Saturday, September 17, 2011

A Dead End Blog Post

I'm going, for the sake of time and my own shame, to pretend like I haven't been absent from blogging for over a month and a half. So, moving on...

Last night was one of those times when God blesses me with the little things. Ruby wanted to watch a movie, I'd been putting her off for weeks on account of my rushed Foundations Collegium schedule and the constant necessity to use all of my spare hours trying (and failing) to sound like Regina Spektor at my new electric keyboard. I wanted to watch and MST3K, she didn't. She wanted to watch one of our old Marx brothers movies, I wasn't in the mood. We finally decided on the very un-hopeful solution of looking to see what was on Netflix...and low and behold they had just added one of my all-time favorite Bogart movies: Dead End.

I love this movie: I love it for a variety of reasons. In my Leanord Malton world of thinking myself an expert on these things, I love it because the scripts are understated and meaningful and theme of the movie drives it's point through in a captivating way. I love the cozy noir feel of it, with the limited amount of sets they had to make it look like a New York City slum. On my girlier Locksley side, I love that Bogart makes me wanna cry and all the kids sound like Bugs Bunny. But on to reviewing.

Dead End has two...or maybe three or four...plot lines, one involving those Bugs Bunny kids I mentioned earlier. Well-meaning rough teenagers who hang out at a dirty peer under the Brooklyn Bridge, fighting other gangs, avoiding the neighborhood cops and trying to taunt the rich kid who's lavish house sits above their playground. The leader of the gang, Tommy (Billy Halop) , is supported by his hard-working sister Drina (Sylvia Sidney), who is on strike with the union. Since her childhood, Drina has been in love with Dave, an architect who went to college but can't seem to get a job now. Meanwhile, a notorious gangster named Baby-face Martin returns to his childhood home, intending to visit his mother and former girlfriend. He ends up teaching Tommy some tricks with a knife, which gets him in serious trouble when he stabs the father of the rich kid who was trying to get him arrested. Martin is rejected by his mother, now old and ragged and decrepit. Then his girlfriend Francey...well...let's just say there's disappointment there too. He plots to kidnap the rich kid,and (in a sarcastic snarky tone) It's up to big brave wonderful Dave to save the day.

The point of the plot, however is not an examination of either gangsters or architects, or even despite what it looks like at first, a comedy about making it through the depression. It's a serious but captivating examination of, as Leonard Malton puts it "Humanity at the breaking point in N.Y.C. tenements." The metaphor can be summed up pretty well in the single set a great portion of the movie takes place on: the dirty dock where the apartments of the rich look directly down at the problems of the poor.

This film was made in 1937...the perfect time for a movie about the problems of the poor people to make a hit- as the dividing line between the wealthy and the desolate grew larger and larger by the day. Like I said, the script is great, the sets are interesting, but it's the directing that really shines through here. Humphrey Bogart is perfect, Joel Mcrea as boring as anyone competing against Bogart would be. I talked about this as a dramatic, or sad movie, which was being honest. But there's a good amount of humor mixed in too, mostly from the Dead End kids, who went on to make mostly comedies that banked off the same principle. It was originally a Broadway play; and a small budget one, so the caster did the obvious thing when looking for child actors to play street kids; he hired a bunch of street kids. Unfortunately their realistic dead end-ness cost United Artists some money when they got a hold of a truck and crashed through a sound stage. Not surprisingly, Untied Artists sold their contract to Warner Brothers as soon as the film was complete.

All in all, I think this is the perfect film for people above that "It's black and white and therefore boring" attitude who want to see what genius film making looks like. Also a great time-capsule from that era, just like Casablanca says so much about the 40's.

That was decidedly unhumorous, but you can blame the movie I review tomorrow (look at me making promises) on that.

I love you all, but dividing my time between Johnny Dollar, Rosetta stone, and my book is hard enough without trying to write. So until further notice, we will call this the end.

P.S....Bogie changes a baby's diaper....seriously, this isn't doctored.....

I don't know what the relevance of that is but I figured you might enjoy it.

P.P.S. No, I still haven't seen Citizen Kane. Call the classic film police if you want to.

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