Angels with Dirty Faces: Warner Archive Collection

Hell’s Kitchen in Manhattan was, at one time, a place of filth and absolute poverty.  Back then, it was known as one of the roughest neighborhoods in Manhattan; a better place to be from than to be in.  Bordered by the Hudson River on the west, Eighth Avenue on the east, 59th Street on the north, and 41st Street on the south side, it is a place that gave rise to many young toughs . . . which means it is the stuff of legend.  That’s why it is fertile ground for myth-making and in director Michael CurtizAngels with Dirty Faces, we have a timeless tale of gangsters and priests with Hell's Kitchen as its backdrop. 

"is classic Hollywood.  It is a fine, fine film with many wonderful performances"

Angels with Dirty Faces is classic Hollywood.  It is a fine, fine film with many wonderful performances as friends find themselves on opposite sides of law and order.

As the film opens, we see Rocky Sullivan (James Cagney) and Jerry Connolly (Pat O'Brien) growing up together and then, on one fateful day, they both get nabbed for trying to steal a train full of fountain pens.  Well, Rocky gets sent up, but Jerry manages to escape the police and, after visiting him in Juvenile reform, goes straight as a Catholic priest with a bunch of kids who absolutely worship his old partner.

And, once Rocky gets out, he goes straight to what’s owed to him: $100,000.  But the mob’s lawyer, Jim Frazier (Humphrey Bogart), isn’t about to give him anything more than $500, making empty promises about the rest of the balance owed to Rocky for taking the fall.  They have other plans for Rocky, but so too does Father Connolly who worries that his friend’s charm and negative influence might be too much for the kids in the convent.  Soapy, Swing, Bim, Pasty, Crab, and Hunky all fall for Rocky’s charisma, but no one else is.Angels with Dirty Faces: Warner Archive Collection

With solid direction from Curtiz (Casablanca) and an on-point performance from Cagney, Angels with Dirty Faces is an unforgettable REEL CLASSIC as both the mob and organized religion play a deadly game with the dynamite that is the highly combustible charm of Rocky Sullivan.  Cagney is completely on fire throughout the rise and fall of his character.  Watching him “coach” the boys is pure poetry as he teaches them the real rules of basketball and encourages the youth to play against another team and, flexing his charm with the ladies, he woos Ann Sheridan as his childhood crush Laury Martin.

The gangster picture was made for Warner Bros and every ounce of this motion picture is absolute perfection.  It is unforgettable as a film, both in execution and in its overall cinematic style and, yes, this performance is the best of Cagney’s meteoric rise in Hollywood, balanced well with a fine performance from Bogart who had yet to be the star he was destined to be.  And what is there to say about the chemistry between Cagney and O’Brien, who made NINE films together and were lifelong friends in real life?  It’s magic, man.    

Whaddya hear, whaddya say? Angels with Dirty Faces is now on blu-ray thanks to the Warner Archive Collection, who present the film with a brand-new 2K transfer.

5/5 stars


Angels with Dirty Faces: Warner Archive Collection

Blu-ray Details

Home Video Distributor: Warner Archive Collection
Available on Blu-ray
- December 7, 2021
Screen Formats: 1.37:1
: English SDH
English: DTS-HD Master Audio; 2.0 Mono
Discs: Blu-ray Disc; single disc
Region Encoding: Locked to Region A

It’s back and looking better than ever! The acclaimed Warner Bros. gangster classic which paired off-screen pals James Cagney and Pat O’Brien for the sixth time in this timeless and unforgettable film. Cagney’s Rocky Sullivan is a charismatic ghetto tough whose underworld rise makes him a hero to a gang of slum punks. O’Brien is Father Connolly, the boyhood chum-turned-priest who vows to end Rocky’s influence. Other top talents join them including Humphrey Bogart as a scheming lawyer, Ann Sheridan (in her first major leading-lady role) as Rocky’s hard-edged girlfriend and the Dead End Kids as worshipful street urchins, all ably directed by the great Michael Curtiz (Casablanca). The 1938 New York Film Critics Best Actor Award came Cagney’s way, as well as one of the film’s three Oscar® nominations. Watch the film’s shocking finale and you’ll know why!


With a crisp black-and-white transfer, Angels with Dirty Faces lands on blu-ray thanks to the crackling efforts from the Warner Archive Collection.  Shadows, while not too terribly detailed, are thick and atmospheric throughout. Presented with an aspect ratio of 1.37:1, the film looks marvelous and easily beats the poor appearance on television and on home video DVD that has previously dogged it thanks to its 1080p handling and its black-and-white cinematography absolutely sizzles. The blacks and grays are handled expertly by the transfer.  Beads of sweat are visible, wet city streets, textures in clothing, and even the dirt in the pavement is all visible with fine textures throughout.


Bang! Bang! Bang!  Shots are fired on the DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 track which accompanies this film noir flick.



  • Film Historian Dana Polan provides an exhaustive feature length commentary for the film that will please fans, young and old.

Special Features:

Warner Archive continues to provide audiences with the good stuff, making this release complete with their Warner Night at the Movies 1938 which features an introduction by Leonard Maltin, a theatrical trailer for Boy Meets Girl, a newsreel, a musical number, and a Looney Tunes cartoon.

  • Warner Night at the Movies 1938
  • Angels With Dirty Faces: Whaddya Hear? Whaddya Say?
  • Lux Radio Theater Broadcast 5/22/1939
  • Theatrical Trailer

Blu-ray Rating

  Movie 5/5 stars
  Video  5/5 stars
  Audio 4/5 stars
  Extras 4/5 stars

Composite Blu-ray Grade

4.5/5 stars

Film Details

Angels with Dirty Faces: Warner Archive Collection

MPAA Rating: Passed.
97 mins
: Michael Curtiz
John Wexley; Warren Duff
James Cagney; Pat O'Brien; Humphrey Bogart
: Drama | Crime | Noir
The saga of America's dirty faced kids... And the breaks that life won't give them!
Memorable Movie Quote: "All right, fellas... let's go and say a prayer for a boy who couldn't run as fast as I could."
Theatrical Distributor:
Warner Bros.
Official Site:
Release Date:
November 26, 1938
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
December 7, 2021.
Synopsis: James Cagney and Humphrey Bogart star in this gritty but heartwarming story of a gangster who turns his life around after meeting some special kids. Year: 1938


Angels with Dirty Faces: Warner Archive Collection