In 1934, Sidney Kingsley wrote a play about a group of children growing up on the streets of New York City. A total of fourteen children were hired to play various roles in the play entitled Dead End. The play opened at the Belasco Theatre on October 28, 1935 and ran for two years, totalling 684 performances.
Samuel Goldwyn and director William Wyler saw the play and decided to turn it into a film. They paid $165,000 for the rights to the film and began auditioning actors in Los Angeles.
Failing to find actors that could convey the emotions they saw in the play, Goldwyn and Wyler hired six of the original Kids (Billy Halop, Bobby Jordan, Huntz Hall, Bernard Punsly, Gabriel Dell, and Leo Gorcey) to star in the film. The Kids were all signed to two-year contracts, allowing for possible future films, and began working on the 1937 United Artists' film, Dead End.
The Dead End Kids only made one movie for Goldwyn. During production, the boys ran wild around the studio, destroying property, including crashing a truck into a sound stage. Goldwyn chose not to use them again and sold their contract to Warner Brothers.
At Warner Brothers, the Dead End Kids made six films including Angels with Dirty Faces (1938). The last one was in 1939, when they were released from their contracts due to more antics on the studio lot.
The Dead End Kids proved to be so popular that they continued to make movies under various names, including The East Side Kids, The Little Tough Guys, and The Bowery Boys, until 1958.
In total, the various teams that made up 'The Dead End Kids' a total of 89 films and three serials for four different studios during their 21 year long film career.
The team was awarded a star on Hollywood's Walk of Fame for motion pictures in February, 1994. Sadly, only Bernard Punsly and Huntz Hall of the original Dead End Kids attended as they were the only surviving Dead End Kids.
The original Dead End Kids in the films were Billy Halop (Tommy), Bobby Jordan (Angel), Huntz Hall (Dippy), Bernard Punsly (Milty), Gabriel Dell (T.B.), and Leo Gorcey (Spit).
Billy Halop (Tommy) was born on February 11, 1920 and died on November 9, 1976. Billy Halop made 67 movies and television shows during his 38 year career. In his later years, he had a reoccurring role on All in the Family as Bert Munson.
Billy Halop's sister Florence Halop is most known for her role as Flo on the televsion sitcom Night Court.
Bobby Jordan (Angel) was the youngest Dead End Kid born on April 1, 1923. Bobby died on September 10, 1965. He appeared in 69 films and television shows from 1937 to 1961. Bobby's credits include Bonanza, Route 66, Maverick, and Treasure of Monte Cristo (1949).
Henry Richard "Huntz" Hall (Dippy) was born on August 15, 1919. Huntz died on January 30, 1999. He appeared in 116 films and television shows from 1937 to 1993. Huntz appeared on Different Strokes, Flipper, and Herbie Rides Again (1974).
Bernard Punsly (Milty) was born on July 11, 1923. Bernard retired in 1943 after making 19 films. He left show business and became a physician. When Huntz Hall died in 1999, Punsly became the last surviving cast member of the Dead End Kids.
Gabriel Dell (T.B.) was born on October 8, 1919 and died on July 3, 1988. He appeared in 81 films and television shows from 1937 to 1982. He went on to appear in Earthquake (1974), Barney Miller, Sanford and Son, and I Dream of Jeanie.
Leo B. Gorcey (Spit) was the oldest Dead End Kid born on June 3, 1917. He died on June 2, 1961. Leo appeared in 90 films and television shows from 1937 to 1966, including playing the First Cab Driver in It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World (1963). He also appeared in Invisible Stripes (1939) and Docks of New York (1945). Leo's father was actor Bernard Gorcey. Leo's brother David Gorcey also became a Dead End Kid.