Dead End is one of those films where I was not too thrilled with the story but there were moments of really good acting by the main actors. It is a typical 1930s story about the rich versus the poor: how the poor live in not the greatest of conditions and do not know where or when their next meal is going to be and the rich living in beautiful homes and getting whatever they want whenever they want. The film even opens with a few paragraphs how the tenements were built along the river and the rich once they realized the river side was nice property built their complexes right on top of the tenements.
The film has three stories running through it that are brought together. A young woman named Drina (Sylvia Sidney) and her brother Tommy live in a tenement section of a neighborhood. Tommy is constantly getting into trouble with a group of boys (The Dead End Kids) and one day gets into serious trouble where the police are called after him and he has to evade them. Drina knows an architect named Dave (Joel McCrea), he went to college for six year to be an architect but he has not gotten a decent job. The two grew up together and she has had a little thing for him ever since. Dave has been seeing a woman named Fay who once used to live in poverty but got out of it and now lives in the expensive complex. Dave knew a man now called “Baby Face” Martin (Humphrey Bogart). Martin is no good he wanted by the police in several cities. He comes back to his old neighborhood and the boys flock around him in admiration. Dave warns Martin to get out of the neighborhood and leave the boys along. Martin does not listen and towards the end of the film the two men battle it out in a gun fight.
Sylvia Sidney, Joel McCrea, and Humphrey Bogart give great performances. I never saw Sidney in a film when she was younger I am so used to only seeing her as the old lady in Beetle Juice who tells Barbara and Adam they are dead. She was excellent her performance was very moving. Also I found her to be not really pretty but adorable. For some reason I really liked Sidney’s eyes they were pretty. McCrea was just an awesome actor I like anything he is in. His character was supposed to be nice and caring and wanted a better like and you can believe that looking at him… the same can be said for Sidney she was very believable in her role. This was one of Bogart’s early gangster roles which he would become known for. I think I can say this is one of my favorite roles I have seen him in. His character was a bit tragic and I felt so bad for him when he saw his mother he went to her all excited but she did not want to see him. Bogart was amazing in that scene you just feel so bad for him with the incredibly sad face he puts on. You also feel bad for him because he came back to get his girl he loved when he lived in the neighborhood but she does not want to go with him.
To me what brings this film down are all the scenes with The Dead Ends Kids. I mean I understand they were integral to story but I think there was too much time devoted to them. They were in the original stage play so when MGM was making the film they brought the boys on in their stage roles. Had it not been for their too many scenes I would have liked the film a lot more.
Dead End is a film to definitely see once. The story bored me but I did like how all the characters’ stories come together. Joel McCrea, Sylvia Sidney, and Humphrey Bogart’s performances are worth the viewing.