Busby Berkeley directs John Garfield and The Dead End Kids in the story of a boxer hiding out because he thinks he killed someone. He doesn’t know he’s innocent.
Johnnie Bradfield (John Garfield) just won the championship. In his post fight interview he talks nice about his mother and comes across like the all American boy. Detective Phelan (Claude Rains) returns a watch to him he says was recovered after a year in a pawn shop. Johnnie says his mother gave it to him after saving up the household money.
Phelan has been relegated to morgue duty ever since a man he arrested went to the electric chair. It was too late when it was discovered he was innocent. Phelan comments to Johnnie about his distinctive stance in the ring since he’s a southpaw. He puts the watch on Johnnie’s wrist for him and leaves.
Later Johnnie is getting drunk with his girlfriend Goldie West (Ann Sheridan) and his manager Doc Ward. All that talk after the bout was just made up because the suckers like it. Gloria’s drunken loud mouth friend Budgie comes in with a guy. Turns out he’s a reporter and he says he’s going to print everything Johnnie said about his phony image.
Johnnie goes to take a swing at him but falls down. He doesn’t see Doc hit the reporter over the head with a bottle. Johnnie’s passed out when Doc discovers the reporter’s dead. Budgie is passed out. Doc and Gloria take Johnnie to a cabin in the woods. Doc takes Johnnie’s money along with the watch, his car and Gloria.
They’re speeding along when they hear a call go out for the cops to stop them. The reporter’s body has been found and Budgie says Johnnie did it. The car crashes and catches on fire burning Doc and Gloria beyond recognition. The cops think the body is Johnnie. Case closed.
Johnnie goes to his lawyer for advice. He asks him to go to the bank and get his ten grand that’s in a safety deposit box. When Johnnie goes to get his money his lawyer gives him two hundred fifty bucks and says the rest is his fee. The lawyer tells him to change his name to Jack Dorney and hop a freight.
Johnnie ends up on a date farm in Arizona. It’s run by Peggy and her grandmother. Picking dates are the Dead End Kids. One of them, Tommy (Billy Halop), is Peggy’s brother. It’s an attempt to reform them. After a rough start they become friends with Johnnie. He shows them some boxing techniques including how to fight dirty. One of the kids goes to take his picture and Johnnie warns him not to do that. A bit later he gets the picture anyway.
It’s also a rough start with Peggy but that soon changes. Everything is just swell until…..the picture wins a contest and ends up in the paper. The paper makes its way to New York and Phelan. It shows Johnnie in the ring from behind but there’s no mistaking that stance. The other cops laugh at Phelan and think he’s crazy. They all believe Johnnie is dead.
In order to raise money so Peggy’s brother Tommy can open a gas station Johnnie decides to get back into the ring. A traveling show is coming through with a boxer challenging anyone to last more than two rounds with him. If anyone does they’ll get five hundred dollars for each round they last. Johnnie signs up.
The night before the fight he spots Phelan at the box office buying a ticket. All of a sudden he changes his mind. The Kids aren’t talking to him and Peggy breaks down. Now what does he do?
The movie is entertaining and Leo Gorcey, Huntz Hall and company are their usual fast talking selves. It all comes to a feel good ending that has a logical explanation.
Billy Halop ended his career as Bert Munson on “All In The Family” (1971-76).