Crime School (1938): Lewis Seiler’s Crime Melodrama, Starring the Dead End Kids and Humphrey Bogart (Before he became star)

Lewis Seiler directed Crime School, starring the Dead End Kids and Humphrey Bogart.

A junkman does business with the Dead End Kids: Frankie, Squirt, Spike, Goofy, Fats, and Bugs.

When the boys ask for a $20 payoff, “Junkie” says, “Five is all you’ll get. Now take it and get out of here.” In rage, Spike strikes the man with hard object, and the junkman falls to the floor and doesn’t move.

When Judge Clinton cannot convince the boys to divulge which one struck the blow, they are all sent to reform school.

The harsh warden of the reformatory, Morgan, inflicts discipline at the school and flogs Frankie after he tries to escape. The superintendent of the state reformatories, Mark Braden, visits the school and finds evidence of Morgan’s subtle cruelty, as in feeding his new inmates poor-quality food. He then visits Frankie in the hospital ward, finding him untreated and the doctor inebriated. As a way of starting over, he fires the doctor, Morgan, and four ex-convict guards, while retaining the head guard, Cooper. Braden takes charge of the reformatory himself and wins over the boys’ cooperation by considerate treatment, while romancing Frankie’s sister, Sue Warren.

Meanwhile, Cooper is afraid that Braden will learn of Morgan’s embezzlement of the food budget, which would implicate him as well. He learns that Spike is the one who dealt the blow to the junkman and blackmails him. He gets him to tell Frankie that Braden’s generous treatment is due to his sister’s acceptance of Braden’s attentions. Although untrue, it causes the kids to escape from the school in Cooper’s car with his gun. They go to Sue’s apartment, and Frankie climbs the fire escape with the gun to confront Braden, but Sue and Braden dispel Frankie’s suspicions.

Meanwhile, Cooper “discovers” that the kids have escaped, and Morgan calls the press to discredit Braden and get him fired.

However, Braden drives the boys back to the reformatory and gets them into their beds, before the Commissioner, alerted by Morgan, arrives for inspection with the police.

When their plot foiled and fraud uncovered, Morgan and Cooper are arrested. The boys are subsequently paroled into the care of their parents.

Warner Bros advertised the kids as ‘The Crime School Kids” in this film, as well as their next, Angels with Dirty Faces. However, the name did not catch on and they remained ‘The Dead End Kids.”

Before the film was released, Halop, Dell, Hall, and Punsly were released from their contracts by Warner. They moved to Universal, for the film Little Tough Guy, and the success of this film caused Warner to rehired them at substantial raise.

The Dead End Kids received top billing over Bogart for Crime School–their typeface was larger than Bogart’s in posters and advertising.

Warner Archives released the film on DVD on August 4, 2009.

The Dead End Kids
Billy Halop as Frankie Warren
Bobby Jordan as Lester “Squirt” Smith
Huntz Hall as Richard “Goofy” Slade
Leo Gorcey as Charles “Spike” Hawkins
Bernard Punsly as George “Fats” Papadopolos
Gabriel Dell as Timothy “Bugs” Burke

Additional Cast
Humphrey Bogart as Deputy Commissioner Mark Braden
Gale Page as Sue Warren
George Offerman, Jr. as Red
Weldon Heyburn as Cooper
Cy Kendall as Morgan
Charles Trowbridge as Judge Clinton
Spencer Charters as Old Doctor
Donald Briggs as New Doctor
Frank Jaquet as Commissioner
Helen MacKellar as Mrs. Burke
Al Bridge as Mr. Burke
Sibyl Harris as Mrs. Hawkins
Paul Porcasi as Nick Papadopolos
Frank Otto as Junkie
Ed Gargan as Officer Hogan
James B. Carson as Schwartz
Hally Chester as Boy