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Humphrey Bogart plays a gangster imparting violent lessons to a gang of boys (in subsequent movies known as the Bowery Boys) on his old block in "Dead End" (1937). But the movie, written by Lillian Hellman from a play by Sidney Kingsley, focuses less on crime than on the conflict between rich and poor, who live nearly on top of one another in New York, as nowhere else. "Dead End" was filmed on a Hollywood set that is said to have so realistically reproduced the filthy dead-end tenement block off the East River that producer Samuel Goldwyn ordered it cleaned. "There won't be any dirty slums in a Goldwyn Picture." The filmmakers daily snuck garbage onto the set; Goldwyn daily ordered it removed.

One of the main characters in "Dead End" is an unemployed architect who grew up on the block, and wants to "tear all this down, and all the other places like it," in order to "build a decent world where people could live decent and be decent." Listening to those sentiments in the audience at the premiere of "Dead End" was Senator Robert F. Wagner, Sr. from New York. His Wagner-Stegall Housing Act would begin the federal commitment to "slum clearance," the tearing down of whole blocks of tenements, and their replacement with massive new housing projects. Had it not been for movies like "Dead End," Sanders says, there would not have been public support for bulldozing these busy tenement streets. Movie audiences (i.e. Americans) were persuaded that the streets themselves bred the gangsters. What would have happened if Hollywood had depicted poverty, rather than the street, as the culprit?

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