Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

Angels With Dirty Faces (1938)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

Angels With Dirty Faces (1938)

In director Michael Curtiz' crime melodrama:

  • James Cagney's memorable tough guy characterization of "Rocky" Sullivan - with characteristic mannerisms including jerking/twisting of the neck, shoulder-lifting, swaggering, snarling pugnacity, and lower-lip biting revealing a row of upper teeth
  • the scene of Rocky's (James Cagney) nightclub murderous shooting of crooked, double-crossing attorney James Frazier (Humphrey Bogart) whom he taunted before shooting him dead in the back when he fled: "You've had your last chance, and you can take this with ya!"
  • unrepentent and defiant Rocky's (James Cagney) pre-execution meeting in his cell with his boyhood friend priest Father Jerry Connelly (Pat O'Brien), when Rocky joked about his impending death: "It's like sitting in a barber chair. They're going to ask me, 'You got anything to say?' and I say, 'Sure. Give me a haircut, a shave and a massage - one of those nice new electric massages'" - he also claimed that he wasn't afraid: "You know Jerry, I think in order to be afraid, you've got to have a heart. I don't think I got one. I got it cut out of me a long time ago"
  • Jerry's request of a favor from Rocky - to act fearful so he wouldn't be regarded by the slum neighborhood boys as a hero, role model, or martyr: "Suppose I asked you to have the be scared... Suppose at the last minute the guards dragged you out here screaming for mercy. Suppose you went to the chair yellow.... This is a different kind of courage, Rocky. The kind that's well, that's born in heaven. Well, not the courage of heroics or bravado. The kind that you and I and God know about...I want you to let them down. You see, you've been a hero to these kids, and hundreds of others, all through your life - and now you're gonna be a glorified hero in death, and I want to prevent that, Rocky. They've got to despise your memory. They've got to be ashamed of you"; Rocky was reluctant to humble himself and show fear in the death chamber as a cringing coward pretending to be 'yellow': "You asking me to pull an act, turn yellow, so those kids will think I'm no good...You ask me to throw away the only thing I've got left...You ask me to crawl on my belly - the last thing I do in life...Nothing doing. You're asking too much...You want to help those kids, you got to think about some other way"
Rocky's Death March - "Rocky Dies Yellow"
  • Rocky's memorable last walk or death march to his execution, and his entry into the death chamber, where he broke down and became "yellow" (accompanied by an incredible Max Steiner score), turning into a screaming, snivelling, cowering coward begging not to be killed (seen in silhouette): "Oh, I don't wanna die! Oh, please. I don't wanna die! Oh, please. Don't let me burn. Oh, please. Let go of me. Please..."
  • the next day's news headlines: "ROCKY DIES YELLOW: KILLER COWARD AT END!", read by the neighborhood kids who couldn't believe Rocky's cowardice, but accepted it; they asked Father Jerry: "Did Rocky die as they said, like a yellow rat?" and Jerry responded with the film's final words: "It's true, boys. Every word of it. He died like they said. All right, fellas. Let's go and say a prayer for a boy who couldn't run as fast as I could"

Rocky Sullivan

Murder of James Frazier

Rocky's Pre-Execution Meeting with Father Connelly

Jerry's Request


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