Producer Samuel Goldwyn has made a near-literal film translation of Sidney Kingsley’s play Dead End, the New York stage success. The Kingsley theme is that tenements breed gangsters, and no one does anything about it. The play whammed the idea across the footlights; the picture says and does everything the play said and did, and stops right there.
All the action is limited merely to a larger background setting of the river front in the East 50s (NY) than the Belasco theatre stage could contain. Only material plot change is to heroize the character of Dave, the student architect (Joel McCrea).
Performances are uniformly fine, topped by the acting of the boy players from the New York production who seem better in the film because they do not crowd their lines so fast.
Sylvia Sidney is excellent. Her sister-and-brother scenes with the wild Tommy (Billy Halop) are tender, moving and tragic. McCrea does a fine bit in a scene with Wendy Barrie, the keptive in the fashionable apartment, when he turns down her proposition. The Barrie role is indefinite in outline, due to censoring.
Humphrey Bogart looks the part of Baby Face Martin and plays with complete understanding of the character. Claire Trevor is Francey, the street walker. In this instance also censorship has stripped the role of the shocking features which made it stand out in the play.
1937: Nominations: Best Picture, Supp. Actress (Claire Trevor), Cinematography, Art Direction