After their success in the Broadway play of the same name, The Dead End Kids sprang upon an unsuspecting movie-going public in Samuel Goldwyn's 1937 film Dead End, a crime drama featuring Humphrey Bogart.
The success of this film led Warner Brothers to sign the Kids and feature them in six films which starred such screen luminaries as Ronald Reagan, Pat O'Brien, James Cagney, Humphrey Bogart, John Garfield and Claude Raines.
The films were the typical Warner fare of serious social/crime dramas with the Kids heavily involved in the plot and also lending some comedy relief. The quality of the films declined until Warner's threw in the towel and the Kids were reborn as the East Side Kids at the king of the poverty row studios, Monogram.
Leo Gorcey, Huntz Hall, Bobby Jordan, Gabriel Dell, Billy Halop and Bernard Punsley played the Kids. Despite the fact that they played the same basic roles in every picture, their characters were given different names in many of the films, although Billy Halop was always the leader and featured "Kid" in these movies.
Generally, these films are the best made of any of the four series. Dead End and Angels With Dirty Faces are considered classics of the genre. They Made Me A Criminal is notable for its strong performance by future superstar, John Garfield. (Garfield would team up with Halop & Jordan in Warner's 1939 Dust Be My Destiny and with Leo & Bernard Gorcey in Warner's 1941 Out Of The Fog) The last two Warner's films are pretty bad though.
This series of films by Monogram featured the boys first in crime melodramas with comedic overtones then in comedies with some serious (usually criminal) overtones.
The plots almost always cast the Boys as lower class street urchins in conflict with the criminal element that surrounded them. Occasionally the criminal element was replaced by Nazi or Japanese fifth columnists.
Billy Halop was gone by this time and Leo Gorcey and Bobby Jordan took over as leaders and featured "Kids".
As the series progressed, the comedy duo of Leo Gorcey and Huntz Hall became the focus of the films.
Making steady appearances as East Side Kids were:
Dave O'Brien (featured in dozens of "B" movies & shorts and star of Reefer Madness) appears in several films.
Other actors cast as East Side Kids include Bennie Bartlett, Harris Berger, Frankie Burke, Hally Chester, Stanley Clements, Johnny Duncan, Dave Durand, Eugen Francis, Buddy Gorman, Mende Koenig and Jimmy Strand
The production values of many of these films are low, even by Monogram standards, although they seemed to get better as the series progressed. A couple of the early films are so bad as to be virtually unwatchable, even by die-hard fans.
Leo Gorcey began to drink heavily after the death of his father, Bernard Gorcey, in late 1955. In fact, he appears to be intoxicated in his final film, Crashing Las Vegas. The producers of the series replaced Gorcey with former East Side Kid Stanley Clements for the last seven films. The chemistry that worked so well between Gorcey and Hall never materialized with Clements and this, along with the fact that the "Boys" were now well into their 30's and the lack of demand for programmer type films such as these due to TV, proved to be the death knell of the series.
Making steady appearances in this series were:
The production values of these films are far higher than any of the Little Tough Guys and East Side Kids. Most fans agree that the Bowery Boys series is the best of these three.
Surprisingly, it's David Gorcey, not his brother Leo, who comes in second in series' appearances.
Bernard Punsley went on to become a doctor after leaving the series.
Louie's Sweet Shop was located at 3rd Street & Bowery.
Rosemary LaPlanche (Angels' Alley) was crowned Miss America in 1941.
Fans of the 1950s "The Adventures of Superman" should be on the lookout for John "Perry White" Hamilton, Phyllis "Lois Lane" Coates, Robert "Inspector Henderson" Shayne and Ben Weldon (various gangsters) in the Bowery Boys series.
Billy Halop had a recuring role as Bert Munson the cab driver on the TV series All In The Family. He also had bit parts in many other series throughout the 50's, 60's and 70's, including a few bits on Perry Mason.
William 'Billy' Benedict also appeared in several episodes of All In The Family as the Bunker's neighbor Jimmy McNabb
Huntz Hall made numerous TV appearances from the 1960s through the 1990s.
Gabe Dell also made many TV appearances from the 1950s through the 1980s.
Huntz Hall appears on the cover of the Sgt. Pepper album by the Beatles. Leo Gorcey was to appear but he demanded $500 and consequently was dropped.
Sunshine Sammy Morrison was one of the original "Our Gang" child actors.
East Side Kid Hally Chester went on to become a movie producer.
Bela Lugosi, his career already on the skids, appeared in two East Side Kids features, Spooks Run Wild and Ghosts On The Loose.
Charlita (Let's Go Navy) appeared with Bela Lugosi in "Bela Lugosi Meets a Brooklyn Gorilla"
3 Stooges fans should be on the lookout for Shemp Howard in three of the Little Tough Guys films, Give Us Wings, Hit The Road and Keep 'Em Slugging.
Amanda Blake (High Society) went on to portray saloon owner Miss Kitty in the long-running Gunsmoke series.
Stanley Clements was married to actress Gloria Grahame from 1945 to 1948.
All together, there were 85 films and 3 serials. 7 were Dead End Kids, 12 Little Tough Guys (including the 3 serials), 21 East Side Kids and 48 Bowery Boys. It would take about five days of continuous viewing to see every film and serial!
1941 saw the most films released: seven. Three were Little Tough Guys and four were East Side Kids. 1942 and 1943 came in second with six. 1939, 1940 and 1946 each had five.
Counting the 3 serials, there were 9 films made in the 30's, 47 made in the 40's, 32 in the 50's.
Auteur film producer/director/actor, Ray Dennis Steckler, filmed a parody of the Boys, The Lemon Grove Kids.
Four different studios produced films in the series: United Artists, Warner Brothers, Universal and Monogram (AKA Allied Artists).