The 1937 film Dead End, adapted from Sidney Kingsley's hard-hitting play about life in a Manhattan slum, starred Humphrey Bogart but is remembered for introducing the Dead End Kids. From 1937 to1943, the Kids appeared in high-quality dramatic films by MGM, and as the "Little Tough Guys," in less well-financed pictures by Universal Studios. Low-budget Monogram Studios began developing the actors' comic gifts in a series which dubbed them the East Side Kids When that series ended in 1945, the same group continued to showcase their witty repartee and slapstick in a low-budget but highly- successful series, the Bowery Boys. Like an old slum neighborhood, the original Dead End Kids have been entirely gentrified. They may utter the old tough-guy slogans, but for the most part, the edge has been replaced with comedy, and their hearts are generally in the right place.
The Bowery Boys are:
Leo Gorcey: "Slip" Mahoney
Huntz Hall: "Sach" Jones
Bobby Jordan: Bobby
Billy Benedict: Whitey
David Gorcey: Chuck
Gabriell Dell: Gabe (from Spook Busters to Blues Busters)
Bennie Bartlett: Butch (beginning with Jinx Money)
Buddy Gorman also plays Butch in some later films.
Stanley Clements: Duke (replacing Gorcey after he leaves in 1956).
Eddie LeRoy: Blinky (last four films).
The Gorcey Brothers' father, Bernard, played Louie Dumbrowski, owner of a local candy shop and the group's mentor figure from In Fast Company until his death in 1956.
A fair sense of what these films are about may be gleaned from their plot descriptions and sheer numbers. This is TV series-style movie-making, but it managed to compete with television for more than a decade.
Slip (Gorcey)'s sister is angry when he loses the job she got him with a construction company, but then he and the boys learn the company may be involved with illegal activities, and they set out to deal with the situation. This first Bowery Boys film borrow its premise from the East Side Kids flicks: the urban ruffians prove their noble hearts by helping a damsel in distress.
In Fast Company
Slip agrees to drive a cab to help a priest who had helped him out earlier. Of course, he stumbles onto a criminal scheme, which he and the Boys must set right with as much slapstick as possible.
In yet another reworking of a familiar East Side Kids premise, the police incorrectly suspect Sach of involvement in a bank robbery. Of course, he isn't, and of course, the Boys' efforts to clear him succeed only after the requisite number of amusing incidents.
Original Kid Gabrielle Dell appears as "Gabe" in this entry, which revisits familiar East Side Kids territory: the gang meets ghouls. This one features a haunted house, a mad scientist, and a plot to switch Sach's brain with a gorilla's. This will not be the last time in this series that a gorilla will be subjected to this indignity.
The Boys use yet another familiar East Side Kids setting, the boxing ring. Hypnosis turns Sach into a champion; boxing slapstick ensues.
Hard Boiled Mahoney
No one pretended the films weren't Huntz and Gorcey's by this point, and this one involves the pair with a detective agency.
Slip and Sach work for a newspaper and become involved with efforts to expose a gangster.
The first East Side Kids movie had taken them into the country, so this Bowery Boys effort puts them to an anachronism-filled west, where they must clear Louie of, yes, a false accusation, this time of murdering his gold-mining partner.
Slip tries to help out his ex-con cousin, Jimmy, who is falling back into his criminal ways. Of course, Slip's efforts result in his becoming a suspect in a crime, and.... You can probably complete the description at this point.
In a repeat of the East Side Kids' Docks of New York, Sach and Slip find a fortune near the body of a dead man, and must dodge both the gangsters to whom the money belongs and the police, who naturally suspect the Boys' involvement.
The Boys hadn't used the rich/poor clash yet, so they do here, and break up a smuggling operation to boot.
The Boys witness a murder. Formula ensues.
A fighter enlists the Boys' help in breaking a fight-fixing ring. Naturally, they're much more effective than the police, and funnier.
Hold That Baby!
While working in a laundrymat, the Boys find and assist an infant heir whose life is endangered by evil, inheritance-seeking relatives.
Angels in Disguise
A friend is shot in a robbery, and the Boys intend to find the culprit. "Angels" appears in the title again, a nod to certain better (and very different) flicks from their Dead End Kids days.
Sach develops the ability to predict the future, which attracts the attention of a mad scientist. Glenn Strange, the final actor to play the Frankenstein Monster in the Universal Monster Cycle, appears as the scientist's hench-monster.
The Boys run an escort service, of the sort which actually provides young women with escorts. This attracts the attention of a group of beautiful women.... who actually intend to use the service as the cover for a bank robbery.
The Boys work at a gambling house to help solve the murder of a friend.
En route from a masquerade, the Boys come across a robbery.... This time, they actually get imprisoned, and must prove their innocence from the inside.
An operation gives Sach the ability to sing, crooner style.
If the East Side Kids could trap wartime spies, why not the Bowery Boys during the Cold War? This one features the boys in the army; the rest of the services would follow.
Why does the Bowery have so many haunted houses inhabited by mad scientists?
Let's Go Navy!
The Bowery Boys are in the navy where they foil a criminal plot.
Crazy Over Horses
Apparently, the navy didn't want to keep the Boys, so they're once again in the familiar world of horse racing.
Hold That Line
The Boys end up in a high-society college, thanks to some wealthy benefactors who believe that a change in environment will bring out the class in these louts. Naturally, they encounter a plot by gangsters.
Here Come the Marines
The Boys are in the marines, where they stumble onto a murder connected with a criminal operation.
The Bowery Boys, hillbillies, gangsters.
No Holds Barred
Sach acquires super strength.
The Boys discover a fuel which makes cars go faster, and instead of getting filthy rich by selling it, they enter a car race. In a suprise development, some crooks enter the picture.
Loose in London
The Boys hadn't done a haunted house flick since 1951, but this one takes them off the New York set and to one representing London, England.
Sach and Slip join the air force this time, in a plot which involves both spies and a wrongfully- accused friend.
It's the "Sach develops a super-power" plot again. This time Sach can read minds, and the Boys use his ability to become private dicks.
The Bowery Boys Meet the Monsters
They hadn't done a "someone is the exact duplicate of someone famous" plot yet, so here, Sach resembles a French scientist sought after by spies. Guess who the spies kidnap.
This year's haunted house entry features a mad scientist, a gorilla, a robot
, a vampire
, a brain-switching experiment, and the "walk this way" gag.
Sach's latest super-power is the ability to locate diamonds. This takes the boys to Hollywood's version of Africa, where they encounter a gorgeous jungle girl and a hostile head-shrinking witch doctor.
Bowery to Bagdad
The Boys find a mysterious missing lamp which, of course, contains a genie (Eric Blore). Stuff happens.
Sach is heir to a fortune. Actually, it's all part of an elaborate plot by greedy relatives, which the boys expose.
Another film with this title was nominated for an Oscar for best original screenplay that year. Allegedly, the Bowery Boys b movie accidentally received the official nomination instead, but the writers were pressured to remove it from the ballot.
Spies, a beautiful princess, and a dethroned king appear in this film.
The Boys go undercover in a prison to expose corruption.
Dig that Uranium
The Boys are out west again, after buying a mine. Bernard Gorcey makes his final appearance as Louie in this film.
Crashing Las Vegas
This time Sach gets the ability to make gambling-related predictions. This would be Gorcey's last outing with the Boys and the series, in the first place not the pinnacle of American film, would decline rapidly.
The boys run into trouble (duh) after photographing a notorious gangster.
Hot Shots aka Bringing Up Joey
A young TV star steals Sach and Duke's car, in an acknowledgement of the medium that was making movie series like the Bowery Boys obsolete.
Hold That Hypnotist
Hypnosis regresses Sach to a past life
, where he sees a map leading to pirate
treasure. Why did it take so long to work pirates into this series?
A storm drives the boys into a haunted house. Like every other haunted house in New York, this one includes a gorilla.
Looking for Danger
Spies, stereotypical Arabs, and a general indication that the end is in sight.
Up in Smoke
After gaining temporary super-powers through various unlikely accidents, Sach finally does it the old-fashioned way; he sells his soul to Satan(Byron Foulger) in order to win at the races.
In the Money
Someone hires Sach to mind their poodle on an ocean voyage. The rest of the gang stow away. The gang prove crime-magnets one more time, as they encounter smugglers on board.
This would be the last of the series, itself the final incarnation of the Dead End Kids. Several members of the gang would continue to find work, taking mostly minor roles in film and television.
The last surviving member, Bernard Punsley (a Kid, but never a Bowery Boy) died on January 20, 2004.
Sources for nodes on Dead End, the Dead End Kids, the East Side Kids, and the Bowery Boys include a handful of the films in question and:
"Bernard Punsley, 80, Actor in Dead End Kids, dies." Associated Press, January 20, 2004.
The Internet Movie Database. www.imdb.com
Laurie's Dead End Kids and East Side Kids Home Page. http://www.geocities.com/Hollywood/Boulevard/7159/
TV Tome. www.tvtome.com