Search This Blog

Thursday, September 26, 2013

'On Dress Parade:' The Dead End Kids Meet Nathaniel Hale

The “Dead End” Kids On Dress Parade/Hell’s Kitchen
As yesterday's review of the 1939 film "Hell's Kitchen announced, Unreal TV is running a special two-part review of the recent Warner Archive two-film DVD release titled "The 'Dead End Kids' Double Feature." Today's post discusses "On Dress Parade."

"The Dead End Kids," who later became "The Bowery Boys" were New York City delinquents who starred in a series of Warner Brothers films in the '30s. These films typically played on the kids' tough-guy personas and hard-luck lives.

"Parade" had the same theme of reform as "Kitchen" but ramped up the propaganda by substituting social commentary regarding the brutality of some boys' reformatory institutions with a pro-military slant that was as subtle as a hammer blow to the head. "Parade" was also the "Kids" film in which future "Boys" star Leo Gorcey introduced his "Slip" character; Gorcey's "don't call me Shirley" scenes were hilarious to fans of the 1980 comedy classic "Airplane."

"Parade" started  with a 1918 WWI foxhole scene that set the stage for enrolling a highly resistant delinquent Slip Duncan at the Washington Military Academy, which counted patriot Nathaniel Hale among its constituents, 20 years later. The combination of Slip's smart mouth, sharp temper, and aversion to military discipline quickly generally made him the enemy of his classmates and victim of amusing hazing.

The following clip, courtesy of YouTube, of "Parade's" trailer provides an excellent sense of the story and the aforementioned propaganda. In the interest of full candor, the scenes of the cadets charging evoked more thoughts of the opening credits of the classic '60s sitcom "F Troop" than our nation's fine military tradition.


The pivotal scene occurred during horsing around related to discouraging Slip from quitting the education and military training that his fellow cadets considered critical to his becoming a productive member of society. These shenanigans went out the window when the students figuratively discovered  the truth of the adage that something was always funny until someone lost an eye.

This turn of events sobered up Slip, who got with the program; this attitude adjustment ultimately led to another important moment in which history repeated itself.

The overall message of "Parade" was not so much that there was nothing as a bad boy as it was that the military way of life was a good road to success.

Watching this theme regularly repeated in the film evoked thoughts of intentionally pushing the buttons of a very recent graduate of an Air National Guard Officer Training Course while working for a government contractor.

The graduate's completely playful threat of physical harm prompted a rapid response of "maybe I'd be afraid if you were a Marine." That led to a very tense nanosecond, which included two other guardsmen ready to grab their colleague's arms, followed by several seconds of laughter by all.

The reason for the anecdote above was that it directly related to the pride that "Parade" and the real military instilled in those among their ranks. Seeing "Parade's" portray that life and the early scenes in which Slip gleefully mocked it were very entertaining.

The final debriefing regarding "Parade" is that it, and "Kitchen," make this DVD set worth adding to your collection. These films show a portion of the range of the "Kids" films.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Kitchen" or "Parade" is welcome to email me. You can also follow me on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.