Sir Guy actually is not the most complex of parts, as he is the bad guy who definitely wants to kill Robin Hood, and at least at first wishes to marry the Maid Marian for himself. There technically is not too much more of him so the rest is really left to Rathbone. Firstly Rathbone is the right physical presence for the role. When he fights he has that right menace to seem the appropriate threat to Robin Hood. More than that though Rathbone plays off Errol Flynn well by counteracting the pleasure Flynn shows in his role, with pleasure in Guy when he tries to kill Robin Hood, a different kind of pleasure though a sadistic pleasure.
Past the action scenes though Rathbone handles Guy well particularly in his relationship to Maid Marian. Although at first Rathbone shows an interest in her as more of for a prize more than anything else, but this soon changes to brief frustration then quickly suspicion when Robin Hood seems to be having a little too much help. Rathbone is very good in his portraying the cunning in Guy as he figures out what Marian is doing, and he does well to make Guy more than just the man who Robin constantly gets the upper hand on.
Rathbone plays the straight villain quite well here while leaving Claude Rains to play the much more flamboyant role of King John. Rathbone does well not to try to attempt to one up Rains in any way instead while Rains takes the high road Rathbone takes the low road. He allows Rains to be the villain who just loves being a villain while he acts the far more serious threat who actually attempts to figure out way to kill Robin Hood. Rathbone stands well within the film allowing Flynn and Rains to be the more lively presences, but all the while making his own impact as the real threat in the film.
O'Brien actually has a rather similar role to Spencer Tracy's Oscar winning role in Boys Town. O'Brien's performance and the role though are far more complex than Tracy's work though. One of the best parts of Angels with Dirty Faces is the fact that the good priest and the bad criminal are friends in the film. This might not have worked so well but O'Brien and Cagney, who were best friends in real life, have terrific chemistry together. They just have such a natural warmth to one another and both Cagney and O'Brien suggest the past with one another incredibly well, and O'Brien does well to suggest that Jerry does have a certain nostalgia for his days as a juvenile delinquent along with Rocky.
Jerry and Rocky due come into conflict due to Rocky still engaging in criminal activities well Jerry is trying to stop the criminal activity in the neighborhood. O'Brien is excellent in portraying the humble conviction in Jerry as he tries to stop Rocky from corrupting the boys who idolizes him. The reason O'Brien is so effective though is that within his strong passion for his cause he does as well express his friendship with Rocky. O'Brien suggests that to a certain extent that pressing Rocky in this way does pain Jerry. O'Brien is very genuine as he shows that although he hates what Rocky stands for, he cannot ever forget his strong friendship with him.
O'Brien by always being genuine in portraying how he feels about Rocky gives a true power to his character, and never for a moment does he make Jerry seem the least bit sanctimonious. Near the end of the film Jerry asks Rocky to swallow his pride and do something good with his final moments by pretending to yellow before he is executed that way the boys will not look up to Rocky. This is a difficult scene for O'Brien as Jerry is asking Rocky for a lot in what is his final moments. O'Brien though absolutely earns the moment though because O'Brien is able to express the heartbreak in the scene as it is not just anyone he is asking to go out like coward, its his best friend.
O'Brien performance is essential to the film as one could easily be distracted by all the gangster half of the picture, and actually forget about O'Brien part. O'Brien does not allow that instead he and Cagney make the dynamic between the lives of Jerry and Rocky the best part of the picture. O'Brien's Jerry acts as the perfect anchor to Cagney's Rocky, as he takes the high flying action of the mob dealings and takes it down with the true weight of what those actions bring. The very best moment of O'Brien's performance comes at the end when he asks to boys to pray for the boy who could not run as fast he could. O'Brien gives the line the true poignancy it deserves and makes the conclusion of the film truly heartbreaking.
Edward Arnold plays the head of the rich family who is on the verge of a take over. Arnold is a bit of an underrated character actor of the period who often plays rich and powerful types. Arnold when given the opportunity could do more with his roles than just be commanding in his presence, even though he could be commanding with ease to. At the beginning of this film he plays mostly the rich man who does not seem to care too much about anything other than making more money even if that means walking over his colleagues or demolishing peoples homes if they interfere with his plans.
Arnold is always good at being the rich Scrooge type with his strong forceful personality. Where many actors might have been just only been the rich man, Arnold does bring some nice bits of humanity in the part. Importantly they are short rather subtle moments so no one would think he isn't a ruthless business man, but Arnold does bring these short little moments to establish that there is another man in there trying to get out. These short reactions are very well handled by Arnold such as when shows that Kirby does enjoy some of the antics of Vanderhoff family while his wife is completely appalled by their behavior.
Where every other character in the film is pretty much set in their various roles, Arnold has the one role that changes throughout the course of the film. The change is played out in Arnold's performance in an almost exclusively silent fashion. Arnold therefore has to carry most it himself and he does not disappoint in this regard. He conveys the internal struggle in Kirby in brief little moments that are very well handled. He shows so much in just the way Kirby looks as the harmonic he got from the Vanderhoff's home, and he expresses just how much Kirby honestly wishes to break out of his life.
When Kirby does have its turn around it not only is moving, but it is as well entirely believable because Arnold plants the seeds of the change earlier in the film. Arnold carefully does not go to far with the moments beforehand and does make Kirby the hard shell he should be as well. He earns this change in Kirby, and enables to to have the impact on the film it should. He is the one that makes the very last scene as heartwarming as it is because he only ever portrayed an honest transition from a man who only cares about money to a man who wants to enjoy life for all that it's worth.
- Pat O'Brien in Angels With Dirty Faces
- Edward Arnold in You Can't Take It With You
- Basil Rathbone in The Adventures of Robin Hood
- Claude Rains in The Adventures of Robin Hood
- Walter Brennan in Kentucky
- James Stewart in You Can't Take It With You
- Robert Morley in Marie Antoinette
- Lew Ayres in Holiday
- Ralph Richardson in The Citadel
- Paul Lukas in The Lady Vanishes
- Humphrey Bogart in Angels With Dirty Faces
- Ralph Richardson in The Divorce of Lady X
- Basil Radford in The Lady Vanishes
- Gene Lockhart in A Christman Carol
- Naunton Wayne in The Lady Vanishes
- Wilfrid Lawson in Pygmalion
- Billy Halop in Angels With Dirty Faces
- Harry Davenport in You Can't Take It With You
- Fernard Ledoux in The Human Beast
- Joseph Schildkraut in Marie Antoinette
- Edward Everette Horton in Holiday
- Walter Catlett in Bringing Up Baby
- James Finlayson in Block-Heads
- Cecil Parker in The Lady Vanishes
- Rex Harrison in The Citadel
- Claude Rains in Four Daughters
- Cecil Parker in The Citadel
- Billy Gilbert in Block-Heads
- Leo Gorcey in Angels With Dirty Faces
- Eugene Palette in The Adventures of Robin Hood
- Misha Auer in You Can't Take It With You
- Nikolay Okhlopkov in Alexander Nevsky
- Charles Ruggles in Bringing Up Baby
- George Bancroft in Angels With Dirty Faces
- Barry Fitzgerald in Bringing Up Baby
- Andrei Abrikosov in Alexander Nevsky
- Joseph Calleia in Algiers
- Ian Hunter in The Adventures of Robin Hood
- Frank McHugh in Four Daughters
- Gene Lockhart in Algiers
- Donald Meek in You Can't Take It With You
- Herbert Mundin in The Adventures of Robin Hood
- Samuel S. Hinds in You Can't Take It With You
- Leo G. Carroll in A Christmas Carol
- Melville Cooper in The Adventures of Robin Hood
- Henry Kolker in Holiday
- John Garfield in Four Daughters
- Tyrone Power in Marie Antoinette
- Barry MacKay in A Christmas Carol
- John Barrymore in Marie Antoinette
- Basil Rathbone in If I Were King
- Terry Kilburn in A Christmas Carol