WILD BOYS OF THE ROAD is a marvelous piece of Americana, a look at the social confusion of the Depression era. The film's two chief characters, Frankie Darro and Edwin Phillips, are California youths enjoying a comfortable lifestyle with their parents. When the Depression hits and their fathers lose their jobs, the boys hop an eastbound freight train to...read more
WILD BOYS OF THE ROAD is a marvelous piece of Americana, a look at the social confusion of the Depression era. The film's two chief characters, Frankie Darro and Edwin Phillips, are California youths enjoying a comfortable lifestyle with their parents. When the Depression hits and their
fathers lose their jobs, the boys hop an eastbound freight train to find work. They soon learn that there are thousands just like themselves, all looking for work, all trying to fight the economic depression that is destroying the country. Darro and Phillips find not only a number of other "wild
boys" but also Dorothy Coonan and Rochelle Hudson, tough girls who take to the rails with them. Along the way, this mobile group of naive vagrants become a pack of outlaws when they kill a brakeman who has raped Hudson. The kids are finally forced off the tracks in Ohio, where they assemble their
own "sewer city" from sewer pipes and supplies--a city founded on new ideals and a commitment to equality. Their city, however, breeds theft in the nearby community, prompting the police and fire department to wash away the vagrants with fire hoses. The gang moves on, suffering from lack of food
and money. After getting involved in a theft ring, they're arrested and hauled off to court, where they get a lesson in New Deal ideology.
Blasted by countless critics for its political stance, WILD BOYS OF THE ROAD, if sometimes naive politically, is still superb entertainment. Director William A. Wellman tackled a straightforward "road movie" structure and applied the simplest of New Deal ideas to it. WILD BOYS OF THE ROAD shows
with amazing accuracy the feeling of emptiness and apparent hopelessness that ran rampant in the country. The chief problem with the film is its refusal to lay the blame for the Depression at anyone's feet. The film's finish, though technically a happy ending, is rather mindless, leaving the
audience with a "don't worry, everything will be fine" promise. Despite these faults, WILD BOYS OF THE ROAD is one of the finest films about youthful idealism to hit the screen. Costing $203,000 to produce, the film had only minimal success at the box office. Besides the superb Coonan (Wellman's
fourth wife), the film is peopled with numerous teens, most of whom were, before and after the film, unknowns, adding to the authenticity of the film's atmosphere. The standout among the cast, however, is the appealing, pint-sized Darro, who became one of the foremost Depression era tough kids of
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