Lzcutter - Dead End is a favorite of mine, too. That scene where Sylvia is ironing her kid brother's (Billy Halop) shirt, allowed her to complain (profusely) in her later years, "I was always ironing somebody's shirt!" Sidney felt she had been typecast and wanted more variety, which is partially why she returned to the stage.
There was lots of drama on the set during filming.
In March 1937, Sylvia signed ($75,000) with Samuel Goldwyn to play Drina in Dead End. Goldwyn insisted that Sidney play the role. Sylvia's only resistance was working with William Wyler. After a long day's shoot, she injured her face at a Elizabeth Arden salon. When she returned to the set sporting an eyepatch (18 stitches), Wyler shouted, "That's a movie star?!?" Sylvia stomped off the set. Goldwyn got word and rushed over to let her know that she didn't have to film anything until she recovered.
When Sylvia did return, Wyler kept her on the verge of tears. She recalled, "He knew I had a concussion and my nose hurt. But that didn’t stop him. He’d do thirty or forty takes of the same scene.” She grew to despise him. Sidney moaned to Goldwyn, “I hate this goddamned picture!” To make matters worse, after one strenuous day’s shoot, Wyler was in hot pursuit of her. In 1990, Sidney recalled:
"Wyler was ... a sadistic son-of-a-bitch. He had a habit of treating you badly and then trying to make love to you. At least that was
my experience with him. I had a wonderful little hideaway in Palos Verdes, and he showed up there one night. It was after we had a fight. I left the set. I just tore down to the beach. I guess he thought I was alone. Fortunately, Luther Adler was there with me. If it hadn’t been for him, I might have ended up in the crazy house. Wyler almost put me there."
As usual, Wyler's "technique" created one of the best films of the 1930's. Lillian Hellman’s scenario (from Sidney Kingsley's play) was keyed to enhance the dramatic contrast between helpless squalor and excessive riches. (Kingsley and Hellman —both liberals—were advocates of slum reform.) The Dead End Kids proved to be the "new sensation." So many riveting scenes graced this film. A favorite of mine is Bogart's encounter with his mother (Marjorie Main). Following her line “You dirty rotten bum,” Main slaps him across the face. As usual, Wyler demanded numerous takes, and Main never held back. As Bogart’s face began to swell, he turned to Wyler and fumed, “If she slaps me one more time, I’m going to wipe up the floor with her!”
Oh yes, Sylvia thought Joel McCrea "an absolutely beautiful man!"