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Wild Boys Of The Road 1933.avi
The underrated William Wellman made many neglected classics during the Depression, and this 1933 feature is one of the very best--a Warners social drama with Frankie Darro as a boy who leaves his parents to save them the burden of his support and joins up with a gang of similarly disenfranchised kids who wind up riding the rails.
In a mere seventy minutes, William Wellman brilliantly captures the maddening dilemma facing American families on the brink of economic collapse. Wild Boys of the Road takes place during the Great Depression, but its themes and motifs are just as pertinent during today’s economic crisis. In the opening moments, wise-cracking teens Eddie (Frankie Darro) and Tommy (Edwin Phillips) attempt to sneak into a dance, their problems amounting to impressing girls and cruising the downtown strip. But as each boy watches their parents lose jobs, wrestle with bills, and await impending eviction, they decide to leave home in search of a job, hoping to take the pressure off their families. Part social manifesto, part tragic coming of age story, the film follows the boys as they meet other children of their ilk in freight cars and shanty towns on the fringes of middle America. Amazingly, these resilient kids form a strong collective in the face of staggering economic and social odds, watching as the world dismisses them despite their growing numbers. Like Wellman’s later great films Battleground and Island in the Sky, Wild Boys of the Road shows a group of characters in extreme distress, creating a new family dynamic to fend off imminent death. But with Wild Boys the protagonists are children, making the story both heart-breaking and inevitably filled with hope.
Wild Boys of the Road (1933) - directed by William A. Wellman with a screenplay written by Earl Baldwin from Daniel Ahearn’s "Desperate Youth" story, this gritty drama which effectively captures some issues from the 1930’s Depression features Frankie Darro as Eddie Smith and Edwin Phillips as Tommy Gordon – two fun-loving yet earnest teens who leave their respective homes to keep from being a burden to their unemployed parents. Eddie’s dad is played by Grant Mitchell, and Rochelle Hudson appears briefly as his fiancée. On the road, they befriend others who have left their homes that are riding the rails – including Sally (played by the director’s step daughter Dorothy Coonan) and Ollie (Sterling Holloway) – in hopes of finding a place to live with a distant relative or a job in a big city. Out-of-work adults and railroad dicks, hired to keep them off the trains, aren’t too happy about this growing transient population. Tommy’s leg is injured and has to be amputated by a sympathetic doctor (Arthur Hohl), so the boys build a shanty town in uninstalled sewer pipes at the rail yard to settle down before police, tired of their panhandling and theft, drive them off. Eddie, Tommy and Sally make their way to New York where more trouble ensues before a judge-father (Robert Barrat) takes pity on them. Charley Grapewin and Ward Bond, who plays a brakeman that rapes Ann Hovey’s Lola, another runaway, are among many who appear uncredited.