Wild Boys Of The Road

William A. Wellman

Sog.: Daniel Ahearn. Scen.: Earl Baldwin. F.: Arthur L. Todd. M.: Thomas Pratt. Scgf.: Esdras Hartley. Int.: Frankie Darro (Eddie), Edwin Phillips (Tommy), Dorothy Coonan (Sally), Grant Mitchell (Mr. Smith), Rochelle Hudson (Grace), Sterling Holloway (Ollie), Ward Bond (Red), Minna Gombell (zia Carrie), Claire McDowell (Mrs. Smith), Ann Hovey (Lola), Charles Grapewin (Mr. Cadmust), Robert Barrat (giudice White). Prod.: First National Pictures 

T. it.: Italian title. T. int.: International title. T. alt.: Alternative title. Sog.: Story. Scen.: Screenplay. F.: Cinematography. M.: Editing. Scgf.: Set Design. Mus.: Music. Int.: Cast. Prod.: Production Company. L.: Length. D.: Running Time. f/s: Frames per second. Bn.: Black e White. Col.: Color. Da: Print source

Film Notes

In November 2011, when news broke of Occupy Wall Street’s forced and violent removal from Zuccotti Park at the hands of the NYPD and the hoses they held, images of Wellman’s 1933 film of unemployable youth living in boxcars and shantytowns and repeatedly being violently ejected from them immediately sprang to mind. But instead of making a statement against capitalism and the 99 percent, Wellman’s wild boys and girl (his future wife Dorothy Coonan) are just aiming to survive while looking for jobs and a way to help the struggling families they left behind. They’re caught in the very real world of the Great Depression, a world Wellman went to great lengths to capture accurately, as Bertrand Tavernier documents: “Wellman’s social-problem films are among the genre’s most radical and violent. Hal Wallis had several shots deleted from Wild Boys of the Road because he deemed them unbearable for the general public; to Wellman they expressed the realities of the Depression”. The movie also got saddled with a required and very-much-tacked-on happy ending. Even with its imposed outlook, Wild Boys of the Road stands out amongst films of the era, as it creates a striking juxtaposition between the harsh reality of the time period and the innocence and joy of youth. Tommy and Sally light up a screen that keeps threatening to go dark. This is perfectly encapsulated in the scene where Eddie sells his beloved car in order to get money for his unemployed father. After giving his father the twenty-two American dollars he desperately haggled for, he steps outside and is confronted with the now empty and abandoned garage. He pauses for a moment, walks away from the garage, and begins to whistle a few bars of We’re in the Money, made popular earlier that year by Gold Diggers of 1933 (the film that coincidentally introduced Wellman to Coonan). The tune slowly tapers off as reality sets in, and he suddenly, and fiercely, turns around and runs to shut the garage door. It’s a somber scene, despite the burst of Busby Berkeley dreams, and beautifully brings to mind some of Manny Farber’s many words on Well-man: “Of all these poet-builders Wellman is the most interesting, particularly with Hopper-type scenery. It is a matter of drawing store fronts, heavy bedroom boudoirs, the heisting of a lonely service station, with light furious strokes. Also, in mixing jolting vulgarity […] with a space composition dance in which the scene seems to be constructed before your eyes”. 

Gina Telaroli 

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