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Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Further Effort To Straighten Out Those Dead End Kids


Warner Salutes The Dead End Kids 'On Dress Parade' (1939)

It wasn't anyone's easiest job to fit the Dead End Kids into B pics as follow-up to dynamic screen debut in Goldwyn's Dead End and even better Angels With Dirty Faces from WB. Surrender to comedy was years away; these initial seven with the gang (or is it eight?) never could settle on formula that might have sustained a series at Burbank. If Warners could keep Torchy Blane going, why not Dead Enders? The boys had come west armed with experience (from the stage Dead End) and no small ability, but how many helpings could a public take of street badness reformed? The place to go was lower-case B's, that purpose served by Universal, and later, Monogram. In the meantime, there was The Dead End Kids 'On Dress Parade' plus further Warner usage of the boys. Leo Gorcey's "Slip" is the malcontent, others of his group eager to please brass at a military academy shaping youth for what's clearly a war to come (WB getting preparedness ducks in a row). This (small) Parade is basest off-the-rack, but there's comfort in that, and how many options were there in a military school setting? (Jackie Cooper and Freddie Barthlomew saw as narrow opportunities in same-year's Spirit Of Culver for Universal) Slip has to be put straight, and there's 62 minutes in which to do it. Campus exteriors were shot right on the Warner lot. I expected to see Hal Wallis or Bennie Foy emerge out a door for commissary lunch. There's strain on credulity for Gorcey leading the class in tactics and calculus, partial reason perhaps why WB gave up on the group after Dress Parade. William Clemens directed, a start Monday, finish Friday man ideally suited to budget work. Warner Archive offers The Dead End Kids 'On Dress Parade' in a two-fer with Hell's Kitchen, what I call a bargain.

1 Comments:

Blogger Scott MacGillivray said...

Yes, I'm afraid like so many other series, the last one is also the least one. I had expected ON DRESS PARADE to take six reels to straighten out the rebellious Dead Enders, and my jaw dropped when I saw Billy Halop start the picture as an upright, straight-arrow cadet! Only Leo Gorcey requires rehabilitation in this one, so this is basically Warners' answer to BOYS TOWN, with Gorcey instead of Mickey Rooney, and John Litel standing in for Spencer Tracy.

It's nice to see the six Dead End Kids as individual performers rather than in their usual ensemble, but this ain't'cher usual Dead End pitcha by a long shot.

10:41 AM  

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