Sunday, March 18, 2007


In Dead End, notorious gangster Baby Face Martin (Humphrey Bogart) returns to his childhood home in the slums of East Side Manhattan to see his mother (Marjorie Main) and his old sweetheart (Claire Trevor, who was nominated for an Oscar for her performance).

The film follows a variety of characters who try to cope with life in a slum squeezed between the East River and the upscale high-rises of the wealthy. Sweet and hardworking Drina tries to keep her little brother Tommy from falling in with a gang of delinquents. Dave, an unemployed architect, tries to make an honest living painting signs while trying to impress Kay, the mistress of a wealthy man torn between love and security.


1937 was a hopeful time for New York City. Following a period of political corruption and economic depression, their former Governor, Franklin Roosevelt, was elected President, and popular reformist mayor, Fiorello LaGuardia, was elected mayor. Democrat Roosevelt's New Deal programs greatly benefitted New York City, and Republican LaGuardia was a strong supporter of it.

The movie was based on play by Sindey Kingsley which explores how adult crime is linked to juvenile delinquency, and how both are exacerbated by poverty and social inequality. In this era of growing socialist idealism, the play was eagerly received on Broadway and ran for almost two years (Oct 1935 - June 1937)


The film's politics may have seemed progressive at the time, but after 70 years of labor unions, minimum wage, social security, and welfare programs, they don't seem so radical.

The movie featured a gang of juvenile delinquents that proved so popular that the "Dead End Kids" spun off a series of movies of their own. Although this was probably Bogart's most acclaimed role at the time (after the previous year's Petrified Forest became his breakout hit), many of his subsequent movies easily overshadow this one.

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