Dead End is a 1937 crime drama film. It is an adaptation of the Sidney Kingsley 1935 Broadway play of the same name. It stars Humphrey Bogart, Joel McCrea, and Sylvia Sidney. It is notable as being the first film appearance of the Dead End Kids.
In the filthy slums of New York, wealthy people have built luxury apartments there because of the view of the picturesque East River. While they live in opulence, the destitute and dirt poor live nearby in crowded, filthy tenements.
At the end of the street is a dock on the East River; to the left are the luxury apartments and to the right are the slums. The Dead End Kids, led by Tommy Gordon (Billy Halop), are a petty gang of street urchins who are already well onto a path to a life of crime. Members of the gang besides Tommy include, Dippy (Huntz Hall), Angel (Bobby Jordan), Spit (Leo Gorcey), T.B. (Gabriel Dell), and Milty (Bernard Punsly), the new kid on the block in search of friends. Spit is a bit malicious with a cruel streak and initially bullies the newcomer and takes his pocket change. However, Tommy eventually lets Milty join the gang and turns out to be both a loyal and generous friend.
Tommy's sister, Drina (Sylvia Sidney), dreams of marrying some dashing, rich stranger who will save her and Tommy from this miserable life of poverty and help prevent Tommy from growing up to be a mobster like Baby Face Martin (Humphrey Bogart), who has returned to the neighborhood to visit his mother and old girlfriend. Drina's childhood friend, Dave Connell (Joel McCrea), is an unemployed architect who currently works odd jobs. He is having an affair with a rich man's mistress, Kay Burton (Wendy Barrie). Although Dave and Kay love each other, they know they can't be together because Dave cannot provide Kay with the kind of lifestyle she desires.
Meanwhile, the kids rough up a rich kid (Charles Peck) who lives in the apartments. When the boy's father tries to intervene, Tommy winds up stabbing him in the hand. He escapes the police and goes into hiding.
Martin, meanwhile, is rejected by his mother (Marjorie Main) and repulsed by his ex-girlfriend, Francie (Claire Trevor), who is now a prostitute and "sick" (a coded reference to her suffering late term stages of syphilis). Despondent over the failed visit, he decides to kidnap the rich child for ransom to make the trip back worthwhile. Dave tracks Martin down and kills him after a struggle. When the police arrive, a crowd gathers, including Spit, who is recognized as being a member of the gang that attacked the rich kid's father. He exonerates himself by informing the police that it was Tommy who stabbed the man. Tommy hears of Spit's betrayal and tries to give him the mark of the "squealer", which is a knife wound across the cheek. Before he can do so, Dave apprehends him and convinces him to turn himself in. He agrees to use his reward money from Martin's slaying to pay for Tommy's defense.
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