Boy of the Streets (June 5, 1955)
Released on December 8, 1937: Jackie Cooper is a young gang leader in the tenement filled slums of New York City who must decide between a life with gangsters or a career with the Navy.
Directed by William Nigh
Written by Rowland Brown , Scott Darling and Gilson Brown.
The Actors: Jackie Cooper (Chuck Brennan), Maureen O'Connor (Nora), Kathleen Burke (Julie Stone), Robert Emmett O'Connor (Police Officer Rourke), Marjorie Main (Mrs. Mary Brennan), Matty Fain (Blackie Davis), George Cleveland (Tim 'Flannel-Mouth' Farley), Bill Elliott (Dr. Allan), Guy Usher (Fog Horn Brennan), Paul White (Spike, gang member), Ted Billings (Albert 'Old Man' Murder), Frank Bischell (gang member), Edwin Brian (Chuck's Lieutenant), Horace B. Carpenter (Pop McCarthy), Jack Cheatham (Police Officer Gratton), George DeNormand (Blackie's henchman), Lester Dorr (Oldham's secretary), Al Frazier (gang member), Wesley Giraud (gang member), William Gould (Police Detective), Freddie Jackson (gang member), Hollis Jewell (gang member), I. Stanford Jolley (ambulance attendant), Fred Kelsey (Cyrus Oldham), Don Latorre (Tony, rival gang leader), Wilbur Mack (Julie's business advisor), Frank Malo (gang member), William McCall (Pete), Billy McClain (black preacher), Eva McKenzie (social worker), John Merton (police desk Sergeant), Bruce Mitchell (Fire Chief Cronan), George Morrell (bar patron), Johnnie Morris (gang member), Edward Peil Sr. (Homicide Detective Craig), Rose Plumer (nighclub cleaning lady), Doris Rankin (Rusty Davis), Kent Rogers (gang member), Cy Schindell (Blackie's henchman), Robert Tucker (gang member).
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Child star Jackie Cooper is a young teen in this poverty row tale about the mean streets of New York City in depression era 1937. As a kid who grew up in the small towns of western Pennsylvania, I always enjoyed, and still enjoy, watching stories about kids in the big city. It is like seeing a different world. But as an adult I realize that although the environment is very different, kids face the same basic challenges during their transition to adults no matter where they are. This 'coming of age' story is no different. We will see the good, the bad and the beautiful. Pop a nice bowl of white kernel popcorn (go ahead, Google it, and buy a little bit and try it for yourself - you know that you want to) and relax while you watch Chuck and Nora grow up in the slums of New York.
Chuck is the son of a poor tenement family, and Nora lives with her sick mother a few apartments away. Chuck believes that his dad is a big man - and he is a big dreamer, but in reality his dad has no job and no future. Chuck's mom is played by Marjorie Main of 'Ma and Pa Kettle' fame. In this movie she is always sad, but determined to make the best of her poverty filled lot in life. Chuck, like his dad, is all talk. To hear either of them talk, you would think that they are some of the movers and shakers of the world, but it is only talk. Nora's mom is taken to the hospital and we never hear from her again, and Chuck's mom and dad take her in so that she won't go to an orphanage or live in the streets. Next the improbable part of the story - a young wealthy lady arrives who has just inherited the slum building that Chuck lives in, and she has a social conscience, and is determined to fix up the building and give the tenants a helping hand. I imagine that things like this occasionally happened in real life, but probably not very often, just like today. Anyway, the story shows us a fascinating slice of daily life in the city as Chuck discovers that his dad is a good-for-nothing, and because of Mom's nagging . . . er . . . I mean tender prodding . . . Chuck decides to make something out of his life. He tries to join the Navy, but is a few months too young. So he joins some gangsters with money to burn and thinks that this may be his ticket out of the slums.
Now you all know that this movie will end happily, but just keep munching your popcorn and watch what happens next for yourself . . . that's the fun of a good story . . . like a good journey . . . the best part of the trip is the ride, even though the kids complain because you aren't there yet. So relax, enjoy the scenery, drink in the atmosphere, and go back to life in another time and another place.