The Bowery Boys were the stars of one of the longest running film series of all time. They made 48 feature films, and that’s not even counting the films that many of the same actors made under other team names such as The Dead End Kids, The East Side Kids, and Little Tough Guys. That last name is one that would’ve been appropriate for today’s film; a 1946 effort where the boys spend a little time playing gangster…Bowery Bombshell.
This time, soda shop owner Louie (Bernard Gorcey) has hit hard times and needs a quick $300. Luckily, Slip (Leo Gorcey), Satch (Huntz Hall), and the boys have the perfect plan. They decide to sell their old jalopy to get the dough. Problem is, the thing falls apart in front of prospective buyers. So Slip and Satch decide to head down to the bank to take out a loan. Little do they realize that the bank is being robbed when they arrive. As they start to walk in, they run into their aspiring photographer friend Cathy (Teala Loring). Satch poses so she can take his picture, but just as he does the crooks run out. The resulting photo makes it look like Satch is in on heist.
Slip, Satch and Cathy try breaking into the photo lab to get the picture back but their efforts are unsuccessful. The photo ends up in the paper and Satch is now a wanted man. The crooks, of course, are thrilled; figuring they can use Satch to pin the job on rival Chicago gangster Midge Casalotti. But since none of the crooks have ever seen Casalotti, Slip takes the opportunity to impersonate the gangster in an attempt to get the money back and clear his buddy’s name.
Bowery Bombshell starts as a pretty standard Bowery Boys comedy. There’s not a lot that really stands out about the first half of the film. However, when the boys end up impersonating gangsters, something really magical happens. First of all, Leo Gorcey is completely in his element here. He’s always been the guy in charge, the brains of the operation (at least in his own mind). Having him pretend to be a diminutive, but feared, gangster is a stroke of genius, and Gorcey just eats up the opportunity. Meanwhile, the others relish their parts in the ruse, as well. Loring makes for a wonderful gangster’s moll, meanwhile, Bobby Jordan, William Benedict, and David Gorcey make a great bunch of lackeys. Jordan especially has some fun moments doing his best James Cagney, or is it Edward G. Robinson, impersonation.
While Gorcey certainly steals the show, this outing is a bit more well-rounded than some of the other Bowery Boys films I’ve seen. Though he doesn’t get to take part in the gangster act, Huntz Hall does have some nice moments while he hides out from the cops…growing more and more paranoid about his fate. The norm is that Gorcey always gets a lot more time than the others. The team is even billed as “Leo Gorcey and the Bowery Boys” at this point. He’s still center stage here, but everyone else is given a chance to shine as well.
Bowery Bombshell does take a little time to build up steam, but the payoff is worth it. With compact and fun little films like this one, it’s easy to see why this film series lasted as long as it did.