Wild Boys of the Road

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Wild Boys of the Road
Wild Boys of the Road (1933 three-sheet).jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by William Wellman
Screenplay by Earl Baldwin
Story byDaniel Ahern
Produced by Robert Presnell Sr.
Starring Frankie Darro
Edwin Phillips
Rochelle Hudson
Grant Mitchell
Cinematography Arthur L. Todd
Edited by Thomas Pratt
Music by Bernhard Kaun (uncredited)
Distributed by Warner Bros.
Release date
  • October 7, 1933 (1933-10-07)
Running time
67 minutes
Lobby card with Ward Bond and Ann Hovey Wild Boys of the Road lobby card.jpg
Lobby card with Ward Bond and Ann Hovey

Wild Boys of the Road is a 1933 pre-Code Depression-era American drama film directed by William Wellman and starring Frankie Darro, Edwin Phillips, Rochelle Hudson, and Grant Mitchell. It tells the story of several teens forced into becoming hobos. The screenplay by Earl Baldwin is based on the story Desperate Youth by Daniel Ahern. In 2013, the film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant". [1] [2]



Tommy Gordon (Edwin Phillips) tells his friend Eddie Smith (Frankie Darro) that he is going to drop out of high school to look for work to help support his struggling family. Eddie offers to speak to his father (Grant Mitchell) about getting him a job, only to discover that his father has himself just lost his own job. Eddie sells his beloved car and gives the money to his father, but when his father remains unemployed, the bills keep piling up, and the family is threatened with eviction. Eddie and Tommy decide to leave home to ease the burden on their families. Eddie leaves a note, then they board a freight train, where they meet Sally (Dorothy Coonan), another teenager, who is hoping her aunt in Chicago can put her up for a while. They have to jump from the train, and end up in a milk transfer station, where many teens in similar dire straits hop aboard another train.

When they reach Chicago, they are met by the police, who inform them and other hobos that the unemployment crisis has hit Chicago as well. Most of the transients are sent to detention, but Sally has a letter from her aunt, so they let her through. She claims her companions are her cousins; the kindly policeman is skeptical, but lets them go. Sally's Aunt Carrie (Minna Gombell) welcomes all three into her apartment, which is in reality a brothel. She warmly welcomes the three, and starts to feed them, however, before they even have a chance to eat, the place is raided by the police. The trio hastily depart, climbing out a window, and continue their rail journey east.

Nearing Columbus, one girl (Ann Hovey), caught alone in a railcar, is raped by the train brakeman (an uncredited Ward Bond). When the others find out, they start punching the assailant. By accident, the brakeman falls out of the train to his death. A little later, as the train approaches the city, everyone jumps off. Tommy hits his head on a switch and falls across the track in front of an oncoming train. He crawls desperately towards safety, but his foot gets mangled and his leg has to be amputated. They live in "Sewer Pipe City" near Cleveland for a while, until the city authorities decide to shut it down to discourage vagrancy, prompted in part to Eddie's theft of a misfitting prosthetic leg for Tommy.

Finally, the three end up living in the New York Municipal Dump. Eddie finally lands a job, but needs to find $3 to pay for a coat which the job requires. They panhandle to raise the money. When two men offer Eddie $5 to deliver a note to a movie theater cashier across the street, he jumps at the chance. The note turns out to be a demand for money. Eddie is arrested, and the other two are taken in as well when they protest. The judge (Robert Barrat) cannot get any information out of them, particularly about their parents. However, Eddie's embittered speech moves him. He dismisses the charges and promises to get Eddie's job back for him. He also promises to help the other two, and assures them that their parents will magically be back to work soon.



In December 2013, the film was selected for the 2013 National Film Registry.

See also

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  1. "Library of Congress announces 2013 National Film Registry selections". The Washington Post (Press release). December 18, 2013. Retrieved December 18, 2013.
  2. "Complete National Film Registry Listing". Library of Congress. Retrieved 2020-05-14.
  3. According to Ben Mankiewicz of Turner Classic Movies, director William Wellman spotted Coonan as she was roller skating, while she was on a break from work on another film. He soon cast her, and, not long afterward, married her. They remained married until his death in 1975.