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.
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, later combining the Little Tough Guys cast members with the Dead End Kids (minus Gorcey) as the Dead End Kids and Little Tough Guys series.
The East Side Kids
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. The film served as a kind of "pilot" for a possible series of films, which were eventually made possible by this film's success.
Katzman hired former Dead End Kid Bobby Jordan to play the lead in the first film in the series proper, Boys of the City and he was soon joined in the series by Leo Gorcey. Gorcey's brother David was also 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 on 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 affected 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 which also featured a young Ava Gardner; 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
- Leo Gorcey as Ethelbert 'Muggs' (or 'Mugs') McGinnis (Maloney in early films) (1940-1945)
- Huntz Hall as Glimpy/Limpy (1941-1945)
- Bobby Jordan as Danny/Bobby Jordan (1940-1943, 1944)
- 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)
- 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)
- 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)
- 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.
|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)
|5. Flying Wild||1941||William West||Al Martin||Al Martin|
|6. Bowery Blitzkrieg||1941||Wallace Fox||Sam Robins||Brendan Wood
|7. Spooks Run Wild||1941||Phil Rosen||Carl Foreman
Charles R. Marion
Charles R. Marion
|8. Mr. Wise Guy||1942||William Nigh||Sam Robins
|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)
|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
|16. Million Dollar Kid||1944||Wallace Fox||Frank H. Young||Frank H. Young|
|17. Follow the Leader||1944||William Beaudine||William Beaudine
|18. Block Busters||1944||Wallace Fox||Houston Branch||Houston Branch|
|19. Bowery Champs||1944||William Beaudine||Morey Amsterdam
|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|
- Leo Gorcey at the Internet Movie Database
- Huntz Hall at the Internet Movie Database
- Gabriel Dell at the Internet Movie Database
- Bobby Jordan at the Internet Movie Database
- Benny Bartlett at the Internet Movie Database
- David Gorcey at the Internet Movie Database
- Mende Koenig at the Internet Movie Database
- Sammy Morrison at the Internet Movie Database
- Jimmy Strand at the Internet Movie Database
- Eugene Francis at the Internet Movie Database
- Stanley Clements at the Internet Movie Database
- Billy Benedict at the Internet Movie Database
- Hally Chester at the Internet Movie Database
- Harris Berger at the Internet Movie Database
- Johnny Duncan at the Internet Movie Database
- Frankie Burke at the Internet Movie Database
- David Durand at the Internet Movie Database
- Donald Haines at the Internet Movie Database
- Buddy Gorman at the Internet Movie Database
- Bobby Stone at the Internet Movie Database
Little Tough Guys
|East Side Kids
The Bowery Boys