Sunday, June 19, 2022

Tonight's Movie: Bad Boy (1949) - A Warner Archive DVD Review

Audie Murphy had his first starring role in BAD BOY (1949), an Allied Artists film available on DVD from the Warner Archive.

Murphy had previously played small parts in TEXAS, BROOKLYN & HEAVEN (1948) and BEYOND GLORY (1948). He was then cast in the title role of BAD BOY, playing delinquent teen Danny Lester.

Danny gets into trouble and instead of jail the judge (Selena Royle) sentences him to a Variety Club ranch run by Marshall Brown (Lloyd Nolan) and his wife Maud (Jane Wyatt), who are assisted by Chief (James Gleason).

Most of the boys at the ranch are grateful to be there and are turning their lives around, but the Browns and Chief can't cut through Danny's resentment. He gets into trouble time and again and alienates the other boys, who are played by good actors including Jimmy Lydon, Dickie Moore, Tommy Cook, and Stanley Clements.

The Browns don't want to give up, and Marshall does some digging into Danny's past, discovering that Danny's stepfather (Rhys Williams) and stepsister (Martha Vickers) destroyed his sense of self-worth and convinced him that he was responsible for the death of his mother (Barbara Wooddell). Will the Browns be able to help Danny turn his life around before it's too late?

I thought BAD BOY was quite a nice movie, somewhat similar to BOYS' RANCH (1946) where Darryl Hickman and Skip Homeier were among the troubled boys.

Nolan is always so good, real and compelling with the simplest dialogue. (The story and screenplay were by Robert Hardy Andrews.) Nolan really makes the movie, but the rest of the cast is fine too, with Wyatt equally appealing as the one person who seems able to reach Danny.

Gleason is disarming as Chief, whose ability to handle the boys in his charge belies his age, and the young actors are all good. I'm not a Clements fan but he has a great scene singing "Dream On Little Plowboy." (IMDb doesn't know whether or not he was dubbed).

As for Murphy, he was not yet the fine actor he would become, but he certainly holds his own, especially given his lack of acting experience. Indeed, he's quite moving in the later scenes in particular.

After this film Murphy moved into Westerns, starting with THE KID FROM TEXAS (1950) and SIERRA (1950), and the majority of his films from that point on would be Westerns. Exceptions included THE RED BADGE OF COURAGE (1951), THE GUN RUNNERS (1958), and the autobiographical film TO HELL AND BACK (1955). Knowing what we now know about how Murphy suffered from PTSD, it's amazing to me he was able to make the latter film and relive his experiences in World War II.

BAD BOY runs 86 minutes. It was directed by Kurt Neumann and filmed in black and white by Karl Struss. The movie was filmed at the Janss Conejo Ranch, which incidentally isn't far from the McCrea Ranch.

The Warner Archive DVD has a good print and sound. There are no extras on the disc.

BAD BOY is an interesting look at the beginning of Audie Murphy's career as well as a solid film in its own right. I enjoyed it.

Thanks to the Warner Archive for providing a review copy of this DVD. Warner Archive DVDs may be ordered from the Warner Archive Collection Amazon Store or from any online retailers where DVDs are sold.


Blogger Jerry Entract said...

It is an interesting film to see Audie's first real stab at movie stardom and as you so rightly say, Laura, Lloyd Nolan really made the film, as he so often did. Does he get the credit he deserves these days? I wonder.

11:25 PM  

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