Dead End (1937)

90 or 93 mins | Drama | 27 August 1937

Director:

William Wyler

Writer:

Lillian Hellman

Producer:

Samuel Goldwyn

Cinematographer:

Gregg Toland

Editor:

Daniel Mandell

Production Designer:

Richard Day

Production Company:

Samuel Goldwyn, Inc.
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HISTORY

According to the program for the film's premiere, Samuel Goldwyn dedicated the production "to the children of today, that they may be better citizens of tomorrow." According to the program and a Life magazine article on the film, Goldwyn paid $165,000 for the rights to Sidney Kingsley's play, which ran eighty-five weeks on Broadway. The review of the play in HR noted that the play had the potential to make a great film. According to information in the file on the film in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library, Twentieth Century-Fox and RKO both considered turning the play into a film before Goldwyn purchased the rights. According to memos in the file, Joseph I. Breen, director of studio relations, raised some objections to elements of the first script submitted to the office. Breen requested that the line "All cats look alike in the dark" be deleted, as well as two sentences that were to trail off, "son of a--" and "go to --."
       Additional suggestions offered to Goldwyn included: the word "bum" should not be used in British prints for the film as that word was British slang for the posterior; no "bronx cheer" should be used; the character "Spit" should not be shown actually expectorating; there should be no scenes of characters stepping on cockroaches; and, "old cans and spilled garbage" might cause offense. Some aspects of the original play were altered before the screenplay was submitted to the Hays Office. In the play, for example, the character Francey has syphillis, however, in the film she says that she is "sick" but her hacking cough indicates tuberculosis. ... More Less

According to the program for the film's premiere, Samuel Goldwyn dedicated the production "to the children of today, that they may be better citizens of tomorrow." According to the program and a Life magazine article on the film, Goldwyn paid $165,000 for the rights to Sidney Kingsley's play, which ran eighty-five weeks on Broadway. The review of the play in HR noted that the play had the potential to make a great film. According to information in the file on the film in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library, Twentieth Century-Fox and RKO both considered turning the play into a film before Goldwyn purchased the rights. According to memos in the file, Joseph I. Breen, director of studio relations, raised some objections to elements of the first script submitted to the office. Breen requested that the line "All cats look alike in the dark" be deleted, as well as two sentences that were to trail off, "son of a--" and "go to --."
       Additional suggestions offered to Goldwyn included: the word "bum" should not be used in British prints for the film as that word was British slang for the posterior; no "bronx cheer" should be used; the character "Spit" should not be shown actually expectorating; there should be no scenes of characters stepping on cockroaches; and, "old cans and spilled garbage" might cause offense. Some aspects of the original play were altered before the screenplay was submitted to the Hays Office. In the play, for example, the character Francey has syphillis, however, in the film she says that she is "sick" but her hacking cough indicates tuberculosis. The character Dave Connell, played by Joel McCrea in the film, was a crippled artist named Gimpty in the play. Several of the actors from the Broadway production recreated their roles for the film, among them Marjorie Main, Billy Hallop, Huntz Hall, Gabriel Dell, and Bernard Punsly. Leo B. Gorcey also was in the Broadway play, but did not play "Spit." In the play, Gorcey and his brother David played characters known as "Second Avenue Boys." A number of other actors who appeared in the Broadway version of the play later became well known on stage and in films. Among them were directors Martin Gable and Sidney Lumet, and actor Dan Duryea.
       Sylvia Sidney was borrowed from Walter Wanger and Humphrey Bogart was borrowed from Warner Bros. for their roles. The picture was nominated for four Academy Awards, one each for Best Picture, Best Supporting Actress (Claire Trevor), Best Cinematography, and Best Art Direction. It was also named one of the Ten Best pictures of the year by FDYB . A thirty minute broadcast based on the film was adapted for the Hollywood Hotel radio program on 20 Aug 1937 and featured McCrea and Bogart from the film's cast. According to modern sources, Goldwyn had initially wanted to film the picture on location in New York but later decided to recreate the New York streets in the studio in Hollywood. Later, he reportedly complained to director William Wyler that the sets were too realistic and appeared too dirty. Modern sources credit Dead End as a positive turning point in Bogart's career and list him as the "star" rather than Sidney or McCrea. The "Dead End Kids" as the young tough boys came to be known, appeared in many films together during the 1930s and 1940s, variously known as "The East Side Kids," "The Bowery Boys" or "The Little Tough Guys." For additional information on their films, consult the Series Index and entry above for Crime School .
       New York City's Lincoln Center hosted a special fiftieth anniversary showing of Dead End on 2 Feb 1987. Although flu prevented Sidney, McCrea and Trevor from attending at the last minute, Dell and Hall attended, as did playwright Kinsgley and Sidney Lumet. Modern sources list the following additional cast members: G. Pat Collins ( Detective ), Walter Soderling ( Coroner ), Wade Boteler, Bill Pagwell, Jerry Cooper, Kate Ann Lujan, Gertrude Valerie, Tom Ricketts, Charlotte Treadway, Bud Geary, Sid Kubrick, Frank Shields, Maud Lambert, Lucille Browne, Earl Askam, Mona Monet, and Gilbert Clayton. More Less

BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
30 Jul 37
p. 3.
Film Daily
3 Aug 37
p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter
29 Oct 35
p. 1, 3
Hollywood Reporter
27 Nov 36
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
3 May 37
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
10 May 37
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
30 Jul 37
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
4 Feb 87
p. 3.
Motion Picture Daily
31 Jul 37
p. 2.
Motion Picture Daily
27 Aug 37
pp. 7-16.
Motion Picture Herald
17 Jul 37
p. 67.
Motion Picture Herald
7 Aug 37
p. 48.
New York Times
25 Aug 37
p. 25.
Variety
4 Aug 37
p. 18.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
PRODUCERS
Assoc prod
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Photog
ART DIRECTOR
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
SET DECORATOR
Set dec
COSTUMES
Cost
MUSIC
Mus dir
SOUND
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
PRODUCTION MISC
Press rep
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the play Dead End by Sidney Kingsley, as produced for the stage by Norman Bel Geddes (New York, 28 Oct 1936).
DETAILS
Release Date:
27 August 1937
Premiere Information:
New York opening: 24 August 1937
Production Date:
4 May--mid July 1937
Copyright Claimant:
Samuel Goldwyn
Copyright Date:
4 September 1937
Copyright Number:
LP7382
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Mirrophonic Recording
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
90 or 93
Length(in reels):
10
Country:
United States
PCA No:
3596
SYNOPSIS

The East Side tenements of New York have gradually given way to exclusive dwellings of the rich, with the result that many of the poor live next to opulent apartments they can never afford. "Baby Face" Martin, a notorious killer, returns to one such dead end street, his home as a boy, hoping to see his mother, and Francey, an old girl friend. Dave Connell, an unemployed architect, also lives on the street, but dreams that one day he and Kay, the girl friend of a wealthy man, can have a better life. His friend Drina Gordon, who has loved Dave for years, struggles through a strike, hoping to earn enough money to keep her kid brother Tommy from turning into a criminal along with his friends on the street. Martin finds his mother and Francey, but becomes despondent when his mother slaps and rejects him and he learns that Francey is a prostitute. Martin yearns to stay in one place, but, despite plastic surgery on his face, his finger prints cannot be changed and he is trapped by his past crimes. That same afternoon, the street kids beat up Philip, the son of one of the wealthy apartment owners, and take his watch. Although Tommy gives the watch back, the boy's father, Mr. Griswold, the brother of a famous judge, wants to press charges when Tommy wounds him slightly with a knife. Tommy wants to run away, but Drina begs to go with him. When Spit, the leader of Tommy's gang, informs, Tommy hides while Drina talks to the police. Meanwhile, Martin is killed by Dave, who stops Martin's ... +


The East Side tenements of New York have gradually given way to exclusive dwellings of the rich, with the result that many of the poor live next to opulent apartments they can never afford. "Baby Face" Martin, a notorious killer, returns to one such dead end street, his home as a boy, hoping to see his mother, and Francey, an old girl friend. Dave Connell, an unemployed architect, also lives on the street, but dreams that one day he and Kay, the girl friend of a wealthy man, can have a better life. His friend Drina Gordon, who has loved Dave for years, struggles through a strike, hoping to earn enough money to keep her kid brother Tommy from turning into a criminal along with his friends on the street. Martin finds his mother and Francey, but becomes despondent when his mother slaps and rejects him and he learns that Francey is a prostitute. Martin yearns to stay in one place, but, despite plastic surgery on his face, his finger prints cannot be changed and he is trapped by his past crimes. That same afternoon, the street kids beat up Philip, the son of one of the wealthy apartment owners, and take his watch. Although Tommy gives the watch back, the boy's father, Mr. Griswold, the brother of a famous judge, wants to press charges when Tommy wounds him slightly with a knife. Tommy wants to run away, but Drina begs to go with him. When Spit, the leader of Tommy's gang, informs, Tommy hides while Drina talks to the police. Meanwhile, Martin is killed by Dave, who stops Martin's plan to kidnap Philip. Because Dave will now earn a large reward, he thinks that he and Kay can start a new life, but lets her go when he realizes that she is only interested in a year of high living with him. He and Drina convince Tommy to give himself up and, although Mr. Griswold refuses to drop charges, Dave offers to use his reward money to hire a good lawyer to keep the boy out of reform school. As the inhabitants of the street go back to their respective homes, Dave and Drina walk together with Tommy to the police station. +

GENRE
Genre:
Sub-genre:
Social


Subject

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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