Images of America

A Social and Historical Look
at America Through the Movies

Study Guide - Angels with Dirty Faces (1938)

Director : Michael Curtiz

Stars :
James Cagney .... William 'Rocky' Sullivan
Pat O'Brien .... Fr. Jerome 'Jerry' Connelly
Humphrey Bogart .... James 'Jim' Frazier
Ann Sheridan .... Laury Ferguson
George Bancroft .... Mac Keefer
Billy Halop .... Soapy
Bobby Jordan .... Swing
Leo Gorcey .... Bim
Gabriel Dell .... Pasty
Huntz Hall .... Crab

Preparation :
Read the movie reviews at

Historical/Social Significance :
Prime example of how the Production Code influenced the gangster movie.

A gangster movie with a social message."

Synopsis :
Childhood chums Rocky Sullivan (James Cagney) and Jerry Connelly (Pat O'Brien) grew up on the wrong side of the tracks. By a quirk of fate Rocky becomes a gangster, while Jerry becomes a priest in the old neighborhood.

    Guided Questions for Viewing :
    Assessment questions will be based on the following :
  • In the beginning of the movie, Rocky is caught at the railroad yard while Jerry gets away. Why do you think this is an important for the movie to show?
  • Father Jerry thinks that Rocky is a negative role model for "his" kids. Give examples of how this is shown in the film.
  • "Angels with Dirty Faces benefits from the Production code because it forces the gangster film to acknowledge its nihilism". (nihilism - Rejection of all distinctions in moral or religious value ) Comment of this statement with reference to the movie.
  • How would Unforgiven have ended if it like Angels with Dirty Faces had been made under the Production Code?
  • Do you think Rocky really turned "chicken" in the end?

Dirks, Tom. "Angels with Dirty Faces (1938).

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