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East Side Kids

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The East Side Kids were characters in a series of 22 films released by Monogram Pictures from 1940 through 1945.[1] The series was a low-budget imitation of the Dead End Kids, a successful film franchise of the late 1930s.

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The Sidney Kingsley Broadway play Dead End was a portrait of life in the New York tenements, featuring six tough-talking juvenile delinquents. When film producer Samuel Goldwyn made a film out of the play, he recruited the original kids from the play: (Leo Gorcey, Huntz Hall, Bobby Jordan, Gabriel Dell, Billy Halop, and Bernard Punsly). In 1938 Warner Brothers signed these six actors for a series of Dead End Kids dramas, the most successful being Angels with Dirty Faces (1938) with James Cagney and Humphrey Bogart, and They Made Me a Criminal (1939), starring John Garfield.

Also in 1938, Universal Pictures offered a competing series, under the Little Tough Guys brand name. At one time or another, five of the original Dead End Kids (minus Gorcey) joined the series, resulting in the studio billing the gang as "The Dead End Kids and Little Tough Guys."

The East Side Kids

In 1940 producer Sam Katzman, noting the financial success of other tough-kid series, made the film East Side Kids using two of Universal's Little Tough Guys, Hally Chester and Harris Berger. He added former Our Gang player Donald Haines, Frankie Burke, radio actor Sam Edwards, and Eddie Brian to round out the new team. This was a one-shot film, designed to cash in on a popular trend. When Dead End Kid Bobby Jordan became available, Katzman signed him for Boys of the City and "The East Side Kids" became a series, released by Monogram Pictures.

Monogram was a "budget" studio, making inexpensive films for double-feature theaters. Sam Katzman's productions were even cheaper. A typical major-studio "B" picture cost $200,000 to $300,000 to make, and was filmed in four weeks. Notorious penny-pincher Katzman spent only $33,000 per feature and made them in only five to seven days. He wasted no time or money on subtlety, story development, or more than two takes per scene.

Leo Gorcey joined the series, as did his brother, David Gorcey of the Little Tough Guys. "Sunshine Sammy" Morrison, the very first child actor in the Our Gang comedies, was cast as "Scruno," the only African-American in the Jordan-Gorcey gang.

In the first few films, Dave O'Brien (familiar from low-budget westerns and serials, and as the accident-prone star of the Pete Smith comedies) played Jordan's older brother Knuckles Dolan, who always seemed to be getting roped into chaperoning the kids from adventure to adventure. O'Brien appeared in different roles as well; the continuity between films was often ignored. As with the Little Tough Guys, the membership of the team changed from film to film, until Huntz Hall joined in 1941, when the lineup was somewhat stabilized. In total, 20 actors were members of the East Side Kids.

Bobby Stone, Robert Greig, Leo Gorcey, and Huntz Hall in the film Million Dollar Kid (1944).

Dead End Kid Gabriel Dell drifted in and out of the series as a gang member, a reporter, or a small-time hoodlum (as in Million Dollar Kid). In Smart Alecks he's an ex-member who left the gang to pursue a life of crime. Rising tough-teen actor Stanley Clements also appeared in three films.

The stories always centered on the tough, pugnacious "Muggs McGinnis" (Gorcey) or the more innocent, clean-cut "Danny" (Bobby Jordan). Huntz Hall's "Glimpy" began as a minor character who grew in prominence as he was given a larger comedic role over the course of the series. The loose format proved flexible enough to shift back and forth between urban drama (That Gang of Mine), murder mystery (Boys of the City), boxing melodrama (Bowery Blitzkrieg), and horror-comedy (Spooks Run Wild), with the kids confronting various stock villains: gangsters, smugglers, spies, and crooked gamblers, along the way. The East Side films were problem-teen melodramas until 1943, when director William Beaudine joined the series and emphasized the comedy content. He encouraged the actors to improvise freely, adding to the films' spontaneous charm.

The advent of World War II affected the series as well as the cast. Four of the films involve enemy spies, Nazi intrigue, and American soldiers. Offscreen, between 1942 and 1944, cast members Morrison, Jordan, Dell, David Gorcey, and Billy Benedict left the series after being drafted. Leo Gorcey, a few days after receiving his draft notice, suffered a near-fatal motorcycle accident. His injuries led to a 4-F classification, rendering him unfit for military service.

During Bobby Jordan's absence, his role in the series was taken by former child actor David Durand. Durand had been the star of Columbia's series of Glove Slingers campus comedies, and lent the same earnest sincerity to his East Side Kids appearances. (Jordan returned in 1944, in uniform, for a guest appearance in Bowery Champs.)

Starting with Clancy Street Boys in 1943, Bernard Gorcey, father of Leo and David, played various bit parts in seven East Side Kids films.

Given the low budgets, simplistic stories, and crude, assembly-line production of the East Side Kids series, its enduring popularity relies on the cast's rambunctious energy, breezy banter (often ad-libbed and containing inside jokes), fast-paced action, and Leo Gorcey's trademark malapropisms ("This calls for drastic measurements").

By 1945 Leo Gorcey had asserted himself as the top-billed star of the series (now billed as "Leo Gorcey and The East Side Kids"), and insisted that producer Sam Katzman must double Gorcey's $5000 salary. Katzman, always cash-conscious, flatly refused and stopped the series after Come Out Fighting (1945). Undaunted, Gorcey and Bobby Jordan retooled the series as The Bowery Boys. They recruited Huntz Hall, Gabriel Dell, Billy Benedict, and David Gorcey from The East Side Kids.

The Bowery Boys became an exceptionally popular staple of theaters and drive-ins, with the films released quarterly. Forty-eight Bowery Boys features were made; the last one, In the Money, was released in 1958.

List of East Side Kids

  • Leo Gorcey as Ethelbert 'Muggs' (or 'Mugs') McGinnis (Maloney in early films) (1940–1945)
  • Huntz Hall as Glimpy (Limpy in Bowery Blitzkrieg) (1941–1945)
  • Bobby Jordan as Danny (1940–1943) and Bobby (1944)
  • Gabriel Dell as Various characters (1942–1945)
  • "Sunshine Sammy" Morrison as Scruno (1940–1944)
  • William Benedict as Skinny and others (1943-1945)
  • David Gorcey as Pete in Boys of the City (1940) and Peewee (1940–1942)
  • Donald Haines as Peewee in East Side Kids and Boys of the City (both 1940) and Skinny (1940–1941)
  • Stanley Clements as Stash (1942–1943)
  • Bobby Stone as Various characters (1940–1944)
  • Dave Durand as Skinny in Kid Dynamite (1943) and Danny (1943-1944)
  • Johnny Duncan as Various characters (1944–1945)
  • Eugene Francis as Algernon 'Algy' Wilkes (1940–1941)
  • Buddy Gorman as various characters (1943–1945)
  • Jimmy Strand as various characters (1943–1945)
  • Mendie Koenig as various characters (1945)
  • Hally Chester as Fred 'Dutch' Kuhn in East Side Kids and Buster in Boys of the City (both 1940)
  • Frankie Burke as Skinny in East Side Kids and Boys of the City (both 1940)
  • Bennie Bartlett as Beanie (or Benny) in Kid Dynamite and Clancy Street Boys (both 1943)
  • Harris Berger as Danny in the East Side Kids pilot (1940)
  • Eddie Brian as Mike in the East Side Kids pilot (1940)
  • Jack Edwards as Algernon 'Mouse' Wilkes in the East Side Kids pilot (1940)
  • Sam Edwards as Pete in the East Side Kids pilot (1940)
  • Bill Lawrence as Skinny in Mr. Wise Guy (1942)
  • Dick Chandlee as Skinny (a.k.a. 'Stash') in Clancy Street Boys (1943)
  • Eddie Mills as Dave in Clancy Street Boys (1943)
  • Bill Bates as Dave (a.k.a. 'Sleepy') in Ghosts on the Loose (1943)
  • Al Stone as Herbie in Million Dollar Kid (1944)
  • Bill Chaney as Tobey in Block Busters (1944)
  • Leo Borden as Pete (a.k.a. 'Aristotles') in Docks of New York (1945)


Year Title Director Screenplay Story
1940 East Side Kids Robert F. Hill William Lively William Lively
1940 Boys of the City Joseph H. Lewis William Lively William Lively
1940 That Gang of Mine Joseph H. Lewis William Lively Alan Whitman
1940 Pride of the Bowery Joseph H. Lewis George H. Plympton
William Lively (adaptation)
Steven Clensos
1941 Flying Wild William West Al Martin Al Martin
1941 Bowery Blitzkrieg Wallace Fox Sam Robins Brendan Wood
Donn Mullahy
1941 Spooks Run Wild Phil Rosen Carl Foreman
Charles R. Marion
Carl Foreman
Charles R. Marion
1942 Mr. Wise Guy William Nigh Sam Robins
Harvey Gates
Jack Henley
Martin Mooney
1942 Let's Get Tough! Wallace Fox Harvey Gates Harvey Gates
1942 Smart Alecks Wallace Fox Harvey Gates Harvey Gates
1942 'Neath Brooklyn Bridge Wallace Fox Harvey Gates Harvey Gates
1943 Kid Dynamite Wallace Fox Gerald Schnitzer
Morey Amsterdam (dialogue)
Paul Ernst
1943 Clancy Street Boys William Beaudine Harvey Gates Harvey Gates
1943 Ghosts on the Loose William Beaudine Kenneth Higgins Kenneth Higgins
1943 Mr. Muggs Steps Out William Beaudine William Beaudine
Beryl Sachs
William Beaudine
Beryl Sachs
1944 Million Dollar Kid Wallace Fox Frank H. Young Frank H. Young
1944 Follow the Leader William Beaudine William Beaudine
Beryl Sachs
Ande Lamb
1944 Block Busters Wallace Fox Houston Branch Houston Branch
1944 Bowery Champs William Beaudine Morey Amsterdam
Earle Snell
Earle Snell
1945 Docks of New York Wallace Fox Harvey Gates Harvey Gates
1945 Mr. Muggs Rides Again Wallace Fox Harvey Gates Harvey Gates
1945 Come Out Fighting William Beaudine Earle Snell Earle Snell


Many of the East Side Kids features were re-released by Astor Pictures, Favorite Films, and Savoy Pictures, the latter two companies owned by former Monogram executives[2]

See also


  1. ^ Hayes, David (1984). The Films of the Bowery Boys. Secaucus, NJ: The Citadel Press. ISBN 978-0806509310.
  2. ^ "Monogram Pictures Corporation Library: Who Owns What Today".

External links

Preceded by East Side Kids
Succeeded by
This page was last edited on 15 April 2024, at 16:35
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