“Our folks have got enough worry, without us bringin’ ’em more.”
During the Depression, two teenagers (Frankie Darro and Edwin Phillips) leave home to try to earn their keep — but they quickly learn that jobs are hard to find everywhere, and are soon reduced to panhandling to survive.
William Wellman’s hard-hitting social drama pulls no punches in its depiction of unemployment and poverty during the Depression. By using fun-loving teens as his protagonists (the film opens up with a high school dance), Wellman shows how even kids from seemingly secure, middle class families were forced to pitch in and help with finances, quickly leaving behind the carefree days of their youth. The cast of unknowns — particularly sparkling, freckle-faced Dorothy Coonan (Wellman’s wife) as a female “hobo” the boys meet up with — are believable and appropriately spunky in their roles; and while the screenplay occasionally turns didactic (particularly during the jarringly unrealistic denouement), it’s hard not to feel outrage and sympathy for these well-meaning protagonists, who want nothing more than to earn an honest, independent living for themselves.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Pint-sized Frankie Darro as Eddie
- Dorothy Coonan (Wellman’s fourth and final wife) as Sally, a hobo girl
- Many heartbreaking scenes of privation and hardship
- A tough, (mostly) realistic script
Yes, as one of the most powerful social dramas to come out of the Depression Era.