Beautiful New York

A Celebration of the City

Top 50 Greatest NYC Movies — #22

Dead End (dir. William Wyler, 1937)

07-27 Dead End

Based on Sidney Kingsley’s groundbreaking Broadway play (written for the Group Theatre) this studio-bound slice of life is famous for its extraordinarily realistic set design, depicting the slums of the city, back when the spot where East 53rd Street meets the East River featured such neighborhoods. The new luxury high rise sparks the film’s commentary on gentrification (before anyone was using that word) and sets the stage for the crossing of classes from wealthy Wall Streeters, to unemployed organizers, to rising gangsters, to the first screen appearance of the Dead End Kids. With the 59th Street Bridge consistently in the backdrop, the art direction also serves as a visual metaphor for the search for a way out.


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