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Boys of the City (1940) Online

Boys of the City (1940) Online
Original Title :
Boys of the City
Genre :
Movie / Comedy / Mystery / Thriller
Year :
Directror :
Joseph H. Lewis
Cast :
Bobby Jordan,Leo Gorcey,Hal E. Chester
Writer :
William Lively,William Lively
Type :
Time :
1h 8min
Rating :
Boys of the City (1940) Online

It's been two weeks of unrelenting New York City summer heat. Sooner or later the boys are apt to get into mischief, so Knuckles takes the load of 'em to Algy's father's camp in the mountains. The trip gets sidetracked when they cross paths with Judge Parker' party on the road. The Judge, hiding from the mob, is desperately heading to his mountain manor when he runs the boys' vehicle off the road, nearly disabling it right before his own car conks out. With only the boys' car barely able to travel, they all wind up at the judge's manor where ghostly sightings, spooky organ music, death threats and a creepy housekeeper await them. Judge Parker is the very judge who once nearly put Knuckles on death row for murder. When the judge turns up dead, Knuckles is in trouble again, with little brother Danny and the gang ready to help him out.
Cast overview, first billed only:
Bobby Jordan Bobby Jordan - Danny Dolan
Leo Gorcey Leo Gorcey - Muggs McGinnis
Hal E. Chester Hal E. Chester - Buster (as Hally Chester)
Frankie Burke Frankie Burke - Skinny
Vince Barnett Vince Barnett - Simp
Inna Gest Inna Gest - Louise Mason
Dave O'Brien Dave O'Brien - Knuckles Dolan (as David O'Brien)
Ernest Morrison Ernest Morrison - Scruno (as Sunshine Sammy)
Minerva Urecal Minerva Urecal - Agnes
Dennis Moore Dennis Moore - Giles
Donald Haines Donald Haines - Peewee
David Gorcey David Gorcey - Pete
Eugene Francis Eugene Francis - Algy Wilkes
Forrest Taylor Forrest Taylor - Judge Malcolm Parker
Stephen Chase Stephen Chase - Jim Harrison (as Alden Chase)

The failure of the original copyright holder to renew the film's copyright resulted in it falling into public domain, meaning that virtually anyone could duplicate and sell a VHS/DVD copy of the film. Therefore, many of the versions of this film available on the market are either severely (and usually badly) edited and/or of extremely poor quality, having been duped from second- or third-generation (or more) copies of the film.

User reviews



The beginning of this film is VERY similar to "Spooks Run Wild" (another Bowery Boys film); the boys keep getting into trouble in the city and are sent "into the country". They wind up in a "haunted house", containing secret panels, ghosts & a MURDERER!

This film is unique in that it was probably Minerva Urecal's biggest role.....she's wonderfully "creepy" in many of the scenes (and, in the very end of the film, she actually SMILES for the only time on camera!).

A seldom-seen film that is unknown, even by many Bowery Boys fans......see it if you have the chance!



Boys of the City has relatively good production values and the story and props are creepy enough to make it suspenseful and exciting.

Unlike Ghosts on the Loose, most of the "gang" gets talking time.

But let's cut to the chase. There are twists and turns and there is a mansion-wide hunt for Miss Louise and a mysterious stalker who roams the house.

Something I want to Know: when the "gang" and Knuckles and the Asst. D.A. split up to search the grounds, where is Buster and Skinny? They just disappear until the chase.

I enjoyed this tremendously and renew its acquaintance every once and then. It is not to the level of Spooks Run Wild, but it's a very close second.


The same year, 1940, that former silent Our Ganger Mary Kornman made her last film appearance in Monogram's On the Spot, her series co-star from the same period, in fact one of the original members of which he was the first picked, Ernie "Sunshine Sammy" Morrison, appeared in his first films since leaving Our Gang sixteen years previous of which this one marked his first appearance in an East Side Kids feature entry-from the same studio as the one I mentioned concerning Mary's final movie-as Scruno, the only black member of this particular gang. His character here displays some of the unfortunate stereotypes of his race such as his loving watermelon, wanting to go back to the plantation, mockingly getting called "boy" while being ordered by one of the gang, and getting scared quite a bit though that last characteristic does provide some funny lines and a funny scream from him. As for the rest of the picture, well, there's quite a few good scares and leading players Leo Gorcey and Bobby Jordan provides some laughs as well. So on that note, I say give Boys of the City a shot of you're curious about one of the original Our Gang members as he looked and acted as an adult.
grand star

grand star

The East Side Kids had a couple of films going by "Spooks Run Wild" and "Ghosts on the Loose", but this one seems even better suited to a ghost story than the other two. It's got some atmospheric creepy sets, a long dungeon like room, and someone even dons the white sheets unlike the aforementioned films. What hampers the story though is some really shoddy writing and a make it up as you go sensibility that just about kills any interest in the story once it's under way. For me, this was not one of the better East Side Kids efforts.

It starts out with a familiar premise; get the boys out of the city to keep them out of trouble, under the watchful eye of Danny's (Bobby Jordan) big brother Knuckles (Dave O'Brien). The core group this time out includes Muggs (Leo Gorcey) and Scruno (Sunshine Sammy Morrison), with a little help from Peewee (Donald Haines) and Skinny (Frankie Burke). Burke looks every bit the young Jimmy Cagney here, maybe even more so than he did as the young Rocky Sullivan in "Angels With Dirty Faces".

If you're not used to it, the racial connotations to Scruno's character get a workout in the film to the point of embarrassment. In the bouncy car ride to the country, he complains of getting bruised 'black and blue'; at Briarcliff Manor, he's the only one served a huge slice of watermelon and he fairly dives right into it. Scruno takes it all in stride as in all of his appearances, also making the most of the bug eyed stereotype whenever something remotely scary might happen.

The surprise of the film for me was Minerva Urecal, she's really got the sinister housekeeper act nailed in this outing. The next time you see Cloris Leachman in "Young Frankenstein", she's doing Minerva's Agatha character from this film, I would bet on it.

Once things get going, the film gets some mileage out of the old sliding bookcase trick and the occasional sound of sinister organ music. The murder mystery itself is handled a bit sloppy, especially when the unknown character under the Manor turns out to be from the District Attorney's office. The revelation that Judge Parker's bodyguard was a member of the Maury Gang who wanted him rubbed out seemed a bit curious after the fact. Didn't anyone have an idea what Maury's guys might have looked like?

Best line of the film this time around goes to Leo Gorcey - "Say, what's the Thin Man got that I ain't got?"


The cigar scene at the country estate is worth it all! Full of belly laughs! Ernie "Sunshine Sammy" Morrison is at his classic comedic best. Frankie Burke, the young Cagney look-alike from "Angels with dirty faces" has a role as one of the boys and does a fine job...you'll notice he can move like cagney, as well as look, act and sound like him when you see him jumping over that sofa in the guest room! Many sight-gags and tongue-in-cheek humor in this film. The shame is its lack-luster title and description. This is one you have to see. One warning, however...there are racial overtones. But you must remember, this *was* 1940 and Mr. Morrison handles them with his precise, exceptional talent. All in all, this is a must-see film for classic buffs. For anyone looking for clean fun!


Boys Of The City is the only film of the East Side Kids that had a continuity with the previous one in the series. It is the second film in the series and first one with former Dead End Kids Leo Gorcey and Bobby Jordan in the cast. When the Dead End Kids were turned loose from their Warner Brothers contract, Sam Katzman of Monogram started signing them and I'm sure on the cheap.

For whatever reason, I suspect box office, Katzman replaced a lot of the young actors in the first film when he found the better known Dead End kids at liberty. One character who was not replaced is Dave O'Brien who was cleared of the crime that put him on death row he repeats his character of Knuckles Dolan, brother of Bobby Jordan.

The kids are up to their usual mischief and O'Brien decides a little time in the country is what they need away from the big city streets. On the way up the car breaks down and O'Brien and the kids have to spend a night in an old house that looks just like something from some English murder mystery. It even has a Mrs. Danvers like housekeeper in Minerva Urecal.

It's owned as it happens by the judge who sent O'Brien to the death house in the first film. So when he winds up strangled O'Brien is accused of the crime. Of course the kids find out who did it.

I have to say the murderer was a surprise in this one. All the usual signs pointed to other characters, but for once Sam Katzman showed a bit of creativity here.

Boys Of The City is a good East Side Kids film and from Monogram, it's practically a classic.


En route to a boys camp for the summer, our favorite juvenile delinquents find themselves stranded overnight at a crooked judge's house. There they battle racketeers and the usual old dark house tropes. This is former Dead End Kid (and future leader of the gang) Leo Gorcey's first entry in the East Side Kids series (also the first for his brother David). As such it feels like much more of a proper start to the series than the first film did. Returning from the first one is Dave O'Brien as Knuckles, the reformed gangster acting as the boys' guardian. It's a forgettable movie in every way. At this point Gorcey hadn't yet developed his malapropism-spouting character and he doesn't have Huntz Hall, either, and he was always best with Huntz. Plus the Kids, regardless of which version, did this material better in several other pictures.
Silver Globol

Silver Globol

The fourteenth "Dead End"-related film introduces "The East Side Kids" as a series banner. Herein, Bobby Jordan replaces Harris Berger (as Danny Dolan), from the previous "East Side Kids" movie. Dave O'Brien (as "Knuckles" Dolan) continues as Mr. Jordan's reformed older brother. Fellow "Dead End" kid Leo Gorcey (as Muggs McGinnis) joins "Danny's Gang" (after three films, Mr. Gorcey will become the undisputed leader). The returning junior gangsters are: Hally Chester (as Buster), Frankie Burke (as Skinny), Donald Haines (as Peewee), and David Gorcey (as Pete).

This film most notably introduces former "Our Gang" member Ernest "Sunshine Sammy" Morrison (as Scruno), a new member of the Bowery "kids". Unfortunately, Mr. Morrison is included as insulting, race-based comic relief; and, the story doesn't take advantage of Joseph H. Lewis' relatively fine direction (or some good locations). Fortunately, Morrison would be allowed to bring some integrity to the "Scruno" character; in later films (like "Bowery Blitzkrieg") he plays a more dignified humorous role.

The story begins with Mr. O'Brien and well-to-do Eugene Francis (as Algy Wilkes) expressing concern about "Danny's Gang", and their propensity for trouble. Their fears prove to be well-founded, as Jordan and the "Boys of the City" decide to get relief from hot New York City streets by opening up a fire hydrant. The incident lands the lads in juvenile court - but, the judge allows them cool their heels by spending some time in the country. They wind up in a spooky old mansion, with scene-stealing Minerva Urecal (as Agnes).

***** Boys of the City (7/15/40) Joseph H. Lewis ~ Bobby Jordan, Leo Gorcey, Ernest Morrison, Minerva Urecal


The pieces weren't quite all there yet (paging Huntz Hall!), but this erratic poverty row feature set the parameters for the long running Bowery Boys series. Additionally, the film was directed by Joseph H. Lewis, who did his best to add interesting camera angles and spooky lighting to this low budget affair. Unfortunately, TCM's print is in very rough condition and a lot of Lewis' work has been washed out by decades of mishandling. Nonetheless, this is well worth a look for fans of the noir director as well as those who enjoy the teenage antics of the East Side Kids.

If there's one regrettable element in Boys of the City, it's the appalling racism of screenwriter William Lively's script. One of the most commendable things about the later films in this series is the (generally) colour blind approach to Sammy Morrison's character, but in this effort, poor Sammy was burdened with jokes about spooks, watermelon, the ol' plantation, and his beloved Mammy. Still and all, he does a good job with the material and remains (after Gorcey and Hall) the most memorable of the series' characters.


Determined to keep the East Side Kids out of trouble and ultimately out of juvenile hall (which to be honest, they'd still be too old for at this early point in her career...), an understanding judge sends them to his country home in the mountains. They end up in the spooky mansion of a judge who is an important witness in a criminal case and deal with the possible presence of ghosts, as well as a spooky housekeeper, various secret passageways, and most frighteningly, murder! The result is one of the best of the early East Side Kids films after their Warner Brothers years that is entertaining from start to finish.

While this entry in the series is missing Huntz Hall, Bobby Jordan and Leo Gorcey are still around as the leaders of the gang, leading in both dialog and action, with only a few comic bits given to the black Sammy Morrison. Of course, some of those bits are extremely racist, especially when sinister looking housekeeper Minerva Urecal serves the boys small fruit cups and gives Morrison a huge piece of watermelon. Urecal has one of the best roles of her career, spoofing every sinister housekeeper or strange relative, most obviously Eva Moore in "The Old Dark House" (spooking heroine Inna Gest with comments on her "pale, white flesh") and Judith Anderson in "Rebecca".

While the plot is predictable, the screenplay is loaded with some of the funniest malapropisms of the kid's extremely lengthy career and there is definitely a macabre element to the spooky atmosphere, from the antique graveyard in Judge Forrest Taylor's back yard to the "Cat and the Canary" like candle-lit hallways. It ranks high above many of the similar films being done at the low-grade Monogram and PRC (and even the slightly more expensive Universal) and the results make this a film you might want to re-visit, even if you'll steer clear of this delightfully haunted mansion.


The East Side boys like Mugs Malone played by Leo Gorcey and Bobby Jordan and his pals get to leave the city for a time in the country. They end up at a Gothic, haunted mansion where the housekeeper is my favorite character. She blames somebody for the death of her beloved mistress well the former lady of the house. I love the comment she makes about the cook which is "I liked the cook." The gang try to help a pretty damsel in distress who is caught up with some shady characters including a judge and others. It's the East Side Boys to her rescue and the house in Westchester's Briarcliff Manor. The pretty young lady is an heiress. Anyway, the East Side Boys was to escape during the 1940s time period when the country was coming off of the Great Depression and going into World War II. This film isn't great but it's entertaining even now.


Cheap sets. B-list performers and some typical-for-the-era (but nonetheless annoying) racial stereotypes fail to distinguish this tale of embezzlement and murder set at a creepy country mansion.

Leo Gorcey and the gang provide the comic relief, which -- except for the cigar scene -- is not particularly funny. Unless, that is, you get a kick out of things like watching Ernest "Sunshine Sammy" Morrison get pop-eyed over graveyards and spooks, or listening to him extol the virtues of a big slice of watermelon.

Though Minerva Urecal did a fairly good job as a sort of cut-rate Mrs. Danvers, I'd only recommend this one to rabid Gorcey fans and B-movie antiquarians.


The gang are hot and looking to find a way to cool off during the summer heat. They decide to open up a fire hydrant and naturally are caught by the cops. But instead of punishing them, the kids are convinced to go to a summer camp by their friend, Knuckles. On the way, they meet up with a car load of strange people--people who are on the run. Together, the East Side Kids, Knuckles and these strangers are unexpectedly stuck in a house--a seemingly haunted house. And, in the sorts of coincidences that only happen in films, Knuckles just happens to have a reason to kill one of the strangers (a judge) and the housekeeper just happens to be a crazed lady bent on revenge who makes the housekeeper in "Rebecca" seem like Maria von Trapp!!

This sort of haunted house film might be awfully familiar to those acquainted with the East Side Kids and their later incarnation as the Bowery Boys--too familiar. Such films as "Ghost on the Loose", "Spooks Run Wild" and "Spook Busters" had similar themes that seemed to work pretty well in these B-movies but were just over-used. Plus, the films were far from intellectual fare and seemed very similar to each other.

While Sunshine Sammy (Ernest Morrison) was a familiar black member of the gang (it's nice to see they were integrated), in this film he's given some rather distasteful lines--such as when Muggs (Leo Gorcey) treats him like a servant and calls him 'boy' in one scene, his constantly being afraid of 'ghostes' and at one point he's sitting down to a giant plate of watermelon! Not exactly enlightened entertainment!

Overall, a rather low-brow and familiar but generally enjoyable B-film. Aside from the awful stereotypical humor, the film also seems a bit contrived--as there are just one too many coincidences to make this anything other than a time-passer.


The Plot.

It's been two weeks of unrelenting New York City summer heat.

Sooner or later the boys are apt to get into mischief, so Knuckles takes the load of 'em to Algy's father's camp in the mountains.

The trip gets sidetracked when they cross paths with Judge Parker' party on the road.

The Judge, hiding from the mob, is desperately heading to his mountain manor when he runs the boys' vehicle off the road, nearly disabling it right before his own car conks out.

With only the boys' car barely able to travel, they all wind up at the judge's manor where ghostly sightings, spooky organ music, death threats and a creepy housekeeper await them. Judge Parker is the very judge who once nearly put Knuckles on death row for murder. When the judge turns up dead, Knuckles is in trouble again, with little brother Danny and the gang ready to help him out.

I used to love the Bowery Boys / East Side / Dead End Kids when they ran on local TV as a kid. These guys sure knew how to milk a series and they might have lasted as long as the 3 Stooges. In movies, from 1937-1956! With nearly 70 features to their credit. Huntz Hall isn't in this one yet, and he's missed.

The movie is only 68 minutes long but feels like 3 hours! Half the film is over before they even get to the haunted house.

As an aside, the guy from Reefer Madness is in this movie. It's not a very good film. The later humor filled movies were far better.
Road.to sliver

Road.to sliver

I wasn't too familiar with the East Side Kids or Bowery Boys going into this cheap, short 1940 feature, and without the context that many other reviews have, it leaves a lot to be desired. The first thing that's wrong is the title, as the "Boys of the City" spend almost the entire film in the country.

The band of broadly-portrayed juvenile delinquents are going to be sent to jail for not very much, but instead accept a deal to spend time at a house in the mountains of upstate New York. Maybe this is a thing that really happened, but it doesn't seem very plausible.

From there it turns into a listless attempt at a spook comedy, the trouble being that there aren't many attempts at comedy. Most of the apparent jokes are broad racial stereotypes of the one black character played for humor. The "joke" being that he is extremely cowardly, and on one occasional that he is delighted to get a slice of watermelon instead of actual dinner. The final "gag" consists of a couple of his friends confusing his hand with a piece of chocolate cake, then shoving the actual cake in his face. Even allowing for different social mores in 1940, this is just mean-spiritedly racist. And even if it weren't be very funny.

There's a large section of the short running time devoted to the "straight" plot, involving a judge who is on the run, afraid he'll be murdered. None of this is very compelling or sensible. The "spooky house" is clearly supposed to be an old mansion, but looks like an undisguised studio set house.

So in all, not much to recommend this modest comedy. There are few gags, and most of the ones that are there are undisguised racism. The mystery plot is dull. The chills aren't very chilling. If it weren't for the vigorous stereotyping, it would be almost pleasant viewing, but without inspiring any real laughs, scares, or attention.


I never thought I would say it, but this Gorcey and gang entry had me wishing for the buffoonery of Huntz Hall. That would at least have livened up some of the byplay. Except for a few clever malaprops, the only "humor" comes from Scruno's crudely racial gags. Otherwise, the gang trails after Jordan and Gorcey in pretty unimaginative fashion. Director Lewis may have been a brilliant helmsman of noir, but he doesn't seem comfortable with low-grade humor. That may be because the screenplay loads too much familiar plot into an hour's run-time, which Lewis then has to coordinate. Anyway, as others point out, Urecal's performance as the witchy housekeeper is worthy of an A-feature, making the 60-minutes almost worthwhile. All in all, if you think you've seen the spooky plot done better before, you probably have, (Spooks on the Loose {1941}, Ghosts Run Wild {1943}).
Golden Lama

Golden Lama

Okay this is a typical Kids format. Troubled youth one step from reform school get a second chance. This one sees them get offered reform school or a country camp. They chose the camp naturally. There is a crooked judge going to trial for corruption and embezzlement and the mob is trying to off him. His male secretary is in on the deal and tries to facilitate the judges demise. There is the young niece whose estate is being embezzled from. We have the adult chaperone Knuckles who is an almost executed for a murder he didn't do by guess who this judge!! While the boys are on their way to the camp the judge, niece, secretary, and a bodyguard are on their way to his country house. The judges party needs a lift and as you might expect get one from the boys et al. When they get to the judges house they reluctantly get an invite to stay the night. Things pick up from here. Ghosts in the cemetery, a scary housekeeper, frightening notes and occurrences, and the usual secret passages. Though this is a murder mystery it also has some very funny moments from the Kids. There are a couple of uncomfortable scenes by today's standards concerning the black Kid. There is watermelon served as dessert only to him and he does get called boy once. All in all though this is a really funny but predictable movie except for who turns out to be the killer. I will leave that for you to discover.