Cloud nine tosh from the days when Warner movies preached that delinquents were just good kids in need of a helping hand. Cagney plays a ward-heeler rewarded with a political sinecure as Deputy Commissioner of a reform school. Up from the slums himself, horrified by the sadistic brutality of the director (Digges), Cagney takes over. Improving the food, relaxing the discipline, and replacing the warders with a system of self-government, he soon has the boys eating out of his hand. But unrest back in the ward ends with Cagney shooting the trouble-maker (Huber) in self-defence; and while he's in hiding, Digges restores his old regime. Jeopardising his freedom, Cagney rushes back in time to end a riot by the boys (a tubercular kid died after being locked in an unheated cell), though not before Digges falls to his death. The good angel Happy Ending tidies away all awkward questions, and Cagney is asked to stay on as director. Despite the risible script, Cagney is as watchable as ever, and Mayo directs sleekly. Remade as vehicles for the Dead End Kids: Crime School (1938) and Hell's Kitchen (1939).
The Mayor of Hell
Cast and crew