In ”Dead End “ (1937), Allen Jenkins as ‘Hunk’, delivers a classic line to his boss ‘Baby Face Martin’ (Humphrey Bogart):
“We all make mistakes,Boss. That’s why they put the rubber on the ends of pencils.”
Allen Jenkins (1900- 1974), a Warners contract player, made 158 films according to IMDB. A scene-stealer of the highest order, likeable, down to earth , a gruff Brooklynese accent. Usually a henchman, with names like Mugsy – Lefty – Spudsy -Pinky – Gyp – Dodo – Fishcake – Okay.
Allen was in the original stage production of THE FRONT PAGE in 1928. ( and in a tribute to him, Billy Wilder had Allen in his 1974 version of The Front Page. It was Allen’s last appearance.)
His voice was perfect for ‘Officer Dibble’ in “Top Cat.”
“DEAD END” has quite a history. A Broadway hit play which ran for nearly two years. ( In the cast, making his Broadway debut, was Dan Duryea as a G-Man., also Marjorie Main.)
Sam Goldwyn bought the film rights and hired William Wyler to direct.
The title says it all. A rundown neighbourhood in New York’s lower east side next to the East river.Alongside the slums are the ritzy apartments of the well-to-do who want a river view.
There is even a sign at the water’s edge that literally says DEAD END.
Humphrey Bogart is ‘Baby Face Martin’, a killer the police are on the look out for. He has had plastic surgery to change his appearance. He’s taking a chance , returning to his old neighbourhood to see his mother and his old girlfriend.
The boys from the Broadway cast:
Gabriel Dell, Leo Gorcey, Billy Halop, Bernard Punsly.
Front row: Bobby Jordan, Huntz Hall.
These boys are the stars of the film for me, so natural and comfortable with each other. They are so real. They support each other in the environment they live in where they can’t rely on anyone but themselves.
Although never mentioned, I presume school is out. It’s a hot summer’s day and the action takes place over a 24 hour period.
- The boy’s leader is Billy Halop whose sister is played by Sylvia Sidney who worries about her brother being in a gang and wants to take him out of the neighbourhood. She’s a factory worker who is on strike.
Having decided not to film on location in New York, Sam Goldwyn had Richard Day design a massive set based on the stage set by Norman Bel Geddes.
To the left of this photo is the rear entrance to the apartment building where the rich folk live.
Of course an indoors studio set allows the director to be in complete control. Unfortunately it has never really been possible to convey the feeling of being outdoors . It also adds to the claustrophobic stage bound appearance , but is a terrific set.
William Wyler, seated bottom right, looks up at the action taking place.
Another shot showing the pier where the boys dive in for a swim.
Ward Bond in a small role as the doorman for the swanky apartment block. He’s at the service entrance which the tenants are being forced to use at the moment, causing close interaction between rich and poor which wouldn’t normally happen.
- Sylvia Sidney as ‘Drina’ who worries about her brother ‘Tommy’ and longs to take him away.
Joel McCrea as ‘Dave’ has tried to better himself and has qualified as an architect , but is looking for work. It doesn’t help that the girl he likes (Wendy Barrie) is a rich man’s mistress who lives in the luxury apartments.
(Can’t imagine how they met).
Seeing Marjorie Main , as Bogart’s mother ( though only ten years older than him) , makes you wonder whether she might have had more varied roles in her career after this performance.
She is so good as the care-worn woman who despises her son whom she hasn’t seen for ten years. He thinks he’ll be welcomed ( though it appears he has done nothing for her).
The mobster says, “Aint you glad to see me?”
She shocks him by slapping his face and replying ,
”That’s how glad I am – you ain’t no son of mine.”
it’s interesting that Claire Trevor was Oscar nominated for the 5 minute scene she was in. As much as I like Claire, in this film, it’s Marjorie Main whom I remember in her brief scene.
The following year Marjorie was back on Broadway in “THE WOMEN “, in the career defining role of ‘Lucy’, the Reno dude ranch owner. She went on to do the film version.
And her film persona was set – comedic, raucous, opinionated . Completely typecast when she was obviously capable of serious roles.
Mrs. Martin and her son ‘Baby Face’ Martin. He’s well dressed . She’s in rags.
I understand George Raft turned down the Bogart role.
Claire Trevor as ‘Francey’. The ten years since ‘Baby Face’ has seen her haven’t been kind to her. She’s a prostitute ( though in 1937, it couldn’t be said out loud). But the look of horror on Bogie’s face is obvious. Their meeting doesn’t last long, he gives her some money to get rid of her.
One and only time Allen Jenkins got the same size billing as Bogart?
Funny how billing on posters change as years go by. In 1937, Sylvia Sidney was top billed.
From being third billed, Bogart’s star status means his name comes first in re-issues of the film.
”THE DEAD END STREET.” ( this poster isn’t even an accurate picture of Humphrey Bogart in the film – it looks like a photo from a later era.)
Huntz Hall, Billy Halop, Bernard Punsley, Bobby Jordan, Leo Gorcey.
The boys became known as the Dead End Kids after the film was released.
At the film’s premiere, all spruced up.
And this is them in the 1950s, appearing on a TV show hosted by Ben Alexander,
Bernard (now Dr.Punsley), Leo Gorcey, Bobby Jordan, Ben Alexander, Huntz Hall, Billy Halop.
A family photo: Leo Gorcey, his brother David and his father Bernard. David and Bernard were in later Bowery Boys films.
David Gorcey who didn’t look much like his brother Leo, and was always in Leo’s shadow. He often used the name David Condon. David became a clergyman.
Interchanging groups of the boys worked for Warners, Monogram and Universal . They became the East Side Kids from 1940 to 1945.
In 1946, Leo Gorcey and Huntz Hall formed a company with their agent and took the name “The Bowery Boys”. Leo owned 40% of the company. He produced and contributed to scripts.Bobby Jordan and Gabriel Dell were in them, plus Billy Benedict, David Gorcey.
There was a shift to slapstick comedy. Monogram distributed the films.
Leo Gorcey quit the series in 1956 and Stanley Clements took his place in the remaining films of the series.
Having seen more and read about Hutnz Hall, I think he deserves a lot of credit for the character he played on screen – a Chaplinesque dimwit., full of action and facial expressions.
But, like nearly all of the fine young actors in DEAD END, Huntz couldn’t escape type casting. He and the others made a living out of the series , from the Dead End Kids to The Bowery Boys.
Huntz got one opportunity away from slapstick and that was in A WALK IN THE SUN, a wartime film made in 1945 and starring Dana Andrews. I haven’t seen it but it has a good reputation.
In 2018, IMDB listed a documentary in production called BOWERY RHAPSODY, THE RISE AND REDEMPTION OF HOLLYWOOD’S ORIGINAL BRAT PACK.
The producer was listed as Leo Gorcey Jr. who also wrote a 2003 biography of his father, “Me and the Dead End Kid.”
Leo Gorcey’s autobiography came out in 1967 and is now listed for sale on Amazon at £176!
I’ve just ordered “The Films of the Bowery Boys” and I look forward to reading more about them.
Those 6 young men whose lives were changed forever when Samuel Goldwyn brought them to Hollywood.