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Monday, July 11, 2016

National Disgrace Exposed!


Depression Leads To Wild Boys Of The Road (1933)

A programmer from Warners, and not to be confused with a "B" picture, Wild Boys Of The Road saves hardest thrust of its message until a courtroom finale that spells out memo WB meant to send, a rare case where that company played politics right to the fade. Giftee was Roosevelt's NRA, a poster for which hangs behind the judge's bench. The administration was playing ball with studios by cooling anti-trust action, thus mutual back-scratch. Wild Boys starts off like Andy Hardy in extreme precode terms. Frankie Darro drives a jalopy like Andy, but isn't above siphoning off someone else's gas to run it. Teens bury themselves in his rumble seat to neck and maybe more; this isn't scrubbed youth of MGM invention. The Depression breathes down Darro and it's not enough that he'll sell the "bus." Dad's out of a job and rent is overdue, Frankie and pals hitting the road to relieve parental burden. Would kids today dream of such sacrifice?
 
 
William Wellman directed Wild Boys Of The Road. He had come from relative privilege, though maybe writers hadn't. "Yard bulls" are scourge among hoboes, their bats and fedoras visible from distance teens need to jump off and take cover. Did railroads object to violent tactics ascribed to them here, or regard Wild Boys as fair warning to those who'd ride rails without paying? The shock moment, chillingly staged by Wellman, has one of the boys knocked cold on the tracks and losing a leg to an oncoming locomotive, hardtack truth as only precode could tell it. Documentarians go for this highlight like flies to honey. My seeing it in a Wellman special forty years ago caused swear-off to watch Wild Boys Of The Road, and it's only now that I've steeled courage for the 65-minute sit, made tolerable by HD stream via Warner Instant.
 
Here and Above, Dorothy Coonan Is Sold Along Sex Lines
 
Wild Boys Of The Road lost money and it needn't be wondered why. These homeless kids were less outlaw than pathetic, fighting back as last resort, but beaten all the same. A right formula lay ahead, and that was the Dead End Kids, social comment leavened by laughs and a wilder bunch that stood no guff from grown-ups. Wild Boys was well-made, but an unrelieved downer, an element Variety warned Warners about at outset. Players were outstanding, but no personalities emerged from the fray as individual Dead Enders like Leo Gorcey, Billy Halop, and Huntz Hall would. Troubles may have been foreseen: supervising Hal Wallis memo'ed Wellman that leg-off scene in the freight yard would cause women to give premature birth (not a joke ... this was legit concern over movies that got too explicit). He advised WW to tone things down, which the director presumably did, leaving us to wonder what sort of raw content was shot, then jettisoned.

5 Comments:

Blogger MikeD said...

Wiiliam Wellman wound up marrying Dorothy Coonan. She attended a Lone Pine Film Festival with her son, William Wellman Jr., awhile back. He was one of the celebrity guests. I happened to be standing next to her after one of the panel discussions BUT at the time I didn't know that was her in 'Wild Boys of the Road' or that she appeared in 'Gold Diggers of 1933'. Good thing or I would have probably rabbited on incoherently about those shows. Kind of like how you stalked that teacher in your school who appeared in the Our Gang!

8:19 AM  
Blogger rnigma said...

Footage from "Wild Boys" was used in a mock-newsreel cobbled together by studio execs to defeat Upton Sinclair's campaign for governor of California. Scenes of hobos arriving by train were accompanied by narration claiming that Sinclair's anti-poverty plan would cause thousands of unemployed people to flood the state. Sinclair lost to Merriam, the studio-backed candidate. (Interestingly, Sinclair wrote a biography of one of those studio heads, William Fox.)

9:48 AM  
Blogger Donald Benson said...

Mighty Mouse, 1953 (with what I suspect is a TV-vintage title card). About 6 minutes in there's a juvenile delinquent mouse who has to be saved from a train -- a very late parody of "Wild Boys"?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wa9aI2wvofg

3:21 AM  
Blogger Reg Hartt said...

I have had the FORBIDDEN FILM set with this for years but had not looked aT ANY OF THE FILMS. Looked at this yesterday. Now to look at the rest. Thanks.

7:11 AM  
Blogger Stinky Fitzwizzle said...

Always liked this movie. And Dorothy Coonan is cute as a bug's ear!

8:49 PM  

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