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Bad Boy (July 10, 1939)

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Johnny Downs in Bad Boy

Released on July 10, 1939: John Fraser lives high and mighty until the predictable end in this classic noir gangster adventure.

Directed by Herbert Meyer

The Actors: Johnny Downs (John Fraser), Rosalind Keith (Madelon Kirby), Helen MacKellar (Mom Fraser), Spencer Williams (Terry), Archie Robbins (Steve Carson), Holmes Herbert (Mr. McNeil), Richard Cramer (George), Harry Lang (Vanetti), Crane Whitley (henchman), Clarence Brooks (Terry's friend), Matt Moore (henchman), Bud Pope (detective), Marguerite Whitten (Terry's girlfriend).


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When I got out of college and decided that being a preacher like Dad wasn't my passion, I got a good job in a steel mill in McDonald, Ohio with the help of my two uncles who worked there all their lives. But soon the steel business turned sour, and still in search of a career that would fulfill me, I got a job selling life insurance for the New York Life company in Youngstown, Ohio, the home office of the legendary salesman Ben Feldman. But it was the office manager who inspired me in ways that I am still realizing. He loved to have me sit in his office and chat - mostly he waxed philosophical with his stories of his own life and experiences. He was a thinker, and I loved to listen anytime he wanted to talk. In those days, much like these days, the economy was bad and times were tough, especially in the industrial northern part of the country. One of the things he said in passing stuck with me then, and I still think of it often. While talking about the money problems that people were having, he said, "You know, it isn't so much the high cost of living that gets us into trouble as it is the cost of living high." Yes, my mom and dad got married in 1929 a month before the Great Depression began, and much of their married life was spent during the toughest days of our world. While they never could be described as being 'wealthy' - they had something that many rich people even today never achieve - they had 'enough.' Some people never have enough, always believing that the next 'thing' that they get will make them happy. The 'bad boy' in this movie comes from a good home with more love than money, but his passion is living the high life, and the way he gets there is not as important as being there.

If you are a fan of old movies you surely know about the Hays office - the people that watched every movie and either allowed them to be distributed around the country, or shut them down. To give you an idea of how they worked, here is a letter from Joseph I. Breen, one of the censors, dated May 18, 1939 after reading the script:

"The sounds of Johnny being whipped should be held to a minimum - send us (Production Code office) the lyrics to any song Madelon sings - no scenes showing men giving girls money - there can be nothing objectionable in Madelon's costuming, singing or dancing - it is not satisfactory to show Madelon in panties and brasiere and the least she can wear is a slip, with her body covered adequately in all of her scenes - there should be nothing in the dialogue that suggests Madelon has undressed while Johnny is in the room - while Madelon is putting on her stockings there should be no undue exposure of her person nor should her legs be shown above the knees - don't use the "kicking legs" montage - don't imply that Steve and Madelon are engaged in a sex affair - change the shyster lawyer Avery, who cheats Johnny and his mother out of two thousand dollars, to some other undefined profession - delete "God" from Avery's speech - delete "bumped off" from Steve's speech - please exercise restraint to the kissing in scene 184 - please exercise restraint to the drinking and drunkenness in scene 192 - the girl's speech in scene 197 should not be suggestive of a sex affair between Steve and Madelon - the man's speech about the honeymoon joke in scene 199 is definitely unacceptable and MUST be DELETED - restraint on the kissing between Steve and Madelon in scene 202, and no physical contact between them beyond this scene - delete "damned" in Madelon's speech in scene 203 - delete George's use of the word "mob" in scene 248 - delete Steve and Madelon kissing in scenes 253, 255 and 259 - avoid undue brutality in the fight in scene 267 - avoid undue gruesomeness when Johnny is shot in scene 282. In scene 295, the whole business of the detective being shot and killed must be deleted in toto. The Production Code prohibits the showing of police dying at the hands of criminals. We recommend that you avoid this shooting entirely by having the detective slugged rather than shot."

Pop your white kernel popcorn with warm melted butter on it and find out for yourself what got left in this big city crime adventure.

Johnny DownsJohnny Downs
Johnny Downs as Johnny Fraser - before he turns gangsterJohnny Downs as gangster Johnny Fraser
Johnny Downs meets Rosalind KeithJohnny Downs and Richard Cramer
Johnny Downs and Rosalind Keith - love at first sightJohnny Downs and Richard Cramer
Archie RobbinsHelen MacKellar and Johnny Keith
Archie RobbinsHelen MacKellar and Johnny Keith
Helen MacKellarHolmes Herbert
Helen MacKellarHolms Herbert
Holmes Herbert and Johnny DownsSpencer Williams
Holmes Herbert and Johnny DownsSpencer Williams
Rosalind KeithArchie Robbins and Rosalind Keith
Rosalind KeithArchie Robbins and Rosalind Keith
Archie Robbins 
Archie Robbins - 1939