14 April 2009 | wes-connors
Billy Halop leads "The Dead End Kids" to Universal
In their third team appearance, "The 'Dead End' Kids" are: Billy Halop (as Johnny Boylan), Huntz Hall (as "Pig"), Gabriel Dell (as "String"), Bernard Punsly (as "Ape"), Hal E. "Hally" Chester (as "Dopey"), and David Gorcey (as "Sniper"). After this film, Universal Pictures, the third of several studios to cash in on the Kids' popularity, adopted "Little Tough Guys" as a series co-title; possibly, in case United Artists or Warner Brothers legally challenged their use of "Dead End Kids". In this film "Little Tough Guy" refers to Mr. Halop only, the leader of the pack.
Universal was only able to obtain four original "Dead Enders" for their first outing; so, substituting for Bobby Jordan and Leo Gorcey, and making their first appearances as members of the expanding "Bowery" team, are "Hally" Chester and David Gorcey (Leo's brother). Both would continue with the group. Brat packer Jackie Searl (as Cyril Gerrard), who not only joins, but also takes over as "Little Tough Guys" leader, would only make a couple of peripheral reappearances. Herein, his snobbishness balances the grim and gritty quite nicely.
Although you wouldn't expect it, this is one of the best "little" films in the whole "Dead End-East Side-Bowery Kid" cache. The plot is fairly typical, but handled well - Halop's teen angst turns to anger after his father is wrongly arrested, for killing a policeman. Following a miscarriage of justice, Halop soothes his sorrows by descending into a "Dead End" lifestyle. Halop has a firm grasp of this material, and performs the melodrama with his usual expertise.
Another cast member tuning in an excellent performance is matronly Marjorie Main (as Mrs. Boylan). A keen actress, Ms. Main gives her "mother" character an almost unseemly underbelly. Note how Main's "theatrics" fit perfectly with the lines her children address her with: daughter Helen Parish (as Kay Boylan) says, "Oh Mom, quit acting," and Halop tells Main, "Gee, Ma, you look just like a movie star." So, Main plays her part as a failed movie star, lamenting her age and poverty.
The 1930s New York City interior and exterior sets are terrific. Halop says, "I gotta keep moving," and director Harold Young fills the running time with a lot of movement - there are people everywhere. Both Young and photographer Elwood Bredell excel. Ms. Parrish and Robert Wilcox (as Paul Wilson) are sweet, in the "romantic" adult roles. There are a myriad of extras, with Richard Selzer (as Bud) among the "worst dressed" background kids - later, Mr. Selzer became the "Top 10" fashion conscious "Mr. Blackwell".
******** Little Tough Guy (7/22/38) Harold Young ~ Billy Halop, Jackie Searl, Marjorie Main