Wild Boys of the Road
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|Wild Boys of the Road|
|Directed by||William Wellman|
|Produced by||Robert Presnell Sr.|
|Screenplay by||Earl Baldwin|
|Story by||Daniel Ahern|
|Music by||Bernhard Kaun (uncredited)|
|Cinematography||Arthur L. Todd|
|Edited by||Thomas Pratt|
|Distributed by||Warner Bros.|
Wild Boys of the Road is a 1933 pre-Code Depression-era American film telling the story of several teens forced into becoming hobos. The film was directed by William Wellman from a screenplay by Earl Baldwin based on the story Desperate Youth by Daniel Ahern. The film stars Frankie Darro. In 2013 the film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".
Tommy Gordon (Edwin Phillips) tells his friend Eddie Smith (Frankie Darro) that he is going to drop out of high school to look for work to help support his struggling family. Eddie offers to speak to his father (Grant Mitchell) about getting him a job, only to discover that his father has himself just lost his own. Eddie sells his beloved car and gives the money to his father, but when his father remains unemployed, the bills keep piling up, and the family is threatened with eviction. Eddie and Tommy decide to leave home to ease the burden on their families. They board a freight train, where they meet Sally (Dorothy Coonan), another teenager, who is hoping her aunt in Chicago can put her up for a while. More and more teens hop aboard the train.
When they reach Chicago, they are met by the police, who inform them and other hobos that the unemployment crisis has hit Chicago as well. Most of the transients are sent to detention, but Sally has a letter from her aunt, so they let her through. She claims her companions are her cousins; the kindly policeman is skeptical, but lets them go. Sally's Aunt Carrie (Minna Gombell) welcomes all three into her apartment. However, before they even have a chance to eat, the place is raided by the police. The trio hastily depart and continue heading east.
Nearing Cleveland, one girl, caught alone, is raped by the train brakeman (an uncredited Ward Bond). When the others find out, they start punching the assailant. By accident, the brakeman falls out of the train to his death. A little later, as the train approaches the city, everyone jumps off. Tommy hits his head on a switch and falls across the track in front of an oncoming train. He crawls desperately towards safety, but his foot gets mangled and his leg has to be amputated. They live in "Sewer Pipe City" for a while, until the city authorities decide to shut it down, in part due to Eddie's theft of a prosthetic leg for Tommy.
Finally, the three end up living in the New York Municipal Dump. Eddie finally lands a job, but needs to find $3 to pay for a coat he has to have. They panhandle to raise the money. When two men offer Eddie $5 to deliver a note to a movie theater cashier across the street, he jumps at the chance. The note turns out to be a demand for money. Eddie is arrested, and the other two are taken in as well when they protest. The judge (Robert Barrat) cannot get any information out of them, particularly about their parents. However, Eddie's embittered speech moves him. He promises to get Eddie's job back for him and dismisses the charges. He also assures them that their parents will be back to work soon.
- Frankie Darro as Eddie Smith
- Edwin Phillips as Tommy Gordon
- Rochelle Hudson as Grace
- Dorothy Coonan as Sally
- Sterling Holloway as Ollie, another hobo
- Arthur Hohl as Dr. Heckel, who amputates Tommy's leg
- Ann Hovey as Lola
- Minna Gombell as Aunt Carrie
- Grant Mitchell as Mr. Smith
- Claire McDowell as Mrs. Smith
- Robert Barrat as Judge White
- Miss Nobody (1926) - directed by Lambert Hillyer
- Beggars of Life (1928) - directed by William Wellman
- "Library of Congress announces 2013 National Film Registry selections" (Press release). Washington Post. December 18, 2013. Retrieved December 18, 2013.
- According to Ben Mankiewicz of Turner Classic Movies, director William Wellman spotted Coonan as she was roller skating, while she was on a break from work on another film. He soon cast her, and, not long afterward, married her. They remained married until his death in 1975.