Ronald Reagan Appears as Deputy District Attorney Patrick "Pat" Remson in "The Angels Wash Their Faces"

The Angels Wash Their Faces is a 1939 Warner Bros.

film starring Ronald Reagan and The Dead End Kids.


Gabe Ryan (Frankie Thomas) is released from reform school and it taken to a new house by his sister Joy (Ann Sheridan) to start a new life where no one knows of his past. However, Gabe immediately joins a local gang, the Beale Street Termites, where he meets up with William Kroner (Bernard Nedell), a local gangster. William accuses him of starting a fire at one of his properties, and Alfred Martino (Eduardo Ciannelli), the actual arsonist, uses this opportunity to frame Gabe for any fire. He decides to torch one of his apartment complexes so that he can collect the insurance money. Unfortunately, one of the kids, Sleepy (Bernard Punsly) is killed in the fire.

Patrick Remson (Ronald Reagan), the Assistant District Attorney, tries to prove Gabe's innocence. His motives are not only to prove Gabe's innocence, but also to get closer to his sister. Joy has devoted her life to helping Gabe and neglects her other interests, which was rallying against city government corruption, which pleases Martino. However, it is all for naught as Gabe is found guilty and sentenced to prison.

The other boys, led by Billy (Billy Halop), decide to do something to help Gabe. Billy runs for "boy mayor" and wins. He has Kroner arrested for a small infraction and sends him to jail. While there, Billy and the rest of the gang interrogate him and try to make him admit that Gabe is innocent. He does not cave in, that is until he is shown proof that his accomplices, Martino and the fire chief, are planning to skip the country. He confesses and Martino and the chief are arrested and sent to prison.


It was filmed under the title, The Battle of City Hall.


* Ronald Reagan as Patrick Remson
* Ann Sheridan as Joy Ryan
* Billy Halop as Billy Shafter
* Bobby Jordan as Bernie Smith
* Leo Gorcey as Leo Finnegan
* Gabriel Dell as Luigi Batteran
* Huntz Hall as Huntz Gartman
* Bernard Punsly as Luke 'Sleepy' Arkelian
* Frankie Thomas as Gabe Ryan
* Margaret Hamilton as Miss Hannaberry
* Marjorie Main as Mrs. Arkelian
* Grady Sutton as Gildersleeve (mayor's secretary)
* William Hopper as Photographer (uncredited)

The Angels Wash Their Faces, a lively 1939 comedy-drama directed by Ray Enright, features 28-year-old Ronald Reagan in the kind of second-banana part that Hollywood used to call a “juvenile” role. Instead of having a conventional top banana, the picture has no fewer than six collective stars: the Dead End Kids, a scruffy but lively group who made dozens of movies between 1937 and 1958. In his autobiography Where’s the Rest of Me? the future president said working with them was like “going over Niagara Falls in a barrel the hard way—upstream.” Maybe so, but their obstreperous antics energize the movie a lot more than Reagan’s movie-style respectability does.