On the Bowery (1956) - full transcript

By focusing on the lives of three down-and-out alcoholic transients, the film creates a wrenching portrait of the tragic hopelessness of life on "The Bowery" in New York City.

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Take it easy pardner!

Who do think your talkin' to, eh?

You quite the wise guys around here !

Whadda you talkin' about?

My name's Dougherty!

Why don't you speak?

Shut up...

Shaddup fer Chrissake!

- Who the hell you talkin' at?
- Shut up!

My name's Brennan.

Brennan? Who knows Brennan?

The name's Dougherty!
Name's as Irish as...

The only friend I have in the world...

How you goin' bud?

- Pretty good.
- Yeah?

- Where you workin'?
- On the railroad.

- Whereabouts?
- Jersey.

- Thought you might of done Monowese.
- No, I didn't get around there.

- No camp down there anyway.
- So I hear...I've never been there.

How are things over in Jersey?

- Fair...fair.
- That's swell.

They feed fairly good.

How's the flop?

Pretty good.

It's not always...

Yeah, I know, with this outfit,
gave clean sheets once a week.

At Monowese, you don't get sheets!

Don't get 'em at all...

That's right you just get the old...
don't even get...yeah...one blankets.

Get a fella a drink...?

Gin?...I'm drinkin' beer.

That's all I'm buyin'.

That's quite alright. I appreciate it.

I'd rather drink wine you know.
But...I'll settle for beer.

So be it.
Give us two beers please.

I appreciate it very much.

You're welcome.

Here's luck!

Your health.

What've you been doin'?

Lately, just bouncin' around.
Worked for railroads too...but...

Some of the boys are over there.
Would you care to come over...and join the party

There's one of those guys over there
I think I worked with on the railroad once.

They're all on the railroad.

- Yeah?
- That should be good.

They wanna meet you.

I know you don't I?

Have a seat.

Good idea.

You've just come in now?

Yeah...I just came back from Jersey.

I got in this morning.

You guys are muscatel drinkers?

That's right!

I don't drink wine myself but if you'll
make a quarter I'll buy a bottle...

This is a swell guy!

Well, make it four.

I don't drink that...

What was that old foreman's name
out there?

What was the section was that old lug
Mike goin' out there?

Oh, he was with Houghton Utah.

He had likely got us all
killed there one day!

When we were raisin' track...

He wouldn't let me knock
that jack down.

I remember that.

Oh, we were lucky to get
out of that alive.

You sure were!

Well...looks like it's here fellas!

Our friends here seem to be dry!

You're lookin' at the driest guy
in the party here, rascal...

I was waitin' for you
to spring a drink.

Are you gonna spring a drink
or aren't you, ya rat!

Come on, break out now.
I'm really waitin' for you to spring.

Reminds me of eatin' in the Grand Union
with friends as your companions.

You're more than welcome.

That's swell for you to say.

We won't make no habit of it.

Well, we won't go into a habit,
you rascal!

You know that we won't
go into a habit.

What do you say we have a smoke?

That'd be an idea!

This is one of the darndest places
ever I seen!

What the hell crap have you got
against this place here?...I mean...

What's wrong with this...?

Wait a minute...What's the rap you got
against this man's town?

I think this is one of the grandest towns...

Are you gonna sing?


Let me tell you somethin' fellas...
I bought the booze...I don't have to...

Yes you did...you've bin a gen'leman and we're
not gonna take that rap away from ya!

Nobody's gonna take that rap away
from you but...the mayor!

Did you ever hear a real song?

If we can't be

The same old sweethearts

Why then we'll just be...

You were talkin' about?

...the same old friends.

Oh I'll want someone like you just

To tell my troubles to...

What about you, Gorman ?

How's your railroad experience?


New Haven, Lackawanna...

Don't wanna show off...

OK...I'll be around for a couple of days.

Good luck.

What was that about Pennsy
and New Haven, was it?

You've been to Monowese?

I guess it's been burned a dozen years...
I guess there's nothin' left, so...

OK Pat...well I'll see you around.

These guys sure took off, didn't they?

Sure. When they see no more in evidence
...so naturally they gotta go.

Anything for a drink, eh?

Yeah, I reckon!

Oh well...that's the way it goes.

The Bowery way!

What else is there around here?

Well, what do you mean?

I was thinkin' about most
of the places you go...

...there's always a place
you can get a day's labour.

In The Bowery you can get a job
dishwashing for a day...

That's what I need now, a day’s work,
not a full week's work.

The jobs according to all I hear...
you gotta be there when they're open.

That's understandable.

You know...

I left camp last night...

...and I'm pretty well broke.

You in a position to
help out here?

I haven't got a penny on me.

Always need to figure out
some way to get some.

What 've you got in the keister?

I've got...


Go down to the ''thieves market''.

You can rake up a few bucks
down there.

It's just a name they've given
this bunch down here

Some of the stuff's "hot"....
Most of it's alright.

You know anyone?

All the boys buy down there.

You'll get a good price.

Better price than
a lot of these second-hand dealers.

I'd like to have another drink.

You gotta have a flop, too.

That's for sure!

So you wanna fly?

I guess it's just as well.

Nuthin'...gain nuthin'!

Where'll we open it?

Good a place as any.

Got to be enough for a drink.

I haven't got too much.

-What else you got?
- Not much.

Here we are!

Not that, my friend.

Why not?

I said no and I mean no,
and that's all there is to it.

The pants will have to do.

Well, that wasn't too successful, was it?

Oh, they've cheapened up.

You used to be able
to do alright down there.

We won't spend too much...
I wanna save somethin' for a flop.

A beer and a glass of muscatel please.

Hullo, Walter.

Hullo, Doc.

You got a room?

You got money?

I haven't got a cent.

No credit on the house.

I got to sleep or...

No bed unless you got money.

Wait a minute.

How's this?

There's plenty in it.

OK...I'll give you a room.

-Leave the suitcase there.
- Yeah, i will.


Leave it there.

- Thanks.
- Go on right out this way.

Yeah, thanks.

Know where can you get
a job on a truck?

Corner of Houston Street.

Follow me.

How are you going, Gorman ?

Pretty good.
Say, I heard some bad reports about you.

What? About me?

You disappeared...

Somebody told me you made
the sneezer on Rikers lsland.

Oh, you got the wrong island.
I was on Hart Island.

Oh well...

They're next door to each other.


I only done short period...ten,
and then the next one was five.

But if I had've been
in the right neighbourhood,

I would've not got anything.

Why did you stay
in the wrong neighbourhood?

You gotta jump from one side of the city
to the other to buy what you want to get...

to make a living.

What are you doing, selling 'Sneaky Pete'
out of that pushcart of yours ?

No, just sellin' the cardboard, metal and rags.

Gotta have somethin' to eat in the mornin'.!

I'd like to hit the soup palace.

You mean you eat
when you're drinkin' wine?

I eat, but I don't drink it downwards.
It upsets my stomach.

It's against the law.

Why, what could you do?

I could take one drink of that wine...
I lose my appetite.

I been in worse places than that.

Feed you alright?


A man can't live there...
he can't live anywhere.

You can have a T-bone steak every day.

Why not?
The city's got a lot of money.

Not if you're over there.

Well...I don't know I've never hit it...

They're not the same.
It's better than Riker.

Hot towels...everything's perfect.

You have no one bother...chase you round
and there's no work.

Can you sleep all day?...

Get up in the morning.
Go have your breakfast....come back...

Sweep the floor, mop it up...
and stay there.

Are you a bum?

I'm only a bum some ways.

When I get myself cleaned up
and straightened out...

I'm goin' down and get a ship...

I'm gonna wind up
in the South Sea Islands!

That's where I wanna go.

You must like it...are you gonna
stay down there indefinitely?

If I got a boat to the South Sea Islands,

I'd go...

to ''Guatalama''.

Are you gonna stay down there?

For certain. Why not?
Might as well be there as be here!

You'll live in a coconut tree and...?

Makes no difference where you live.

If you don't live on that coconut tree,
here you live in the doorways

with the deadbeats around here.

They don't hold with charity.

Boy, do I love that wine!

It's a good drink
if you know how to handle it.

Some people can't handle it.

I'd put it in my shoes!

I did. I did know how to handle it
when I had a few dollars.

Now look.

I got a deal on up there right now.

Oh, you have?

It's a good one.

Now it's in kitchen.

Pay's good.

It's an apartments hotel
up on the middle Fifties.

I see.

Very exclusive.

I've got a push-cart out here
if it'll do any good.

I don't want...no...no...I'm going up there
and take over the kitchen!

I'm gonna need some help.

Now, if you're interested...

and those bourgeois convictions
you have...

I think I can help you.

Well, I've got to go out this
cartload movin'.

Where are you going?

I'm going uptown...
to see this guy...

I'm going uptown too.

OK. But that's sets the deal now!

Any of the boys been around?

No sir...too early.

- You seen anybody?
- No sir.

Well...let me have a musky.

Make it a short 'n.

Have you seen Phil ?

Not today.

So who's won all the marbles?

The old man!

He beat me two times before.

I thought you were
the house champion...

You usually take everybody
that plays.

It happens you know...
every day can't be the same.

By the way, have you heard anything of...

your family lately?

I don't even depend on them,
you see.

I live on single man's pension.

I sit here 2 or 3 hours a day

Then I go out and have my...
whatever I feel like have.

Then I sit down on the park benches,
I play a game...

That's my life.

Sounds like a quieter one...
than normal.

That'd be what I'd want...right now.

Hullo, Ray.

Hullo Gorman, how are ya?

Oh, fair...how are you doing?

Pretty good.

What are you doing today...anything?

I was lucky today, Gorman.

I was up on a corner,

I got a job on a truck...
made a few dollars.

I can think of a lot more exciting ways
of making a buck than working!

It's the only way I know
how to make it.

How 'bout a drink?

Ah...no...I'm sittin' here drinkin' this!

I...I don't care for a drink.

What are you gonna do tonight?

One of the guys was tellin' me
there was a Bowery Mission opens up here

about 6.30...6.00...
somethin' like that...

A fella can go down there
and wash and shave...

get himself cleaned up...
sorted out...attend service...

...then they'll give him
a place to sleep.

I figured I'd go down there
and do that.

You know...it'll keep me out...
outta the gin mills.

I don't wanna drink
any more.

Look...you've made a day's pay...

You've got the price of a flop
in your pocket.

It isn't the price, Rob.

It isn't the price.

If I walk over here and pay in
for a night...

I'd still be tempted until it was
time to go to sleep...See?

So I figure, if I go on up there...

I'll be engaged until
it's time to go to bed.

I won't be...you know...
tempted to drink.

Well after all, a man's mind
is his own.

If you don't wanna drink...
you don't wanna drink.

I'll offer it to you again...
if you say no...OK.

I'll tell you one thing, though.

I'd like to have the drink,
but I don't want it!

Well, pal...I'm goin' across the street
to the ''Confidence''...

..and pour 2 or 3 in me...

...to carry me through the night.

2 or 3 won't do YOU any good, boy!

Oh you'd be surprised...
they're gonna be doubles!

That figures.

Oh...I'll be seein' ya, boy.

OK, Gorman, take it easy.

Tonight I'll introduce to you
our superintendent,

the reverend George L Bolton.

God bless you.


For more than 28 years now,

I have ministered...

Shall I say, on Skid Row.

Endeavouring to...

...tell men...

...that there are no hopeless cases
with God.

I think I know somewhat of the truth
of that statement...

...from personal experience.

Because I am the product...

...of a rescue mission located...

...on Skid Row.

I dare say there isn't
a man here today...

...who started out...

...to end up...

...on The Bowery.

The Bowery of New York.

At least one newspaperman stated...

...that it was the saddest...

...and the maddest street
in the world.

Maybe that was
an understatement.

Clearly it is a tragic...


I again say...I don't believe
there's a...

...there's ever a man...

...whether he be on Skid Row
or otherwise...

...who started out with a life ambition
to end up in a drunkard's grave.

And that might happen
to some person here...

...this very day.

This need not be so.

God loves you, man!

When you accept Christ,
you become in God's sight...

...just as if...

...you had never sinned.

Isn't that wonderful?

Now my friends, as our heads are bowed
and our eyes are closed...

Remember sir, that this is
God's invitation...

...the same that was given to this man,
so many years ago...

...and so many hundreds that have
passed through the doors of this place.

It's not what I say...it's not even
what the preacher said...

...but it's what you do tonight
with Jesus.

We ask you tonight to come.

Come tonight...kneel at this altar...

...and tell Jesus that you want him
to be your saviour.

Will you do it, sir?...even as
we close now in prayer.

Sir, I lost Jesus 24 years ago

And I've been a lost man
ever since...

..and I'm so glad I came here

Amen for that person.

Anyone else, men?

Pardon me,
What's the story here? What's the set-up?

Haven't you been here before?

No, I've never been here before.

You have to sleep on the floor
the first night.

Too many men wants beds.

On the floor?

Too many men wants beds.

There must be quite a few
come in here.

You said the first night? Does that mean
I can stay here more than one night?

Oh yes.

Well, how long can you stay here?

If they assign you to a bed upstairs...

...you can count on a week.

-A week?
-Oh yes.

Will you get a chance to get out
and do a day's work?

Yes, you'll have time...you'll have
plenty of time...to look for work.

I want to tell you something
about what you have to do now.

You see, we're here to help you...
we want to give you help.

But before we can give you a bed
you gotta get cleaned up.

Listen!...You keep quiet 'til I get through...
and then you can start.

In the first place, you have to
stay in here all night.

You have to have a bath.

You have to put your clothes
in the fumigator.

You have to wash you small clothes.
You have to shave.

All those things you have to do
before you can have a bed.

And then we'll give you a bed.

Now when you come in here,
you'll leave the booze outside.

Forget all about Sneaky Pete.

When you come in here,
you stay sober.

Because when you get the ticket,

that's a contract that you're gonna stay
sober as long as you hold that ticket.

The minute you come to the front door
in the evening...

...at 6 o'clock...to come down here.

Then Hal will see whether
you've had a drink or not.

If you are under the influence of drink
you cannot sleep at the dormitory.

The dormitory's clean...
the beds are clean.

There's a shower up there
and a place to shave.

Everything is there for your use.

But you can't get up there
under the influence of liquor.

Take this.

Oh, thanks!

You'll get used to this.

- What time do we get up in the morning?
- 6 o'clock in the morning.

- 6 o'clock...thanks
- OK, boy.

Say, fellas...
What's new?

How you goin'?

You can see that. You don't need
to ask that question, do ya?

- You buying?
- You didn't make it?

- I couldn't take any more of that!
- I know!

You can only stand so much!
I don't care how tough you are...

...you can't take it!

Yes sir! I don't know about you fellas,
but I'm gonna have one on me!

Well the older you get, boy,
the faster you drink.

A beer, please.

It's fun.

I'm making out.

Mind if I have a puff
on your cigarette?

No, not at all.

Look...I'll stand up myself!

Can you stand up?

I hope so.
I'm weak in the legs...or...I don't know.

Come on...
Let's get over here...

I'll help you.

Jimmy...you can't compare...

The grandest guy that ever...

When you say so, that's it.

Collins too.

Then somebody got me a cleaning job
on a newspaper.

I worked for ''Life" and "Time''...

at ''Life" and the "Herald''.

Meantime I got a yen
I wanted to study medicine.

I understood you were...

...a pretty good physician.

Yeah...I graduated in medicine...
and I got fired out of "Life" and "Time"

And I figured I'll go somewhere
where I can practice.

I was a damned good surgeon
and a damned good intern.

I mean, I was a good doctor.

I'll tell you one thing...

You mighta bin as good as you say...

...but me...

...I only care for one thing...

Two-nothing on the Yankees!

I will admit that...

- You remember that...?
- That's not nice, right?

Say by the way, Ray...
where...where were you born, anyway?

What state d'you come from?

You mean my originality?

Your origin...what have you.

I was born in Kentucky...

...raised in North Carolina.

Twin brother of mine
decided to join the army.

I was a friend of his.

I joined the army too.

I gave you 15 cents to buy me...

...a Band Aid bandage.

You never came back!

You're a rat!

That was the lousiest thing
anyone could do!

Nowhere in The Bowery!

You're entitled to your opinion...

I want you to confront me...

That's about the lowest...!

Buy 's a drink?

I'm ready you know...I'm ready to go...

Where did YOU come from?

I just brought this chair
for the lady.

I bring my own chairs...I mind my own chairs...
you understand that?

I dunno.

I even come here.

Gorman, we gotta get a drink
for this lady.

Don't you know where the bar is?!

I know where the bar is!

I'm not coming back.

Go out there and get
what you're drinkin'...

I want a gin.

And I want the same.

The police officer...
with a badge...

Calls me and says:
''Well come on with me.''

What could I do?

I am a victim.

You're a victim of circumstances.

You're certainly right!

You want your drink?


Let's you and I have a drink.

Then we'll go someplace.

Get rid of 'im and then we'll be set.

I'll tell you what to do...

Spend your 80 cents
and go and sleep in the park.

I don't care whether I sleep
in the park or not.

I wanna tell you...!

It's none of your business.
She's with me!

I just want her address.

Nobody's gonna get my address!


- What bush is it under?
- I live in a real house.

If I have to get up here
and punch you in the nose...!

He's mine.

What a mouthful!

Go ahead, take a drink.

Take a drink...take a drink!

It's up to you...
whatever you want to do.

Pee Wee Reese !

Duke beat Notre Dame.

It looked to me like they did.

Will you get outta here?

Get outta here!

Whatta my gonna do with
the case you got there ?

I'll take it along with me.

You know you owe me
2 nights room then.

You know, I've got enough stuff
in that suitcase to hock.

A whole lot more
than 2 nights room rent.

You know i never stuck anybody
on this Bowery...

I been comin' here
for a long long time.

Have I ever hooked anybody here?

- So long.
- I'll see you.

Here come the cops!

Let's go!

There's Ray there...
Let's get 'im.

Well!...Looks like you had
a pretty rugged night.

You can say that again!

How about a drink?

Set that down your hatch!

No, thanks.

Hell...what's the matter?

I just don't care for it.

I drank too much of that stuff.

What's your trouble?

You know the story.

I came in with my money,
after workin' all summer.

Started drinking that mess.

One thing led to another.

Drank a lot. Spent a lot.

Wound up with Howie over there...

...with nothin' in the world.
No clothes, no money, nothin'.

Well, probably some of your drinking
companions hauled you in by your pockets!

If they did, they didn't
leave any pocket.

'Cause that wasn't holdin' a thing.

It happens.

What then?

I'm just sittin' here...

See if maybe one of the boys
from the camp might come in...

and I maybe borrow a few dollars off.
And I can get cleaned up and...

...go on out to Chicago.
I'm disgusted with this place.

I hear they're hirin' men out there.

Go out there and get a job...

..and make my last stand
out there.

If I don't make it this time,
I'm givin' up!

Well, how do you expect
to get out there?

You haven't got any money.

If I can get cleaned up, maybe
I can get a day's work, you know, and...

Then hitch-hike...

...or maybe I'll ship up the line
on the railroad...

and just walk on down the tracks
instead of going to work.

Ship out in the other direction
until I get there.

I know one thing.

There's no excuse for me to try to stop
just takin' one or two of them!

No good!

That's the reason I refused
that one there.

From now on...

I'm not gonna do it.

We hope.

I'm not gonna say
I'll NOT do it.

But I'm gonna try hard to.

I've only said that
a thousand times.

You've got me by a couple of years.
I've only said it about 800.

I know I don't have a thing right now
I haven't even got a plug nickel.

But...there's a buddy of mine
supposed to be in here and give me some dough.

If he does...He hasn't shown up yet.

He's about an hour overdue
but he always comes.

I guarantee that when I see him...

...you'll get enough to go on.

Yeah, I know...I've heard
those things before.

Look...I don't hand malarkey out.

When I tell a man somethin'
I keep my word.

My friend, I've heard that a million times before.
I'll be seein' ya around.

What's the matter with you anyway?

You went out of that place
like a turpentined cat!

You know how it is, Gorman.

I was tryin' to get a few bucks
to get myself back on my feet...

I didn't see anybody in there I knew...

...so I figured there was as good
a place as any to wait.

You know we try to help each other out
down here when we've got it.

I understand that.
I'm right around into it myself.

When you blew out of there...

Obi blew in...
and Obi was holding.

Obi...that was that friend
you were tellin' me about?

He showed up and he
was carryin' a bundle.

So...I put the bight on Obi.

And I got pieced off.

I'll divide the wealth with you.

It's not much...

...but it might help.

- You'll share the wealth with me?
- I sure will.

That help you any?

It certainly will.

I'll go over here to Talman's...

...and get a clean shirt and
a clean pair of pants.

And I'll be able to get to work again.

That's OK...but get off this Bowery
and stay off the place.

Well, I certainly appreciate this, Gorman.

If I ever run into you again,
I'll give it back.

If I don't, I'll pass it on
to somebody else.

Do what you please about that.
We'll run into each other again.

Thanks a million.

Good luck to you, boy!

As to you.

How are you doin'?

Oh, pretty good.

By the way, have you seen
Ray lately?

Yeah, saw 'im this morning.

They picked Ray up
in an alley this mornin'.

In a terrible state!

Made his squeeze a heap...

Gave 'im a drink...

...straightened 'im out a little
and then we took 'im for a cup o' coffee.

He was in here just a little while back.

Yes, and he's alright now too.

Didn't think a man could
straighten out so quick!

Yes...thanks to him.

I can get anybody
straightened out!

What'd you do for 'im anyway?

I dressed 'im up...
put some money in his pocket.

He don't brag either
about what he does.

The boy's gonna be alright!

Whadda you mean about
'bein' alright'?

I know he's gonna be alright.
I got 'im a good job...

And the kid's gonna come through.

He wanted to get off The Bowery.

And I did the best I could to help.

That's all any man can do.

Let me tell YOU something...

He'll be back.