ANGELS WITH DIRTY FACES (dir. Michael Curtiz, 1938)

This film has been a favorite of mine for as long as I can remember loving movies, but something has come to my attention lately that I simply cannot believe. People have not seen this movie. Period; end of story. This is despite the fact that it runs on TCM about once every month or two. I don't understand it? Have people simply stopped watching awesome movies, or what?

It's not like people don't watch the oldies...Hell, how many people can you think of who, even in their early 20s, think of The Wizard of Oz, Casablanca, or Singin' in the Rain as one of their favorite movies ever? I can't explain it, but I wish this injustice was righted. Too many people I know have never seen this, or bothered to watch it for whatever reason if they have heard of it at all. A travesty.

Plus, just the thought of seeing both Bogart AND Cagney in the same movie should be enough to wind movie lovers into a panic of orgiastic proportions. This meeting of two of my favorite actors (oh, the scowls and the swaggers; the crazy curls in Cagney's hair; how they bring out the excited little school girl in me waiting to break out.) Not to mention a wonderful performance by Pat O'Brien as a priest reformed from his former days in crime with Rocky.

The tension as Rocky Sullivan takes his final walk to the electric chair is palpable on screen. And, what a heart-rending scene to top it all off, with the Dead End Kids (who are, thankfully, unmemorable in any other movie they were ever in - despite the inundation the studio obviously suffered through with their movies, I've been "woefully" underexposed to them; note the sarcasm) learning the horrible truth about their idol, Rocky, who died like a common coward. Compared to some of the dreck thrown at audiences today, this ending dares to betray its star's screen image for a much more satisfying end, and without the saccharine quality such a scene would warrant in many modern directors' eyes. "Let's go and say a prayer for a boy who couldn't run as fast as I could," says Father Connelly at the end of the film, and never a more sincere and satisfying line has ended a film about a gangster.

The state of our viewing habits is truly shameful when a masterpiece such as this is unseen by the vast majority of people. I guess now would be an appropriate time to lament the habits of not watching movies made in Black & White as well, but ultimately it seems a bit pointless. In the day and age of remakes of remakes we live in, I am simply only more disheartened that most people under the age of 20 have never even heard of James Cagney, and if they have heard of Bogart, it's within some random slang context like when someone yells at you not to "Bogart" the whiskey at a party. Perhaps most tragic is the complete loss of recognition for someone as wonderful as Pat O'Brien, who is also great in SAN QUENTIN. While not someone I go absolutely bananas over like Cagney or Bogey, the smallest stars are sometimes the toughest for me to see forgotten.

So am I crazy? Am I the only one who feels that, despite it's noms at the Oscars in 1939, for director (Michael Curtiz, the ever-changing studio chameleon), writing, and actor, this film is horrendously under-appreciated except by those who are, at best cineastes and at worst obsessive fan-boy cinephiles (not that either of these are bad, mind you, as I consider myself a bit of both)?

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