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.