AFI Catalog of Feature Films
Movie Detail
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They Made Me a Criminal
Director: Busby Berkeley (Dir)
Release Date:   28 Jan 1939
Premiere Information:   New York opening: week of 21 Jan 1939
Production Date:   mid-Aug--mid-Oct 1938; addl scenes early Nov 1938
Duration (in mins):   92
Duration (in reels):   11
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Cast:   John Garfield (Johnnie [Bradfield])  
    Claude Rains (Detective Phelan)  
    Gloria Dickson (Peggy)  
    May Robson (Grandma)  
    Billy Halop (Tommy)  
    Bobby Jordan (Angel)  
    Leo Gorcey (Spit)  
    Huntz Hall (Dippy)  
    Gabriel Dell (T. B.)  
    Ann Sheridan (Goldie)  
    Robert Gleckler (Doc Ward)  
    John Ridgely ([Charles] Magee)  
    Barbara Pepper (Budgie)  
    William Davidson (Ennis)  
    Ward Bond (Lenihan)  
    Robert Strange (Malvin)  
    Louis Jean Heydt (Smith)  
    Frank Riggi (Rutchek)  
    Cliff Clark (Manager [Doc Wood])  
    Dick Wessel (Collucci)  
    Raymond Brown (Sheriff)  
    Sam Hayes (Fight announcer)  
    Bernard Punsley (Milt)  
    Ronald Sinclair (J. Douglas Williamson)  
    Irving Bacon (Speed)  
    Sam McDaniel (Splash)  
    Bert Roach (Hendricks)  
    Charles Randolph (Referee)  
    Larry McGrath (Referee)  
    Mushy Callahan (Schwimmer)  
    Janet Shaw (Girl)  
    Sally Sage (Girl)  
    John Harron (Announcer)  
    Georgie Cooper (Elderly lady)  
    Joe Cunningham (Columnist)  
    Richard Bond (Reporter)  
    Nat Carr (Reporter)  
    Reid Kilpatrick (Sports commentator)  
    Jack Austin (First cop)  
    Frank Meredith (Second cop)  
    Ed Brian (Newsboy)  
    Hal Craig (Third detective)  
    Eddy Chandler (Second detective)  
    Elliott Sullivan (Hoodlum)  
    Jack Wise (Ticketman)  
    Clem Bevans (Ticket taker)  
    Nat Carr (Haskell)  
    Bob Perry (Cawley)  
    Tom Wilson (Kid Tacoma)  
    Stuart Holmes (Timekeeper)  
    Charles Sullivan (Trainer)  
    John Dilson (Doctor)  
    Dave Roberts (Police announcer)  
    Doris Lloyd (Mrs. Williamson)  
    Leyland Hodgson (Mr. Williamson)  
    Dorothy Varden    
    Donald Kerr    
    Jack Mower    
    Cliff Saum    
    Al Lloyd    
    Frank Mayo    
    Tom Dugan    
    Arthur Housman    
    John Sheehan    

Summary: Johnnie Bradfield, a deadly and cynical prize fighter, has just slugged his way to the championship when, during a drunken brawl in his apartment, his manager, Doc Wood, accidentally kills Magee, a newspaper reporter, and fixes the evidence so it appears that Johnnie has done the deed. Doc then makes his getaway, but perishes in a car accident while wearing Johnnie's watch. The next morning, Johnnie awakens in a strange place and reads a newspaper article informing him that he has perished in a car wreck after murdering a reporter. On the advice of a shady lawyer, the champ flees, changes his identity and becomes an outcast. He lands in Arizona, where he casts his lot with Grandma, who runs a date ranch with the help of Peggy and the Dead End Kids. The Kids have been sent from New York by a kindly priest who wants to rehabilitate the boys. At the ranch, the regeneration of the boxer begins as Peggy helps him to fight his inborn tendency to believe that everyone is a sucker and the world has it in for him. Johnnie's salvation comes when he enters a local fight ring to win some money so that he can help his friends open up a filling station. Meanwhile, New York detective Phelan cleverly picks up Johnnie's trail and tracks him to ringside where he is fighting a heavyweight. As Johnnie slugs his heart out for his friends, the detective begins to reflect and, realizing that the fighter has been punished enough, returns to New York without his prisoner. 

Production Company: Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.  
Production Text: Jack L. Warner in charge of prod
Distribution Company: Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.  
Director: Busby Berkeley (Dir)
  Russ Saunders (Asst dir)
Producer: Hal B. Wallis (Exec prod)
  Benjamin Glazer (Assoc prod)
Writer: Sig Herzig (Scr)
Photography: James Wong Howe (Photog)
Art Direction: Anton Grot (Art dir)
Film Editor: Jack Killifer (Ed)
Costumes: Milo Anderson (Gowns)
Music: Leo F. Forbstein (Mus dir)
  Max Steiner (Mus score)
Sound: Oliver S. Garretson (Sd)
Country: United States

Source Text: Based on the play Sucker by Bertram Millhauser and Beulah Marie Dix (published 4 Apr 1933, New York).
Authors: Beulah Marie Dix
  Bertram Millhauser

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number
Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc. 4/1/1939 dd/mm/yyyy LP8592

PCA NO: 4701
Physical Properties: b&w:
  Sd: RCA Victor System

 
Genre: Drama
Sub-Genre: Boxing
 
Subjects (Major): Boxers
  Cynics
  Frame-ups
  Impersonation and imposture
  Mistaken identity
  Regeneration
 
Subjects (Minor): Accidental death
  Arizona
  Automobile accidents
  Boxing managers
  Drunkenness
  Juvenile delinquents
  Lawyers
  Police detectives
  Priests
  Ranches
  Reporters

Note: According to a news item in HR , Warner Bros. executives decided to add several scenes to boost the production values of this film after watching a rough cut. The picture marked John Garfield's first starring role in films. In 1933, First National produced The Life of Jimmy Dolan , the first screen version of the Bertram Millhauser-Beulah Marie Dix play (see above). Actors Billy Halop, Bobby Jordan, Leo Gorcey, Huntz Hall and Gabriel Dell were featured in Warner Bros.' "The Dead End Kids" films. Although their character names were different in those films, their characterizations in They Made Me a Criminal were similar. For additional films featuring these actors, see entry above for Crime School and consult the Series Index under "The Dead End Kids," "The East Side Kids" and "The Little Tough Guys." 

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
Daily Variety   31 Dec 38   p. 3.
Film Daily   18 Jan 39   p. 5.
Hollywood Reporter   20 Aug 38   pp. 8-9.
Hollywood Reporter   8 Oct 38   pp. 8-9.
Hollywood Reporter   2 Nov 38   p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter   31 Dec 38   p. 3.
Motion Picture Daily   5 Jan 39   p. 7.
Motion Picture Herald   7 Jan 39   p. 38, 40
New York Times   21 Jan 39   p. 19.
Variety   25 Jan 39   p. 11.

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.
 
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