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Little Tough Guy (1938) HD online

Little Tough Guy (1938) HD online
Language: English
Category: Movie / Crime / Drama
Original Title: Little Tough Guy
Director: Harold Young
Writers: Gilson Brown,Brenda Weisberg
Released: 1938
Duration: 1h 26min
Video type: Movie
The son of a man sentenced to death for a murder he didn't commit vows to become a criminal himself. He starts his own street gang, and their crime spree is financed by a mysterious young man--who turns out to be the son of the District Attorney who sent the boy's father to the electric chair.
Complete credited cast:
Robert Wilcox Robert Wilcox - Paul Wilson
Helen Parrish Helen Parrish - Kay Boylan
Marjorie Main Marjorie Main - Mrs. Boylan
Jackie Searl Jackie Searl - Cyril Gerrard
Peggy Stewart Peggy Stewart - Rita Belle
Helen MacKellar Helen MacKellar - Mrs. Wanaker
Edward Pawley Edward Pawley - Jim Boylan (as Ed Pawley)
Olin Howland Olin Howland - Baxter
Pat C. Flick Pat C. Flick - Adolphus
Billy Halop Billy Halop - Johnny Boylan
Huntz Hall Huntz Hall - 'Pig'
Gabriel Dell Gabriel Dell - String
Bernard Punsly Bernard Punsly - Ape
Hal E. Chester Hal E. Chester - Dopey (as Hally Chester)
David Gorcey David Gorcey - 'Sniper'

Reviews: [10]

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    The weakest and least known of all the film series spawned from the "Dead End" Kids were those made by Universal. These Universal films which were cranked out between 1938 and 1943, overlapped the concurrent "Dead End" Kids at Warner Bros (1938-1939), and The East Side Kids films (1940-1945) at Monogram. LITTLE TOUGH GUY was the first of Universals contribution to the series. This first entry is only passable. The first half is poorly directed and many elements are hard to take. The second half, when the kids go on a wild crime spree comes off better. Of interest to fans of the series is seeing Huntz Hall, in a departure from playing his usual dumbbell role, plays a real tough guy in this one. This was also David Gorceys first appearance in the series. His more famous brother Leo was not in this one (nor any of the subsequent Universal entries). Hally Chester also makes him debut as a gang member in this one (he previously had a bit part in CRIME SCHOOL.)
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    Little Tough Guy has Billy Halop and most of the rest of the Dead End Kids operating as a gang pulling off a number of petty crimes and led by a snotty young rich kid played by Jackie Searl. Halop doesn't start out that way though.

    He and the rest of his family get a real lousy break when his father Edward Pawley out of work and desperate goes to work as a scab and gets involved in a labor riot. Pawley gets blamed for the death of another worker and gets the death penalty with first degree murder.

    That was part of the story I couldn't buy. Granted the family didn't have a good defense lawyer, but the circumstances in no way indicate first degree murder. Everything happens then as they're forced to move to a bad neighborhood and Halop falls in with some tough slum kids who become Searl's gang.

    Not the best of films Little Tough Guy doesn't compare with what the Dead End Kids did over at Warner Brothers. This feature for Universal just doesn't have the same production values. Still it's better than what was to come at Monogram.

    Marjorie Main plays Halop's mother and she's miles from the hard working Ma Kettle. Here she's a slum version of Peg Bundy.

    Huntz Hall was a revelation. This will be one of the few times you see Hall play it serious and he was effective.

    Not a bad urban drama though Warner Brothers did them better.
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    This is an early "Dead End Kids" movie - actually the second one after their impressive debut in "Dead End". Billy Halop seemed to be earmarked for juvenille stardom. In this film he went all stops out in a couple of big emotional scenes. After an impressive start and a good role as Flashman in the prestigious "Tom Brown's Schooldays", it was back to the Bowery and roles in such "memorable" films as "You're Not So Tough" (1940), "Mob Town" (1941) and "Mug Town" (1942). I agree "Little Tough Guy" was one of the better ones and they were surrounded by solid talent, including two former child actors. Helen Parrish, although often uncredited, had parts in films such as "The Big Trail" (1930), "Cimarron" (1931) and "The Public Enemy" (1931). She did better later on with parts in some Deanna Durbin films ("Mad About Music" (1938), "First Love" (1939), "It Started With Eve" (1941)). Jackie Searl, while never a top child star, was an amazing scene stealer who did team up with Mitzi Green in some funny films from the early 30s ("Skippy" (1931), "Finn and Hattie" (1931), "Newly Rich" (1931)). He actually joined the "little tough guys" for a couple of films but by the 40s his career petered out.

    Johnny (Billy Halop) is head of the neighbourhood gang - but his sister Kay, (Helen Parrish) is worried about his truancy. She is the chief breadwinner of the family - her father is on strike and her mother (Marjorie Main) is worn down by defeat and drudgery. Paul (Robert Wilcox) wants to marry Kay but she feels too obligated to her family.When her father is hurt trying to help a friend on the picket line - the police come to arrest him for murder.The trial ostracises the family, Johnny loses his friends (Rita Belle (Peggy Stewart) is the only one who stands by him),Kay loses her job and the family finally lose their home.

    In his new neighbourhood Johnny meets a new set of friends - "the dead end kids" - and is determined to find a job and help his dad. His first job (as a paper boy) finishes in a fight and hard won respect from the gang. Kay, meanwhile, gets a job in a burlesque show (a less likely looking burlesque performer than Kay you never saw!!). Paul visits her and is appalled at the family's deterioration.

    The gang crashes an "Onward and Upward" meeting and meet Cyril (Jackie Searl, playing a character that is true to his form). He is the leagues shining star but he finds the gang is more to his liking - he wines and dines them and even shows them his palatial home. Johnny finds out that his father's appeal has been denied and goes to see the Judge. In the heat of anger he throws a rock at the Judge's car and finds himself in juvenile detention. Cyril organises a plan for Johnny to escape. He is the real brains behind the gang and falls in with them because he is bored and wants to find out what makes them tick. He encourages them to commit a string of robberies (they are very happy to oblige). When there is a division in the ranks Cyril goes to the police with his side of the story, hoping that his wealth and connections keep him out of it. Unfortunately for him the police want him too!!!

    This is definitely a dramatic, even melodramatic film at times - not at all the way the series ended up, as just a laugh fest. Robert Wilcox, as Paul, the romantic partner of Kay, did seem to have a promising career in the late 30s but he is remembered more for being the husband of Diana Barrymore and the inspiration of her book "Too Much, Too Soon".

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    In their third team appearance, "The 'Dead End' Kids" are: Billy Halop (as Johnny Boylan), Huntz Hall (as "Pig"), Gabriel Dell (as "String"), Bernard Punsly (as "Ape"), Hal E. "Hally" Chester (as "Dopey"), and David Gorcey (as "Sniper"). After this film, Universal Pictures, the third of several studios to cash in on the Kids' popularity, adopted "Little Tough Guys" as a series co-title; possibly, in case United Artists or Warner Brothers legally challenged their use of "Dead End Kids". In this film "Little Tough Guy" refers to Mr. Halop only, the leader of the pack.

    Universal was only able to obtain four original "Dead Enders" for their first outing; so, substituting for Bobby Jordan and Leo Gorcey, and making their first appearances as members of the expanding "Bowery" team, are "Hally" Chester and David Gorcey (Leo's brother). Both would continue with the group. Brat packer Jackie Searl (as Cyril Gerrard), who not only joins, but also takes over as "Little Tough Guys" leader, would only make a couple of peripheral reappearances. Herein, his snobbishness balances the grim and gritty quite nicely.

    Although you wouldn't expect it, this is one of the best "little" films in the whole "Dead End-East Side-Bowery Kid" cache. The plot is fairly typical, but handled well - Halop's teen angst turns to anger after his father is wrongly arrested, for killing a policeman. Following a miscarriage of justice, Halop soothes his sorrows by descending into a "Dead End" lifestyle. Halop has a firm grasp of this material, and performs the melodrama with his usual expertise.

    Another cast member tuning in an excellent performance is matronly Marjorie Main (as Mrs. Boylan). A keen actress, Ms. Main gives her "mother" character an almost unseemly underbelly. Note how Main's "theatrics" fit perfectly with the lines her children address her with: daughter Helen Parish (as Kay Boylan) says, "Oh Mom, quit acting," and Halop tells Main, "Gee, Ma, you look just like a movie star." So, Main plays her part as a failed movie star, lamenting her age and poverty.

    The 1930s New York City interior and exterior sets are terrific. Halop says, "I gotta keep moving," and director Harold Young fills the running time with a lot of movement - there are people everywhere. Both Young and photographer Elwood Bredell excel. Ms. Parrish and Robert Wilcox (as Paul Wilson) are sweet, in the "romantic" adult roles. There are a myriad of extras, with Richard Selzer (as Bud) among the "worst dressed" background kids - later, Mr. Selzer became the "Top 10" fashion conscious "Mr. Blackwell".

    ******** Little Tough Guy (7/22/38) Harold Young ~ Billy Halop, Jackie Searl, Marjorie Main
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    **SPOILERS** The year is 1938. The Great Depression has waned, but prosperity is not yet in America, and certainly not New York's Lower East Side. A man breaks a picket line in order to feed his family. A fight ensues and the man kills another. What follows is Johnny, the young son's (Billy Halop, in the melodramatic role of a lifetime), believable descent from fiery kid to fiery thug. Huntz Hall plays the leader of a group of toughs (Dead End Kids) until Johnny comes along and slugs a few new thoughts into everyone's head. The 1930's jargon doesn't take anything away from realism, mainly because it IS real. There are some plot vehicles which seem improbable: the Long Island rich boy plotting a petty-crime ring, for example. But as the film races along, it all fits well. Plenty of pathos, and a finale that will tug your heart. I liked this as well as or better than "Little Caesar."
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    The first entry for the Dead End Kids & Little Tough Guys series for Universal from 1938. Made between "Crime School" & "Angels With Dirty Faces". This series also overlapped the popular East Side Kids series for Monogram. Their last entry for Universal was "Keep 'Em Slugging" in 1943 with Bobby Jordan replacing Billy Halop as the gang leader. "Little Tough Guy" stands out in seeing Huntz Hall as a real tough guy & gang leader instead of playing his usual dumbbell clown role. I just wish he would've done it more often because he was good at it & it also worked better with a more serious Huntz Hall matched against Billy Halop but in the subsequent entries he's back to being goofy again & it doesn't work as well with Halop as it does with Leo Gorcey. Although he was a bit serious & dramatic in the 3 serials.

    I have the entire Universal Little Tough Guys DVD box set from "Little Tough Guys In Society" (1938) & "Call A Messenger" (1939) to "Mob Town" (1941). I've watched all these films & it's probably their rarest & least known series but it's still good & entertaining. Some of the films like "Give Us Wings" (1941) feature all the original Dead End Kids, all except Leo Gorcey. Too bad Leo Gorcey wasn't in any of these films because it might've worked better than it did & maybe the films would've been more memorable. In the original Dead End Kids I always enjoyed the confrontations between Leo Gorcey & Billy Halop. Too bad they couldn't work together anymore after Warner Bros dropped them.
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    This film gives great insight as to how life was for many "street" kids in NYC right after the depression and it is eerily similar to the plight of street kids in NYC today. The "dead end kids" is an awesome name. They are wanna be thugs; Violent, aggressive, uneducated, beligerent, witty and daring. One kid even wears a yankee baseball jersey with # 3 on the back just like the kids wear Derek Jeter jerseys today.)

    Up until a few years ago, the lower east side was a similarly tough area, except it was inhabited by mostly people of color. Gentrification began in the 90s and has since transformed the lower east side into an affluent, yuppie filled, unaffordable place to live for the average citizen of any color in NYC.

    While watching the movie, I listened to the street-slang and trouble-making behavior of the "dead end kids", and I couldn't help but saying to myself that this would be a so called "hood" film if it had been made today, like "Juice" starring Omar Epps and Tupac. Funny how the names and faces have changed, but the story is still the same.

    Being from NYC myself, I felt suspended in time while watching it. My Mom was 2 and my father(may he rest in peace) was 11 in 1938.
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    This film is one of the earliest incarnations of The Dead End Kids--a group of lovable tough teens who were first introduced in the play "Dead End" and who appeared in several films for Warner Brothers AND Universal. The Warner films were more popular (as well as better) and included "Dead End" (the movie version of the play) and "Crime School". As for Universal, they hired some of these boys away from Warner for a few films and serials. Not only the composition of the Dead End Kids changed over the years but so did their name--being renamed 'The Little Toughguys' (for Universal), then The East Side Kids and ultimately The Bowery Boys. Lovers of these films will no doubt recognize Huntz Hall, Billy Halop and even David Gorcey (Leo's brother) in "Little Tough Guys" but many of the other regulars of the era are missing (Bobby Jordan and Leo Gorcey were not signed by Universal and would return later after the Little Toughguy films ended). In total, they'd make 89 films and three serials for four different studios! Confusing? A bit...but is "Little Toughguys" any good? That IS the important thing as far as this review goes.

    Johnny Boyland (Billy Halop) is mad. His father was convicted of murder. The family is evicted and Johnny's sister is fired because of her father...even though she'd done nothing wrong. The family is clearly in crisis. Not surprisingly, Johnny vows to be bad and lead a life of crime. So, he assembles a gang which turns out to be financed by the teenage son of the District Attorney who convicted Johnny's father! What gives? What's really going on here?!

    This is pretty typical of these earlier films featuring the boys--with a strong emphasis on crime and rehabilitation. In other words, they have a strong social conscience. Later the boys would be less criminal...more just knuckleheads! All in all, entertaining and very similar to other early films from these boys.
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    Having been a fan of the Bowery Boys/East Side Kids, I eagerly grabbed this movie, expecting to see the wildly madcap misadventures of Mugs, Glimpy and the rest of the East Side Kids, boys whose misadventures stemmed from their being naughty, though not altogether bad, along with the local cops who tended to feel that the East Side Kids were a far bigger threat and who belonged behind bars. As a rule, the East Side Kids, in a race against time, with the law hot on their trails usually wound up making good and coming out the heroes in the end, by using their street smarts and their smart alack attitude. This was the general formula of the movies starring the East Side Kids. The East Side Kids were truly the kings of the B-grade movies.

    With this in mind, I was at first disappointed in this movie. It was a grim and somewhat tragic story of a gang of boys stuck on the wrong side of the tracks and who, through circumstances beyond their control, wound up on the wrong side of the law, turning to crime.

    Through it all, some of the character traits that would shine bright in their later movies, was apparent. There were some comic moments in this movie, though too few and far between in this movie.

    In spite of my disappointment, this movie is one movie that I can watch over and over again.

    A point of interest to the technical-minded viewer who loves to look for detail, the record changer in Cyril's house is a Capehart, one of the high end record changers at that time. And in the 1930s, this model cost more than the price of a new car!
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    I have seen this movie and found it to be somewhat entertaining. It is one of only two movies in which the former Broadway star and (later) radio star (Big Town), Edward Pawley, plays the good guy! He plays the role of "Jim Boylan", father of "Johnny Boylan" (Billy Halop). Mr. Pawley usually played villainous roles in his more than 50 movies during a 10-year stint in Hollywood. One other exception was in the movie "Hoosier Schoolboy" in which he played the role of Captain Carter (Mickey Rooney's father)who was also a war hero with a drinking problem. Edward Pawley was probably best known in movies for his role as Danny Leggett (aka, Public Enemy Number One) in the James Cagney vehicle, "G-MEN." He also had feature roles in movies such as "The Oklahoma Kid" in which he played Humphrey Bogart's partner (Ace Doolin), "Romance of the Limberlost" in which he played Jean Parker's suitor (Jed Corson), Thirteen Women in which he played "Burns", Myrna Loy's accomplice in crime, "Romance On The Range" in which he played Roy Rogers' ranch boss and covert outlaw (Jerome Banning), et cetera, et cetera.