They Made Me a Criminal (1939)

They Made Me a Criminal (1939)

“From now on, you’ve got to be afraid!”

A prizewinning boxer (John Garfield) whose shady manager (Robert Gleckler) accidentally kills a snoopy reporter (John Ridgely) and is then killed in a fiery car crash while making off with Garfield’s girlfriend (Ann Sheridan) is falsely accused of murder and presumed dead. Garfield goes undercover and finds refuge in a farm owned by a woman (May Robson) overseeing a group of juvenile delinquents, where he soon falls for the older sister (Gloria Dickson) of one of the boys (Billy Halop) — but will a detective (Claude Rains) hot on his trail sleuth him out?

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Ann Sheridan Films
  • Boxing
  • Busby Berkeley Films
  • Claude Rains Films
  • Detectives and Private Eyes
  • Falsely Accused
  • John Garfield Films
  • Juvenile Delinquents
  • Mistaken or Hidden Identities

Busby Berkeley directed this Depression-era saga of hard luck, mistaken identities, redemptive love, and the chance for new beginnings. Garfield stars in a role seemingly tailor-made for him: an innocent man caught up in events beyond his control that send him spiraling into a life on the run. He’s fine in the role, but the script (other than intermittent doses of harsh cynicism) is primarily hokum. Thankfully, James Wong Howe’s cinematography makes the entire film gorgeous to look at. The best scenes are those involving boxing, which naturally becomes Garfield’s downfall once again (or is it his saving grace?). See also the similarly themed Dust Be My Destiny (1939), which I was equally disappointed by.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • James Wong Howe’s cinematography

Must See?
No; feel free to skip this one.


One thought on “They Made Me a Criminal (1939)

  1. First viewing. Agreed, not must-see – though I also agree that Garfield does nice work, as does Sheridan in her small role.

    Not a terrible film but ultimately not all that memorable either.

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