It’s been a bit too long since we paid a visit to the Bowery Boys. To be honest, we could fuel this blog for a long time just doing reviews of their movies. There were 48 films in their long-running series, and that’s not even counting all the films the team made under their various other names, such as the Dead End Kids, Little Tough Guys, and the East Side Kids. This time around the boys have set their sights on becoming big time reporters in the 1947 comedy News Hounds.
As we begin, Slip (Leo Gorcey) has somehow managed to get a job as a copy boy at the New York Chronicle. Slip’s best pal Sach (Huntz Hall) has also managed to wiggle his way onto the paper staff as an aspiring photographer. Of course, Slip fancies his position as being much loftier than it really is. He is often found ignoring his true responsibilities in favor of trying to write stories of his own. The story Slip has been trying to pursue surrounds rumors of a the fix of a big boxing match. Only reporter Mark Morgan (Bill Kennedy) thinks there is anything to this story, but without any hard evidence, the story is a lemon.
Later, while hanging out at the soda shop, Slip ends up getting some info from an old pal, Gabe (Gabriel Dell), who works for some of the shady characters suspected of fixing the fights. Anxious to become investigative reporters, Slip and Sach go undercover to infiltrate the gangsters and get the scoop on the fix. Though the ruse doesn’t last long, they do succeed in getting some info. However, the gangsters seek revenge when Gabe shows up at the newspaper office and gives Slip’s story to a copy boy for printing under Mark’s byline. With no evidence to substantiate the claims, the gangsters then launch a four million dollar libel suit against the paper. The whole thing leads to a big trial and a search for Sach’s missing camera to try and prove who is in on the fix.
I’ve said before that one of the things I enjoy about the Bowery Boys films is that they strike me as being a slightly more grown up version of the Our Gang formula. We have a ragtag group of street smart guys always launching into one scheme or another. Here they fancy themselves reporters, which is an Our Gang type scenario if there ever was one. I’m not exactly sure how these mugs actually got jobs at an actual respectable newspaper, but we’re not going to dwell on that. The bits with Slip and Sach doing their best to play reporter are a lot of fun. Throughout the Bowery Boys series, Leo Gorcey was particularly known for his massacring of the english language, so to now have him putting this into printed form is very funny. I also love the title he plans on giving his byline…”Pardon, But Your Slip is Showing.”
Unfortunately, the newspaper hijinks actually represents a pretty small portion of the film. Things soon become much more focused on the boys trying to scam a bunch of gangsters. The courtroom shenanigans that fill the film’s final act do drag things down a bit and would never stand up in an actual courtroom. On the plus side, seeing Leo Gorcey playing a pint-sized tough guy with Huntz Hall as his lackey is fun. They are quite the match for the hard-edged gangsters they are trying to con. Yet, though it all I was wanting to see more of them hitting the beat and trying to track down news stories a wannabe reporters. This scenario would’ve also given the other Bowery Boys members something more to do in this film. As it is, Bobby Jordan, William Benedict, and David Gorcey are pretty much only there to fill things out a bit.
There are a few members of the supporting cast who get a few nice moments, but for the most part this is very much centered on Leo Gorcey and Huntz Hall. Bernard Gorcey (father of Leo and David) is fun in his regular role as Louie the soda shop owner. The various gangsters, including Anthony Caruso and Ralph Dunn also have some moments. A showstopper, though, is Nita Bieber as Gabe’s girl Mame. She’s not a pivotal character, but she does have a irresistible swagger and is, quite frankly, jaw-droppingly gorgeous.
News Hounds has some fun moments but it is far from the best Bowery Boys film I’ve seen. The film loses its focus quite quickly, but Gorcey and Hall still manage to be entertaining. It’s a pleasant enough way to spend 68 minutes, but is no reason to stop the presses.