East Side Kids

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The East Side Kids were characters in a series of films released by Monogram Pictures from 1940 through 1945. Many of them were originally part of The Dead End Kids and The Little Tough Guys, and several of them later became members of The Bowery Boys.

History[edit]

Main article: Dead End Kids

When Samuel Goldwyn turned the play "Dead End" into a 1937 film, he recruited the original tough-talking kids from the play (Leo Gorcey, Huntz Hall, Bobby Jordan, Gabriel Dell, Billy Halop, and Bernard Punsly) to repeat their roles in the film. This led to the making of six other films starring The Dead End Kids. The most successful of these features were Angels with Dirty Faces (1938) with James Cagney and Humphrey Bogart, and They Made Me a Criminal (1939), starring John Garfield. Universal offered a competing series, under the Little Tough Guys brand name, featuring most of the same kids.

The East Side Kids[edit]

In 1940 producer Sam Katzman, noting the financial success of other tough-kid series, made the film East Side Kids using two of the 'Little Tough Guys', Hally Chester and Harris Berger. He added former Our Gang player Donald Haines, Frankie Burke, radio actor Sam Edwards, and Eddie Brian to round out the new team. Despite its misleading title, East Side Kids does not contain the actors generally associated with the East Side Kids (Gorcey, Hall, Jordan, et al.). However, it is often lumped in with the subsequent series of 21 films, making the total appear to be 22. The first true film in 'The East Side Kids' series is Boys of the City.

Katzman hired Bobby Jordan to play leads in his series; he was soon joined by Leo Gorcey. Gorcey's brother David was added, as well as (Ernie) 'Sunshine' Sammy Morrison as "Scruno," the only African-American in the group and a former child actor from the very first cast of the Our Gang comedy team.

In the first few films, Dave O'Brien (familiar from low-budget westerns and serials, and as the accident-prone star of the Pete Smith comedies) played Jordan's older brother Knuckles Dolan, who always seemed to be getting roped into chaperoning the kids from adventure to adventure. O'Brien appeared in different roles as well—continuity between films was often ignored. As with the Little Tough Guys, the membership of the team changed from film to film, until Huntz Hall joined in 1941, when the lineup was somewhat stabilized. In total, 20 actors were members of the team at one time or another.

Always the outsider, Gabriel Dell drifted in and out of the series as a gang-member, a reporter, or a small-time hoodlum (as in Million Dollar Kid). In Smart Alecks he's an ex-member who left the gang to pursue a life of crime. Stanley Clements also appeared in Smart Alecks as well as 'Neath Brooklyn Bridge and Ghosts on the Loose. After Gorcey left the subsequent "Bowery Boys" series in 1956, Clements was chosen to replace him in the last seven films.

Monogram (which later became Allied Artists) was notorious for its "Poverty Row" productions, and the East Side films were no exception. With a minuscule budget of around $33,000 per feature and a tight shooting schedule of only 5–7 days, the series churned out three or four movies a year (an astonishing 21 films in less than six years). There was no time or money for subtlety, story development, or more than one or two takes per scene.

The stories always centered around the tough, pugnacious "Muggs McGinnis" (Gorcey) or the more innocent, clean-cut "Danny" (Bobby Jordan). Huntz Hall's "Glimpy" began as a minor character who grew in prominence as he was allowed to do more comedy bits over the course of the series. The loose format proved flexible enough to shift back and forth between urban drama (That Gang of Mine), murder mystery (Boys of the City), boxing melodrama (Bowery Blitzkrieg), and horror-comedy (Spooks Run Wild), with the kids confronting various stock villains: gangsters, smugglers, spies, and crooked gamblers, along the way. The East Side films were problem-teen melodramas until 1943, when director William Beaudine joined the series and emphasized the comedy content. He encouraged the actors to improvise freely, adding to the films' spontaneous charm.

The contemporaneous events of World War II had an impact on the series as well as the cast. In 1943 Béla Lugosi (who was in Spooks Run Wild) returned as a Nazi saboteur in the incongruously-titled Ghosts on the Loose; a German-Japanese spy ring was thwarted in the blatantly patriotic Let's Get Tough! from 1942 (with Gabriel Dell, of all people, as a Nazi spy). At the end of Kid Dynamite Muggs, Danny, and Glimpy enlist and show off their uniforms. In Follow The Leader (1944), Muggs and Glimpy appear in uniform as they are on leave from the Army. Offscreen, between 1942 and 1944, cast members Billy Benedict, Morrison, Jordan, Dell, and David Gorcey left the series after being drafted. A few days after receiving his induction notice, Leo Gorcey suffered a near-fatal motorcycle accident and spent almost a year in recovery. His injuries led to a 4-F classification, rendering him unfit for military service.

During Bobby Jordan's absence, his role in the series was taken by former child actor David Durand. Durand had been the star of Columbia's series of "Glove Slingers" campus comedies, and lent the same earnest sincerity to his East Side Kids appearances. (Jordan returned in 1944, in uniform, for a guest appearance in Bowery Champs.)

Starting with Clancy Street Boys in 1943, Bernard Gorcey (Leo's father) did various bit parts, playing different characters in a total of seven films. In Million Dollar Kid he and Leo exchanged banter borrowed from an Abbott and Costello routine. He later became a fixture with The Bowery Boys.

Given the low budgets, simplistic stories, and crude, assembly-line production of the East Side Kids series, its enduring popularity relies on the cast's rambunctious energy, breezy banter (often ad-libbed and containing inside jokes), fast-paced action, and Leo Gorcey's trademark malapropisms ("This calls for drastic measurements").

The East Side Kids series was supplanted by The Bowery Boys in 1946.

List of East Side Kids[edit]

  • Harris Berger as Danny Dolan (1940)
  • Hally Chester as Fred 'Dutch' Kuhn (1940)
  • Frankie Burke as Skinny (1940)
  • Donald Haines as Peewee/Skinny (1940-1941)
  • Eddie Brian as Mike (1940)
  • Sam Edwards as Pete (1940)
  • Jack Edwards as Algernon 'Mouse' Wilkes (1940)
  • Bobby Jordan as Danny/Bobby Jordan (1940-1943, 1944)
  • Leo Gorcey as Ethelbert 'Muggs' (or 'Mugs') McGinnis (Maloney in early films) (1940-1945)
  • Sunshine Sammy Morison as Scruno (1940-1943, 1944)
  • David Gorcey as Pete/Peewee (1940-1942)
  • Eugene Francis as Algernon 'Algy' Wilkes (1940-1941)
  • Bobby Stone as Willie/Louie/Monk Martin/Chalky Jones/Skinny/Stoney/Rocky/Dave/Speed (1940-1944)
  • Huntz Hall as Glimpy/Limpy (1941-1945)
  • Bill Lawrence as Skinny (1942)
  • Gabriel Dell as Charlie Manning/Hank Salka/Skid/Harry Wycoff/Dips Nolan/Lefty/Fingers Belmont/Pinky/Skinny/Jim Lindsay/Talman/Pete (1942-1945)
  • Stanley Clements as Stash (1942-1943)
  • Bennie Bartlett as Beanie/Benny (1943)
  • Dave Durand as Skinny/Danny/Dave (1943-1944)
  • Dick Chandlee as Stash/Skinny (1943)
  • Eddie Mills as Dave/Eddie (1943)
  • Bill Bates as Sleepy/Dave (1943)
  • Buddy Gorman as Skinny/Stinkie/Slug/Shorty/Danny/Sammy (1943-1945)
  • Jimmy Strand as Rocky/Pinkie/Lou/Dave/Danny (1943-1945)
  • Johnny Duncan as Roy Cortland/Squeegie Robinson/Gilbert Mitchell (1944-1945)
  • Al Stone as Herbie (1944)
  • Bill Chaney as Tobey (1944)
  • Mende Koenig as Sam/Danny (1945)
  • Leo Borden as Aristotles/Pete (1945)

Trivia[edit]

  • Gorcey married two of his East Side Kids co-stars: Kay Marvis (1939) and Amelita Ward (1949).
  • Actor/comedian Morey Amsterdam, best known as "Buddy Sorrell" on The Dick Van Dyke Show, contributed to the scripts for Kid Dynamite and Bowery Champs.

Filmography[edit]

Title Year Director Screenplay Story
1. East Side Kids 1940 Robert F. Hill William Lively William Lively
2. Boys of the City 1940 Joseph H. Lewis William Lively William Lively
3. That Gang of Mine 1940 Joseph H. Lewis William Lively Alan Whitman
4. Pride of the Bowery 1940 Joseph H. Lewis George H. Plympton
William Lively (adaptation)
Steven Clensos
5. Flying Wild 1941 William West Al Martin Al Martin
6. Bowery Blitzkrieg 1941 Wallace Fox Sam Robins Brendan Wood
Donn Mullahy
7. Spooks Run Wild 1941 Phil Rosen Carl Foreman
Charles R. Marion
Carl Foreman
Charles R. Marion
8. Mr. Wise Guy 1942 William Nigh Sam Robins
Harvey Gates
Jack Henley
Martin Mooney
9. Let's Get Tough! 1942 Wallace Fox Harvey Gates Harvey Gates
10. Smart Alecks 1942 Wallace Fox Harvey Gates Harvey Gates
11. 'Neath Brooklyn Bridge 1942 Wallace Fox Harvey Gates Harvey Gates
12. Kid Dynamite 1943 Wallace Fox Gerald Schnitzer
Morey Amsterdam (dialogue)
Paul Ernst
13. Clancy Street Boys 1943 William Beaudine Harvey Gates Harvey Gates
14. Ghosts on the Loose 1943 William Beaudine Kenneth Higgins Kenneth Higgins
15. Mr. Muggs Steps Out 1943 William Beaudine William Beaudine
Beryl Sachs
William Beaudine
Beryl Sachs
16. Million Dollar Kid 1944 Wallace Fox Frank H. Young Frank H. Young
17. Follow the Leader 1944 William Beaudine William Beaudine
Beryl Sachs
Ande Lamb
18. Block Busters 1944 Wallace Fox Houston Branch Houston Branch
19. Bowery Champs 1944 William Beaudine Morey Amsterdam
Earle Snell
Earle Snell
20. Docks of New York 1945 Wallace Fox Harvey Gates Harvey Gates
21. Mr. Muggs Rides Again 1945 Wallace Fox Harvey Gates Harvey Gates
22. Come Out Fighting 1945 William Beaudine Earle Snell Earle Snell

See also[edit]

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Little Tough Guys
1938-1943
'East Side Kids' series
1940-1945
Succeeded by
The Bowery Boys
1946-1958