Angels with Dirty Faces

Angels with Dirty Faces (dir. Michael Curtiz, 1938).

As slick and engrossing a work of Hollywood narrative as you'll find--and as shameless a piece of ideological manipulation. On the other hand, it's possible to read the film perversely as a cynical portrait of piety gone rancid: Pat O'Brien's Father Connolly is not only a proto-Ward-Cleaver figure who prefaces every other sentence with a mawkish "you see," he's ultimately reponsible for orchestrating a grossly hypocritical moral sham in the name of redemption. He robs a dying man of his dignity by compelling him to act out a lie, and then he lies himself. To kids.

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