for the audience’s interpretation.

    And another thing, boys were apparently really rough with each other back then. I’m surprised someone didn’t get knocked out on accident.


  2. On a scale of one to ten, with ten being excellent, I personally give this movie a three.

    When I watched Golddiggers of 1933, I was positively surprised at how modern and relatable the dialogue was, so I was thrown aback at how difficult I found it to keep up with the dialogue of Angels with Dirty Faces was. How fast do these people have to speak, seriously!? At first I thought maybe the characters in the two movie spoke differently because the characters in the previous movie were of a higher class, but come to think of it, the dancer girls were from a lower class, probably similar to that of Rocky and Rev. Conelly. By the time I got used to the way the characters in Angels with Dirty Faces spoke, the film was more or less over, so I guess that took the enjoyment out of the movie for me. Meh.

    There were many unexplained aspects of the movie, such as the ambiguous love between Rocky and Laury, how the children were always astray, Rocky’s life in prison and how it had created a criminal of him versus how his childhood friend became a priest etc. If I look at it in a positive light, the ambiguity gives the audience the freedom to decide these small details on their own, but quite honestly, to me, it seemed a little jumbled and hard to decipher.

    The ending was extremely awkward. Rocky is pictured as being calm and collected, but he just suddenly goes bat shit crazy, shooting his opponents and police officers that come in the way. He would’ve died in that building if Rev. Conelly hadn’t come to escort him out, but perhaps it would’ve been better for his image, because the Rev. guilt trips him into pretending he is afraid of death. It just felt like Rocky had so much love for his friend, but the Rev. just used him for what he thought was a good cause. I guess it did encourage the kids that followed Rocky around to rethink their values, but still… Pushing your own religious ideals so heavily and dishonestly is something that irks me. Everything about the ending was just ew 😦


    1. Angels With Dirty Faces is one of my two favourite films of all time (the other is Roaring Twenties). I’ve seen thousands of films. However, your review really made me laugh…not in a bad way, either. The part about the fast talking is so funny. You are correct; I just never thought about it. I guess I like Cagney because I talk very fast also.


  3. Although I am not a gangster film fanatic, I thought this movie was enjoyable and was a good example of the genre.
    Some comments mention the accent of the characters- I personally had no issue with it. In many older films and sitcoms, characters have a similar accent. The reason for this is because it is the way people spoke. Even today, there are some very strong accents in certain areas of the States. I believe it adds to the depth of the character- giving them a culture and a past through their language. I can understand the difficulty of understanding the accent, however, and maybe subtitles would have been good for those who are not as comfortable in English.
    Another point many people discussed was the ending. I agree some points were left unresolved (for example, the love relationship with the girl) and felt rushed. The scene with the priest, though, I am not as bothered by as some other viewers. I don’t believe he was ‘pushing his religious ideals’ as one viewer believed, because the girl could have went to Rocky and said the same thing without mentioning God in the reasoning and it would have the same message: ‘act frightened to dissuade the children from following the same path’. I agree he seemed more pushy and worried about the children than his friend about to die in 10 minutes, but I don’t believe his message was related to his religion, but his fight to protect the children from gangster life.
    I was also very surprised-(seemingly) everyone thought Rocky pretended to be frightened. It crossed my mind he might just use the opportunity (being asked to act frightened for the kids) as an outlet to let out his fears once and for all. As brave a person Rocky is, or anyone for that matter, I feel many people would experience some amount of fear when facing death. Is it so hard to believe even a BIT of the fear he expressed was real?


  4. To be honest, I could not get the main theme of this film. It was hard to understand what this film is trying to bring across to the audience. That’s because the ending scene was radically different from the first scene of the film.

    In the beginning of this film, we could see a lot of scenes where a main character, Rocky is having fun with his girlfriend, his friend, and the boys. Of course we also see gangster scenes. I actually like the scene of Rocky and the boys because it is an interesting story line. Their action and spoken lines are so funny. I never expected that these funny scenes are appeared in this period. I felt like film industry had moved in closer to modern film.

    Since I really enjoyed the scene of Rocky and the boys, I felt disappointed about the ending scene of this film. The reason is because the last scene is focusing only on Rocky’s gangstersim. There is no deep story line about the relationships between Rocky and the boys and also his girlfriend in the ending scene. Actually there is a scene where Rocky is asked to pretend to be a coward so that the boys can be disappointed at Rocky. However, I think this scene should be expanded more in order to go deeply into their relationship.


    1. I think the main theme is that the line between good and evil is very thin, and humans are neither completely good nor completely bad. The two boys started off the same, just regular boys at heart, and one gets caught and is put in the prison system, which he can never get out of. This reflects how criminals and the criminal system is a product of society itself.

      The title of the movie itself expresses the theme. “Angels with Dirty Faces.” It shows that even the innocent have something that tarnishes them.

      Also, although Rocky was a criminal, he had a soft spot for the boys and truly wanted to help them. I disagree that the story line isn’t very deep. I think he genuinely wanted to help the boys in the only way he knew how.

      THe priest, who is generally portrayed as the more upright of the two gentlemen, is actually kind of manipulative at the end when he tells Rocky to “go yellow.” The morality of this is a bit questionable. This is another example of how humans are neither completely neither completely good nor completely evil.

      In the end, Rocky was caught in a desperate situation, and he showed the fear of death that all people do at the end, regardless of their background.


  5. As a big fan of gangster-films, I have seen “Angels with Dirty Faces” before. However, reviewing and discussing the picture with classmates helped me to notice something I hadn’t noticed before.

    A typical story about a kid with bad luck grows into something more complicated; with a battle of two contrasting worldviews in faces of Rocky and Jerry. Despite Jerry’s ultimate good intentions, Rocky touches the audience better as he is not perfect, and at the same time has more or less fair moral code with the perception on what is wrong/right. It is clearly seen when Rocky, with his strong hand, taught boys how to follow the rules, and be fair in a basketball game.

    The movie addresses problems of social consciousness, and questions whether gagsters are the roots of social problems. After studying about ridiculously strict censorship in Hollywood of that time, I think about an open-ended culmination from a different perspective. Did rocky really die in humiliating way, or he did it for the good of the kids (and for the crew, so they could get away with this risky film)?

    From a technical perspective, Angels with Dirty Faces is on a good level of special effects, and editing technics. I liked the moment when newspapers flew to the screen – it reminded me Citizen Kane.

    Of course, it isn’t a perfect film: it has some poor written characters (like the girl from the past), and controversial motivation for some of them. Overall, I liked the movie though, and would be happy to review it again with a different perspective in the future. Maybe.


    1. Hmm, very thoughtful response! I too notices the editing, and the use of the newspaper montage to drive the story. I think this is the first film we have seen in this class that uses that kind of montage.

      I also think at Rocky’s death scene was very beautiful from a cinematic point of view. The mise en scene as he proceeded to his death, combined with the haunting lighting are the images I remember especially from the film.

      I think they made him turn yellow at the end to comply with the strict censorship of Hollywood at the time, but it is interesting that the question of the motive behind Rocky’s horror is open-ended. I think, if anything, it serves to show that really all people are fundamentally the same inside, and at the end we all die and have the same fear of death.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. From my past experience, the American film from 30’s seems tend to be a bit dark and also very religious. I had seen “Angels with Dirty Faces” (1938) as the reflection of the society at the moment. So, I am going to point out the three points of this film; the role of preacher, the production code, and the power of music.

    First of all, this film was taken in 1938 which was just 5 years later from the film what we saw last week, “Gold Diggers”. If I compare these two films from cinematographic perspective, I would say I was kind of disappointed with their techniques and qualities. I could see the several cuts, lights, and editings, but it was very simple and not so special to me. Also, I personally felt the length of the film was a little long. Next, when the director brought the role of preacher, I immediately felt that it is reflection of american society during 30’s. American people were easily counted on the hypocrisy american christianity due to the very insecure social situation in this time. Because the only thing they have was god. So, I thought that was one of key element of the 30’s film and also the directory applied to this film. Finally, the thing which bothers me was the function of heroin. She supposes to give some mood and color, or give some excitement to the film, but at the end she acts as if she is not main character. It was very odd to me. But at the same time, I realized that how the “Production Code” broke the world of cinema and affected to the artist expression.


  7.  This film is described as “gangster film,” but I think it is more  story of friendship between Rocky and Jerry. This is because Rocky is a nicer guy than I thought. Also, even though their characters are opposite, gangster and priest, they are best friends.  So, when Rocky suddenly changes his mind and cries before his execution, I think he pretended to be afraid of death for Jerry and kids. 
    This film is too kind for gangster film, but I enjoyed the actors’ performances, action scenes, and story.
    Although this film did not show violent action scenes as gangster film, I found some characteristics of gangster which have seen in many todays’ films. For example, gangster or bad guys usually have whiskey on their table and drink it when they talk about money or bad things. In “Angels with Dirty Faces,” bad guys talking with Rocky have alcohol like whiskey on their table.  And also there is gunfight involving ordinary innocent people, but nobody hurts. I like these typical scenes because it is entertainment. I do not know whether real bad guys drink whiskey or not, but I was surprised that these gangsters’ habits in the film have not been changed since 1930s. 


  8. Rocky is the main character in this movie. Rocky and Jerry are playmates since their childhood; however, they lives go to different direction. Rocky becomes a gangster and Jerry become a priest.
    I feel like Rocky is a very complex character/role in this movie. Rocky’s heart and his identity are very simple and pure, just like a child. Maybe this is the reason why he can get along with six children so easily. Rocky, however, in order to survive in this society, he turns into a gangster. Although he is a gangster, he never hurt anyone, he even protect Jerry from being killed. The person he has hurt and killed is the one who will threaten him and Jerry’s life. He also save Jerry’s live in their childhood. He is a really nice and good person and will put the friendship on the first place. His role might be the character and symbol of “Angels with dirty faces”. This means, he has an angle’s identity, but he makes himself gets dirty.
    For the final scene, I think Rocky act cowardly because of Jerry’s request. Rocky has such an angle heart that will fulfill Jerry’s request and does the last favor for him. Just like Rocky save Jerry from getting hit by a steam train. And unfortunately, he got caught by police.


  9. I really enjoyed the film “Angels with Dirty Faces” even though this film didn’t finish with happy ending.
    My favorite scene would be the last scene that Rocky made a tough decision to become coward before he got executed in the electric chair for his friend Jerry and kids’ future. I believe that it was really tough for him because he had a strong pride as a gang, and he did not even regret that he became a gang. He also felt good that kids admired him. So, I think that Rocky was really a brave man.
    I think that most gang films don’t end with happy ending because the gang films I have seen so far did not end with happy ending. This is because if the gang in the film, who killed and stole, didn’t get arrested or he or she was able to escape from the police and led bright future, it is not good for audience especially kids. Therefore, gang films want to tell us that if you do wrong, you get punished no matter what. What gangs do might be cool for some people, but what they do is not a right thing in society. But, I liked this film because it also told us the importance of friendship.


  10. I was not interested in gangster films before I watch “Angels With Dirty Faces.” However, this film was completely different from my expectation. I did not expect that this film depicts people’s emotions delicately. Rocky and Jerry are good friends since they were children, but Jerry became a priest who takes care of children while Rocky is often involved in crimes. At the middle of the scene, Rocky knew that his lawyer tries to kill Jerry because he began to oppose against gangs. Even though Rocky is a gang, he killed his lawyer in order to protect Jerry, and he was sentenced to death. This scene depicts the complicated emotions between characters. In addition, at the end of the scene, Jerry asks Rocky to frighten to death because he did not want children to be inspired by crimes. However, Rocky refuse to do it, but when he was put on the electric chair, Rocky starts to scream. For this scene, some people regard that Rocky was pretending to be scared while others think that he was really scared of death. I think that Rocky was just acting in order to carry out promise with Jerry. I don’t think that Rocky is a man who shows his emotion in front of a lot of people because he is a tough guy physically and mentally.


  11. First, honestly it was very hard for me to understand what characters are saying because they speak too fast and using a lots of gangster words at this period. Therefore, I was very concentrating to catch up with their language, instead of thinking of the main theme what this film wants to tell audiences.

    Through the discussion in the class, I realized that this is a socially conscious gangster movie in late 1930s. It addresses the social conscious from different points of view of two boyhood friends who grow up on opposite side of the laws. Movies always have to show the audiences people who have done any criminals thing must be punished in a law, no matter they are PERSONALLY very nice people.

    What I do not like in this film is the girl. I couldn’t understand why she was needed in this film till the last minute. Through the class I understood the reason why she was in it is just because the film needed to get star value by using the popular actress at this time, like “Candy girls”. That is the strategy to get the film into the big market.


  12. I think the most interesting thing about this film is everyone’s response to it. Many feel that the ending was ridiculous, the accents tiresome, and the story’s resolution weak, but I think that’s what a film is supposed to do on some level- spur a strong reaction. We critique a film because we love it and see something in it (just like another human being!). Rocky is a gangster, and based on what we know from film history, there is no other option for his character but to face a tremendous downfall, a termination. His character was literally not allowed to live, both outside of the film (laws/rules) and within its plot. Our confusion and outrage – not to mention disappointment in Rocky’s lackluster ending – is a testament to how far we’ve come in film throughout the years. Of course it is often intriguing when a story is meant to be finished by the viewer’s decision and thoughts; but I wonder how “Angels with Dirty Faces” would be remade or re-imagined now. Perhaps there would be no need to leave the story open-ended. We would know that Rocky was not fearful of his own death, and it would be bad-ass to see him get on the electric chair like the gangster he was. I like to imagine that if you (especially in 1938) believed Rocky wasn’t scared to die, you were leading a silent, anarchist attack against the film industry and laws at the time. I’m sure our thoughts now were no different than how they were then.


  13. I enjoyed the more toned down action of ‘Angels with Dirty Faces.’ Compared to today’s films that synonymize action with violence, a break for that with more off-screen fighting was very enjoyable. The movie overall was fun to watch, but I probably won’t go out of my way to see it again. Many of the characters, main or secondary, seemed flat and their interactions weren’t all that engaging.
    I found the role of the leading lady to be especially lacking. Her character didn’t seem necessary to the plot. The only scene I really remember her in was when the Priest explained why he was attacking Rocky. Replacing her with someone else, the boys maybe, would have accomplished the same goal. Her role should have been cut, or the romantic scenes pulled back a bit to not stand out as much compared to the main story.


  14. This film is the story of two brotherly-like friends who are torn apart by the paths they choose. The main character Rocky becomes a criminal thug, while Jerry becomes a priest.
    As we get a little more modern in monochrome movies, we seem to be getting closer to the current style of film-making. This film uses similar techniques as modern movies, with less still shots and more moving cameras. This way, we are able to follow the action. One of the most striking scenes was when the two were walking toward Rocky’s execution, the camera following them as they walked through the hall, the shadows making dark silhouettes. This kind of cinematography was not used as much before this film. We can see these kind of techniques in modern day film.
    The one flaw in this film that sticks out is the use of the heroine, Laury. Although she is introduced in the beginning during childhood and then again as Rocky’s love interest. However, after a certain scene 3/4 of the way through the movie, Laury disappears for no reason. Even though she was possibly in a relationship with Rocky, we do not see her grieve over his sentence or anything of the like. She was completely useless. She was the “token chick” of the film without a character arc or solid conclusion.
    However, overall, I enjoyed this film. It kept me on my toes until the end. Although the conclusion was not the happy ending I wanted, it was an ending fitting the actions that happened through the film.


  15. I remember seeing this movie once before but for some reason it didn’t stick with me. This time however, I think it will. I thought that this movie was quite good. There was some over acting by a few of the characters, but I think that was okay at that time or at least, quite common. The female character especially, whenever she looked upset of scared she really overdid it . I also think that they could have given her more parts in the movie. If she was his love interest they should have explored that a bit more. This movie centered around the claim that society could be the cause of a lot of the crime in America or in general. Because of the system and how laws are, it can sometimes be impossible to leave a life of crime. This movie gave a very good example of what can happen when you are involved in crime at a very young age. Sadly the result is usually not a happy one, like in this movie. I thought the ending of this movie was very good because it left you guessing. Was he pretending to be scared? Or did he finally decided to let out that scared little boy that had to be brave and strong for so long, we will never know.


  16. First off, being a non-native speaker, the accents were so heavy that I couldn’t understand for at least half of it. The movie was overall good. The main actor Rocky is a really likable person which is interesting because for its time being gangsters are representative of evil. As the movie unfolds we find that Rocky’s actions had good intentions despite being “illegal”. Sort of “Robin Hood” kind of person. So by the end of the movie had really mixed feelings about the message of the movie. The ending message was clear, Rocky was killed which conveys that gangsters are bad and bad people end up dying in the name of justice. But personally I felt the message was more like: what it seems bad is not always bad and what it seems good it not always good.


  17. This movie is very interesting, especially in terms of a movie made during the enforcement of the Hayes Code.

    This movie shares a lot with movies throughout history. It caters to what the audience wants to see, namely a gangster. People like to see bad guys and fights and stuff like that. That’s why we’ve always had movies about bad guys.

    The issue is that movies about bad guys feature drugs and sex and violence and all the things that aren’t allowed to be shown. So, movie makers are stuck in an awkward spot where they need to make edgy movies in order to make audiences happy, but at the same time they aren’t allowed to be terribly edgy because of their self censorship.

    This movie is a great example of their conflict. It has the features of a gangster movie, with an antihero protagonist, a feisty love interest, and lots of firefights. Still, it strictly adheres to that censorship. I thought it was interesting that the somewhat powerful female character vanished early on, and the firefights were not graphic at all.

    I found that to be the most interesting thing of all. Lots of people got shot in this movie, but we almost never saw the bullets hit. I thought it was really clever how the thug in the phone booth got shot, and we see the bullet holes appear in the glass along with spatters of blood, but we never see a man die. The movie makers here were clearly very clever with how they adhered to the censorship codes but still managed to give the audience the edgy violence that was desired.


  18. I enjoyed watching the film, Angeles with Dirty Faces. There are some gun battle scenes in various parts. Scenes of gun shooting symbolize the development of gangster movies and visual reality.
    I personally like love romance, but in case of this film, I was relieved that the film is not love story. The film would be about the relationship between Rocky and the girl he teased if Rocky and the girl are in relationship. Also, the death of Rocky would mean by the tragedy of the girl and Jerry, the best friend of Rocky. This can be disaster. Friendship is better than relationship in Rocky’s case. Because Rocky is manful and has compassion to his friends, . During watching the film, I came up with one question. If the person who caught by the police was not Rocky but Jerry, would be there any differences? In my opinion, there would not be any difference. Because of the personality, Jerry would regret what he is done and become the priest. On the other hand, Rocky would speed in crime due to his trusting nature.
    In my thought, the main character, Rocky was half scared and half regretted when he received the death-penalty. Rocky was not afraid of death at the first time, but he felt scared right when he saw the electric chair. At the same time, he thought about his life and regret about what he did even though it is for saving and protecting his best friend. He also thinks that children who admire Rocky a lot should not be like him. That is why he pretends and is afraid of death at the same time.


  19. I, to be honest, did not like this film because even though the story was simple, I did not get what the main theme of this film. At the beginning, I enjoyed the scene of Rocky and boys. I think that their way of speaking and actions are very different than the way modern actors do so that it was funny. The scenes I remember the most is that Rocky strikes boys on the head many times. I just think that this action of Rocky does not make him to look a strong gangster. The reason why I say I did not like this movie is that there are a lot of things that the story never mentioned. For instance, I did not find why boys are so poor and living together. I also find that what happened between Rocky and his girlfriend. I think that the story becomes better if the story include more love romance between Rocky and his girlfriend. When it comes to the ending, I think that the scene represents all human, even gangster, get scared of death before death. Rocky looked like pretending to be scared for his friend, Jelly, in the movie, but I want to believe he was actually scared of death. Because if so, my understanding of the story, Rocky is just a man even if he is a gangster, make sense.


  20. At the beginning of this movie, I thought that this movie is all about gangster and did not really expect to enjoy it since I do not have interest in gangster films. However, as the story went on, it was becoming enjoyable and I overall liked it. This movie draws not only the action scene, but also the scenes have deeper meaning which are human drama, the offstage of gangster people and so on.
    Especially, it focuses on the relationship between Rocky and Jerry Even though Jerry is a priest which is a completely opposite job as Rocky, they still keep a good friendship since they were young. Also, Rocky built a good relationship with kids. In spite of what he does as gangster, he has a good personality to get along with people around him.
    The opposite two scenes, which are a violent/action scene and a human dramas, make this film become interesting and different than other ordinary gangster films. We can enjoy both at the same time.

    For the ending, when I was watching, I thought he was pretending to be scared because of his best friend’s Jerry’s favor, but I now think that he was actually scared. He might recall and regret about his life as a gangster at the time of his death. He wished the kids do not grow up and become like him, and also felt fear to die.


  21. First of all, it was really hard for me to understand what Rocky was saying. His character had a very heavy accent and used a lot of old slangs that i could not actually get. The unclear dialogues and heavy accents kind of narrowed my understanding down.
    Second, i really like the way the directoe tries to show the good side of the villain. He was basically saying that Rocky was actually a good person, despite of all the crimes he had committed (which had always been committed for a purpose). I found it very audacious and interesting, once films at that time were limited to portray gangsters as “bad people” that could not be generous/fun/nice under any circumstances.
    Finally, though the film had a good plot, i didn’t find it very fun. However, it might be because of my difficulty in understanding what Rocky was saying.


  22. “Angels with Dirty Faces” has taken the lead in terms of my personal ranking of the film’s we’ve screened so far. And I’ve kind of enjoyed everything, so big hand to this gangster film. Not that I don’t have issues with it. I have a barrel full of issues with how they ended this movie but the fact that I get so worked up over it only further proves that this film left an impact. I’ll expand.
    So in the beginning I was kind of a little “um…” over how much they seemed to be rushing through things. The fifteen year jump into the future checkmarked by a montage of flashing newspaper headlines was something I rolled eyes at a little since it seemed like such a “tell not show” way of giving us the story, if that makes sense. Basically, I raised an eyebrow over Rocky’s instant (in terms of what they were telling us) jump from minor juvenile delinquent to BIGGEST HEADLINE GANGSTER OF THE TIME. But I also understand how they needed to just get that little bit of backstory out there for the audience straightaway so we could understand where he was coming from from the get-go. It makes us relate to him and makes us like him. At least it did for me. Rocky was my favorite character, which was probably why the ending stung so much. At the closing of the film, the priest requests that he go to his death not with his head held high, but “yellow” and weeping and begging for mercy. So basically, his best friend the priest asks him to forgo the only thing he has left, his pride and his memory, so that the kids that looked up to Rocky would “have the illusion shattered” and decide to turn towards the straight path, or whatever.
    Ugh, priest. Please stop.
    Now on the one hand, I understand the message the movie is trying to send. What makes it hard to watch is that it isn’t an ~entirely illogical argument. It’s true that Rocky wasn’t the best role model for these kids, yet they totally idolized him. In fact the only scene in the whole movie where I felt like Rocky made a bad call was the scene where he gave the gang of kids a big wad of cash without doing his Rocky magic thing where he makes sure he kind of teaches them a lesson to go with it. By lessons, I’m referring to how often in the movie he used his influence on the kids for a good cause. Like getting them to play in the basketball game and then subsequently teaching the kids to play clean in the game by playing dirty. If they tripped a member of the other team, he’d trip them- act like a bitch get slapped like a bitch mentality. (To borrow a phrase.) So the scene where they make the easy money from Rocky and then immediately slick up and get suits (and I mean immediately. Those kids must have done the fastest outfit change this side of America’s Got Talent) and go blow it at the smoke filled pool hall, ditching the rematch basketball game they had asked for the day before, that was the ~only scene where I was like, aw Rocky. Think about your actions, bud. (But also on the other hand…it’s a pool hall. Like, what was so bad about pool halls back then that all adults were so afraid of their kids wasting their lives there? It’s not like the boys went out and started beating up old ladies for spare cash or bought drugs or hustled or whatever, I don’t know. They just went to play pool instead of basketball. Ooooh, what thugs. What criminals. Rocky deserves to die. /sarcasm.) ((I realize I’m laying it on a little thick, but bitterness brings out exaggeration in me.))
    But yeah aside from that scene, Rocky had pretty good motives throughout the movie, even if he was achieving most of his motives through morally dubious ways. Every action he took was one to protect others or to retaliate or a mixture of both. In the end, he faced the electric chair for a shootout that was largely brought about by his trying to protect the priest (even though the priest was in the process of trying to ‘bring him to justice’ or whatever by blowing Rocky’s hold operation open.) and that alone I’d think would be enough. But nope! His friend the priest comes and asks the most you can ever ask of a person, which is basically to give up all respectability that you ever had. It was asking more than death. He was asking him to desecrate his own name without ever having a chance of rectifying that. And the encouragement was supposed to be “but the priest and Rocky would know the truth”?? BIG WHOOP. This is the bummest deal of all the deals and it was so painful listening to Rocky go through with it, even if I kind of respect him for it at the same time. Begrudgingly because ugh. But still, it was the most selfless thing a person could possibly do, in my opinion.

    So tl;dr: thumbs up for Rocky, boo hiss for the Priest.


  23. I rather enjoyed this film although I was surprised by the very Judeo-Christian themes involving the priest’s righteous agenda to eradicate crime to the expense of his friendship with Rocky. I thought that the ultimate appeal that the priest made to Rocky to “turn yellow” at the end of the film was incredibly self-righteous and victim-blaming. Rocky was a victim of the system and the priest, rather than comforting a friend in his last ten minutes of life, chose the route of being self-righteous and caused Rocky further anguish and cost him his dignity, the only thing he had left. I thought the end was noble on Rocky’s part, but more noble for kowtowing to his friends appeal than for actually saving any children, as I don’t think his actions upon his execution actually would have caused much difference in the life trajectory of those kids in real life.

    Aside from the execution, I really liked this film. I thought that Rocky’s character was the most relatable and drew lots of sympathy from the audience. I think that the character was made for most people to be able to relate to him, and he was ultimately the paternal figure of the film for not only the boys, but the priest as well. He protected him from the correctional system and is one of the large factors that lead to his pious life. I think that Rocky’s moral transgressions do not sully his image, but rather add a humanistic element to make him relatable. Everyone carries sin, and neither Rocky, nor the priest were immune to this, however, Rocky in his final moments, chose the moral path, and that’s why I loved him so much as a character.

    The priest, not so much.


  24. Angles with Dirty Faces was an interesting look on how American society view gangsters. I thought the opening scene gave a great depiction on the lives of the low income. I loved with the camera would pan into the bustling streets and seeing the lines of laundry outside peoples balconies/windows. Rocky’s accent was a bit hard to hear especially from the slight graininess of the recording but your ear soon adjusts to it.

    In the beginning I thought that this movie would have more action and glorify the gangster. I tend to like to watch movies with a lot of action so I was waiting to see many gun battles and the gritty romanticized view of the 1930s gangster. However, there was a moral twist at the end where the bad guy must be punished (and is). It was not until the discussions in class that I learned that glorifying criminals was a ‘no a’ in America film.

    I also would have wished if there was more of a closer scene for the girl who was romantically involved with Rocky. She was kind of forgotten even though she told the priest that she too cares for Rocky. It seems like she would have been an important person in his life and for her to disappear form the film was awkward.


  25. Angels with dirty faces is a gang film released from Warnor brothers in 1938. I rent a DVD of this film from because I missed the class of this screening. Therefore, I remember the package well and remember i thought this films would be more gangster film. This film is, for me, considered as a film that tells us friendship or something like old relationship.
    By the way, the first thing I thought, noticed and surprised at is that there are some very similar scenes in Home Alone series directed by Chris Columbus. I am big fun of Home Alone, so I remember that the scenes that Kevin, the left child at home, uses many tricks including shooting sounds from old film in the television. The old film in Home Alone looks exactly like the scenes of shooting aching gun. This is kind of parody of this film.
    The second thing I noticed is maybe their ways to speak. Maybe it ‘s because I am not native English speaker, their lines are too fast sometimes, and I could not catch them up. Perhaps, the choice of words they spoke were also different because this is about 80 years ago. However, I like the contrast, atmospheres, and great balance of lighting in screen.
    I like characters, especially Rocky and visual images of this film, but not story because I felt like this story tells that badass is never requited even he kept to save his friend. I am not saying that Jerry is a coward; however, compared to Jerry, Rocky is much cooler and more loyal and compassionate person. Rocky saved Jerry so many times and die for Jerry’s favor, and people said Rocky is such a coward. Again, I can tell the Jerry’s heartache for losing Rocky because he also had to do it for the children, and I think that he did well as a priest. However, at the same time, how about as a friend who is saved by Rock so many times. I said I did not like the story, but it might be wrong. It’s just unhappy ending for me.


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