In this 1954 short film, two rival gangs are fighting. They both come from the same neighborhood. The members of both gangs grew up poor. All of them feel like there’s no hope for them. They’re all angry and sad and fatalistic. In fact, there’s only one difference between the two gangs. One gang is made up of white kids and the other gang is made up of Mexicans. That’s the only reason the two gangs fight.
The leader of the Mexican gang knows that things have got to change. While looking over the quarry where, years ago, his younger brother died while trying to be as tough as him, the leader of the gang remembers the early days of the gang and how what started out as a place for outsiders to feel like they belonged soon became something violent and destructive. The community wants to have a dance but the threat of violence is in the air. Can he defuse the situation? Maybe that friendly detective could help….
Gang Boy is a Sid Davis production, a look at how poverty and prejudice were fueling the rise in gang violence in the 50s. Unusually, for a Sid Davis film, it’s remarkably nonjudgmental. There is, of course, all the “you’ve ruined your life” melodrama that one would usually expect from Davis but the final blame is put more on society than the members of the gang.
Speaking of the members of the gang, the cast of this film was apparently made up of actual gang members who all hated each other. The film may end with the promise of a better tomorrow but it’s hard to avoid the feeling that a fight broke out as soon as the camera stopped rolling,
Personally, I think of this as being a prequel to West Side Story. Before the Sharks and the Jets learned how to dance, there was …. GANG BOY!