East Side Kids (February 10, 1940)
Released on February 10, 1940: One of the boys from the tough Bowery becomes a cop and helps clear his older brother who was framed for murder.
Directed by Robert F. Hill
Written by William Livelay.
The Actors: Leon Ames (Pat O'Day), Dennis Moore (Milton Franklin 'Mileaway' Harris), Joyce Bryant (Molly Dolan), Hal E. Chester (Fred 'Dutch' Kuhn), Harris Berger (Danny Dolan), Frankie Burke (Skinny, gang member), Vince Barnett (Whisper, Mileaway henchman), Dave O'Brien (Knuckles Dolan), Ted Adams (Schmidt, pawn shop owner), Maxine Leslie (May, Mileaway's moll), Robert Fiske (Cromwall), Jack Edwards (Algernon 'Mouse' Wilkes), Jim Farley (Police Captain Moran), Stephen Chase (Joe, detective), Fred Hoose (Mr. Wilkes, Mouse's father), Donald Haines (PeeWee, gang member), Eric Burtis (Eric, crippled boy), Edwin Brian (Mike, gang member), Sam Edwards (Pete, gang member), David Durand (Dutch), Frank Yaconelli (Tony, green grocer), Victor Adamson (street vendor), Jimmy Aubrey (pedestrian), Rube Dalroy (witness), Robert F. Hill (man in telephone montage), Gertrude Hoffman (old lady in montage), James Sheridan (apartment tenant), Jack Tomek (pedestrian), Roger Williams (pedestrian).
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Crime in the big city, with thrills and chills for even farm boys and girls as they watch a gang of hoodlums from the poor east side of New York City as they get mixed up with counterfeiters and killers. This group of kids is not the more famous gang of kids that started in the Broadway play as the Dead End Kids, with Leo Gorcey, Huntz Hall and the other familiar Bowery Boys. This is a different set of kids - a couple from the 'Little Tough Guys' movies, a couple from the Our Gang comedy shorts, and other lesser known kids. But the action is, for my money, better than most of the classic Bowery Boys pictures, with plenty of cops and robbers shoot outs and chases by car and across New York City rooftops.
New York City was full of new immigrant families from all over the world who struggled to make a new life in America, and most of them clustered around others like them, banding together to survive the new country and big city that they found themselves in. The kids banded together also, and in their world, the line between good and evil, and cops and robbers, was very fuzzy. In their experiences, sometimes the cops did worse things to them than the robbers, and sometimes the robbers treated them better than the cops. In this big city thriller the older brother of one of the gang is in jail about to be put to death in the electric chair because he has been convicted of killing a policeman. His younger brother, one of the gang, doesn't know that he is in jail, but thinks that he is working in South America. Pat O'Day (our old movie friend Leon Ames), is a beat policeman who works that neighborhood and wants to influence the kids for good, and try to keep them out of trouble. But 'Mileaway' a slick young gangster from the neighborhood, has lots of cash and the kids think that he is a pretty good guy, and he uses the kids to help him set up a counterfeiting operation in the neighborhood.
As part of Mileaway's plot, the kids and Officer O'Day are framed as the counterfeiters, and they are on the run from the cops and will also go to jail unjustly, like Danny's older brother, unless the kids and O'Day can uncover Mileaway's operation and lead the police to the real gangsters. There is such a great chase scene involving cars, cops, guns, gangsters, kids, and rooftop running that you might think this is a movie from more recently, because great chase scenes were rare in 1940. So have plenty of buttered white kernel popcorn on hand to get you through the thrills and chills at the end, because it will be a rocky ride to the happily ever after.