“Wild Boys of the Road” (1933)
A Depression-era combination of troubled-youth film, road movie and straight-up adventure. Like the Little Rascals films, it has a racially mixed cast. But unlike them, it’s got a social message, so it can’t be a straight-up comedy. And in case you were wondering, there are even some surprise hip-hop dance moves.
The film tells of two Midwestern families losing their financial stability in the Great Depression. In one family the parents die. In the other, there’s a layoff. We see a father who looks like Daddy Warbucks forced to stand in the breadline. And the sons lose their chance at college.
So the kids decide to help their families by becoming hobos. They plan to hitch rides on east-bound freight-trains towards Chicago and send money home.
We see hundreds of kids jumping on and off the trains, hiding, holding on for dear life. They have to deal with railroad cops, violent crewmen and the inherent dangers of the trains themselves.
Some quite shocking things happen, but the film has an upbeat, good heart. It’s got that rapid-fire 1930’s dialog that puts you into the middle of things right away, as well as beautifully crisp black and white photography. Recommended!