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A Criminal Is Born (1938)

Approved | | Short, Crime, Drama | 5 June 1938 (USA)
An entry in the "Crime Does Not Pay" series, it tells the true story of how a young man, ignored by his parents, gets into a gang and starts a crime spree which leads to murder.


Leslie Fenton


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Credited cast:
George P. Breakston ... Henry
David Durand ... Rodney
Norman Phillips Jr. Norman Phillips Jr. ... Tom (as Norman Phillips)
Warren McCollum ... Jimmy Wheeler
Joseph Crehan ... Frank Wheeler
Dorothy Vaughan ... Martha Wheeler
Eddy Waller ... Joe - Cafe Owner, Second Shooting Victim
Ben Taggart ... Man in Alley - First Shooting Victim
Harry Strang ... Cop
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Chuck Hamilton ... Police Car Driver (archive footage)
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A message about parenting and prevention. A judge provides statistics about the percentages of crimes in the United States committed by persons under the age of 21. We then meet four high school students who hang around together - and their four sets of parents: socialites too busy to care, a local businessman who's on civic committees and his wife, a belligerent pair, and a caring couple. As the four boys drift into petty crime, one set of parents figures out their son is about to get in serious trouble. The other three youths, armed with a gun they've stolen, pick up the pace of their crimes, from burglary to robbery. Will anyone intervene before lives are ruined? Written by <jhailey@hotmail.com>

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Short | Crime | Drama


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Followed by Help Wanted (1939) See more »

User Reviews

Crime Does Not Pay
3 August 2009 | by Michael_ElliottSee all my reviews

Criminal is Born, A (1938)

*** 1/2 (out of 4)

Hard-hitting entry in MGM's Crime Does Not Pay series takes a look at the parents responsibility in keeping their kids off the streets. Four friends begin doing small crimes but one of their fathers gets him interested in fishing. That friend drops out of the gang just in time because the other four start doing more serious crimes after they find a gun. I'm a major fan of this series so if you find these movies over dramatic or too preachy then I'm sure you're going to feel the same way about this entry. With that said, I think it's important to remember when this film was being released and with that in mind, the movie works very well. I thought director Fenton did a good job at building up some suspense as the kids start doing more dangerous crimes. There's one robbery where a clerk trips over a certain item that I won't mention here but the stunt really appears to have gone wrong and the stunt man got injured. I have nothing to back this up but when you watch the film check the sequence out again. The performances were pretty good with Warren McCollum really standing out as one of the punk kids. The 20-minutes fly by at a very fast pace making this one of the better entries in the series.

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Release Date:

5 June 1938 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Crime Does Not Pay No. 17: A Criminal Is Born See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »

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