Starring: James Cagney, Pat O’Brien, Humphrey Bogart, Ann Sheridan
Director: Michael Curtiz
Rocky (Cagney) and Jerry (O’Brien) grow up in the same neighborhood, but as adults they are very different men. Rocky takes to a life of crime, and is the local idol of the boys in the ‘hood. But Jerry has become a preacher, and tries to convince his childhood friend Rocky to mend his ways, so that the young boys who look up to him don’t follow in his footsteps.
When the inevitable happens, and Rocky is arrested for his crimes, he is urged by Jerry to “act yellow” and be scared at his execution. It goes against Rocky’s whole persona, but will be do it to stop the youngsters from idolising him and taking to their own lives of crime?
It’s A Must See Because: Although it’s very much a moral film, with the lines very clearly divided, it’s still very entertaining and interesting. Jerry is kind of dull, overly moral, and Rocky is someone who you can imagine wanting to be like, if you were a young kid. But the film shows that although boring, it’s better to be moral than end up hurting the people around you, and winding up working for corrupt people, committing crimes and ending up on the end of a rope. The final scenes of the execution are still quite chilling, and though the film is quite black and white (morally as well as visually, ha ha!) it’s quite entertaining.
In a lot of ways, it is a precursor to later films like perhaps Sleeper, where a priest has to watch out for the young boys in his flock, or The Departed, where two kids who grow up together end up taking very different paths.
See It If: you like your films with a little moral bite, and there’s also an early Bogart role, for those of you who are fans, like me.