Angels with Dirty Faces (1938) - Rotten Tomatoes

Angels with Dirty Faces (1938)




Critic Consensus: James Cagney's explosive charisma and Pat O'Brien's steadfast decency are a match made in heaven in this touching battle for a community's soul.

Angels with Dirty Faces Photos

Movie Info

Close pals Rocky (Frankie Burke) and Jerry (William Tracey) flee after a robbery; Jerry gets away, but Rocky is sent to reform school. Years later, Jerry (now Pat O'Brien) has become a priest, and is working with a group of near-delinquents in his and Rocky's old neighborhood. Rocky had become a professional criminal, taking the rap for his whole gang at the urging of crooked lawyer Frazier (Humphrey Bogart) in exchange for $100,000 upon his release. Now Rocky is out of prison, but is stalled by Frazier. He meets Jerry again; when he learns the youngsters Jerry is working with admire him, he tries to get them interested in the activities that Jerry has set up for them. He also becomes romantically attracted to Laury Ferguson (Ann Sheridan), whom he'd also known when a boy, and who is now a social worker assisting Jerry. Even though Rocky knows Frazier plans to kill him, he accepts the $100,000 payoff from the crooked lawyer, and tries to give $10,000 of it to Jerry for his youth program. Jerry, however, knows the money has come from the blackmail of corrupt politicians, and so begins a campaign to reform city government. This leads Frazier and his accomplice (George Bancroft) to plan to kill Jerry. The furious Rocky kills them instead; he's arrested for the crime and sentenced to die. Jerry, knowing the boys still idolize Rocky, visits his old friend in prison and urges him to "die yellow" to help convince the boys that criminals aren't to be admired. Rocky refuses, but as he's led to the chair, he breaks down and begs for his life. Back in the neighborhood, the boys are deeply disappointed, but Jerry asks them to help him pray for "a boy who couldn't run as fast as I could."

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James Cagney
as Rocky Sullivan
Pat O'Brien
as Rev. Jerry Connolly
Ann Sheridan
as Laury Ferguson
Humphrey Bogart
as James Frazier
George Bancroft
as Mac Keefer
Frankie Burke
as Rocky as a Boy
William Tracy
as Jerry as a Boy
Marilyn Knowlden
as Laury as a Girl
Oscar O'Shea
as Guard Kennedy
Edward Pawley
as Guard Edwards
William Pawley
as Bugs the Gunman
John Hamilton
as Police Captain
Earl Dwire
as Priest
Jim Farley
as Railroad Yard Watchman
Pat O'Malley
as Railroad guard
Jack C. Smith
as Railroad Guard
Eddie Syracuse
as Maggione Boy
George Sorel
as Headwaiter
Harris Berger
as Basketball Captain
Harry Hayden
as Pharmacist
Dick Rich
as Gangster
Steve Darrell
as Gangster
Joe Devlin
as Gangster
Donald Kerr
as Reporter
Ted Offenbecker
as Older Boy in Poolroom
Jack Goodrich
as Reporter
Al Lloyd
as Reporter
Jeffrey Sayre
as Reporter
Charles Marsh
as Reporter
Earl Gunn
as Reporter
Lee Phelps
as Detective
Jack Mower
as Detective
Belle Mitchell
as Mrs. Maggione
William Edmunds
as Italian Storekeeper
Charles C. Wilson
as Buckley the Police Chief
Vera Lewis
as Soapy's Mother
Eddie Brian
as Newsboy
Claude Wisberg
as Hanger-On
Wilbur Mack
as Croupier
Frank Coghlan Jr.
as Boys in Poolroom
David Durand
as Boys in Poolroom
Mary Gordon
as Mrs. Patrick McGee
George Offerman Jr.
as Older Boy in Poolroom
Joe Cunningham
as Managing Editor
James Spottswood
as Record Editor
John Dilson
as Chronicle Editor
Charles Trowbridge
as Norton J. White
Thomas E. Jackson
as Press City Editor
Ralph Sanford
as Policemen at Call-Box
Galan Galt
as Policemen at Call-Box
Emory Parnell
as Police Officer
Wilfred Lucas
as Police officer
Elliott Sullivan
as Police Officer
William Crowell
as Whimpering Convict
Jack Perrin
as Death Row Guard
Dan Wolheim
as Convict
Brian Burke
as Convict
John Marston
as Well Dressed Man
Poppy Wilde
as Girl at gaming table
George Offerman
as Adult boy
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Critic Reviews for Angels with Dirty Faces

All Critics (23) | Top Critics (2)

Angels With Dirty Faces benefits from the Production Code because it forces the gangster film to acknowledge its nihilism.

February 2, 2005 | Rating: 4/4 | Full Review…

Rocky Sullivan is riveting. His movements are quick and vital, his speech like machine-gun fire, his demeanor sharp and confident. He is all attitude and style.

May 8, 2002 | Rating: B | Full Review…

An atonement for & a deconstruction of Cagney's bad boy persona in films like The Public Enemy that made him a star, emulating the essence of the Production Code with more grace & emotional weight than anyone actually involved with the code ever managed.

January 6, 2022 | Rating: 4/4 | Full Review…

The weighty closing line triggers haunting reflections on chance, destiny, and the capricious nature of the universe.

December 11, 2021 | Rating: 4/4 | Full Review…

If the Dead End Kids - complete with their Three Stooges routines and slaphappy slapstick - weren't involved, the movie could have moved more smoothly and featured a more focused message.

July 24, 2020 | Rating: 6/10 | Full Review…

Angels With Dirty Faces is a very exciting gangster film. The scenario is by Rowland Brown and the direction is by Michael Curtiz, who has a fine sense of visual rhythm.

June 14, 2018 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Angels with Dirty Faces

13/07/2012 (DVD)

EightThirty .
EightThirty .

Super Reviewer


William "Rocky" Sullivan is just a no good kid. Starting off as your average juvenile delinquent, he blossoms into a career criminal. His draw is quick and his name has adorned many a penitentiary charts. His childhood cohort Jerry on the other hand, grows out of his old ways and turns to a life of piety. After his most recent stint in the big house, Rocky has come back to his old haunt. Father Jerry and Rocky share a rich history, but their future appears to be heading in different directions. Rocky is still interested in making some dough, while Jerry is focused on turning around a new generation of delinquents. With this story, director Michael Curtiz touches on some serious issues. In a way, Rocky & Father Jerry represent patriarchs of two divergent paths. Both sure know the one that yields more material gain. But as lucrative as it may be, Father Jerry doesn't want the world building their fortunes on rotten foundations. Maybe I am assigning to much meaning to an old gangster picture, but I really feel like there is a good nature vs. nurture argument here. Is there an honorable James Sullivan deep inside? Or was he always destined to be Rocky? Do these kids have it in them to be stand up citizens? Or is it in their blood to be social pariahs? After all, this would have been a hot topic in America during this period in history. Juvenile delinquency was on the rise during the 1930's, disrupting a relatively stable American youth culture. This being the depression years, upward mobility wasn't always within reach. But with a life of crime, many felt that the sky was the limit. Criminals were often glorified for taking their piece of the American dream when it was scarcely available. Curtiz deconstructs these criminals in a very fascinating way. If these aren't good enough reasons to capture your interests, the bold & somewhat ambiguous ending will surely keep you thinking long after the credits roll.

Reid Volk
Reid Volk

Super Reviewer

This is my one of my favourite gangster movies. It's not the only movie with the story of two boyhood friends who grow up to be enemies, but it's the best of them. Plus, it has a great cast.

Aj V
Aj V

Super Reviewer

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