The current ‘Great Recession’ has made this famous Great Depression era pic newly relevant. The story centers on a couple of small-town high school pals who run off to find work in the city and to keep from being a burden back at home. All the scenes set on the freight trains and around the rail-yards, where massed teen hobos idle about, remain heartbreaking & eye-popping (in the typical Warners muckraking house style), even when the acting looks more OUR GANG than DEAD END. (The best perf comes from second lead Edwin Philips who left acting to be an asst. director.) But good as it is, the film doesn’t live up to its best instincts, compromising its material with stock gags & characters, typical faults from helmer William Wellman. But the film hits so many hot-button issues, and the set pieces are so strongly brought off, that the slips don’t matter so much. The Pre-Code toughness helps, too. Watch for an unbilled Ward Bond as a railway rapist, and listen to the plummy accent used by the judge who ties thing up for a hopeful ending. Pure FDR vowels.
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