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The Hoodlum Priest (1961)

2:39 | Trailer
Based on the life of Fr. Charles Clark, a minister to street gangs.


Irvin Kershner


Joseph Landon, Don Murray (as Don Deer)
2 wins & 1 nomination. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Don Murray ... Father Charles Dismas Clark
Larry Gates ... Louis Rosen
Cindi Wood ... Ellen Henley
Keir Dullea ... Billy Lee Jackson
Logan Ramsey ... George Hale
Don Joslyn Don Joslyn ... Pio Gentile
Sam Capuano Sam Capuano ... Mario Mazziotti
Vince O'Brien Vince O'Brien ... Assistant District Attorney
Al Mack Al Mack ... Judge Garrity
Lou Martini Lou Martini ... Angelo Mazziotri
Norman McKay Norman McKay ... Father Dunne
Joseph Cusanelli Joseph Cusanelli ... Hector Sterne
Bill Atwood Bill Atwood ... Weasel
Roger Ray Roger Ray ... Detective Shattuck
Kelly Stephens Kelly Stephens ... Genny


Based on the life of Fr. Charles Clark, a minister to street gangs.

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis




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Release Date:

26 March 1961 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

The Hoodlum Priest See more »

Filming Locations:

Jefferson City, Missouri, USA See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Sound)

Aspect Ratio:

1.66 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


Concerned that the critics would not be kind to an actor appearing in a film he wrote, DON MURRAY penned the screenplay under the pseudonym "Don Deer", his nickname as a track and field athlete in High school (Rockaway, NY). See more »


Referenced in Alice, Sweet Alice (1976) See more »

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User Reviews

Jive talking priest
23 January 2014 | by bkoganbingSee all my reviews

Father Charles Dismas Clark was by all accounts an extraordinary man and at least 30 years older than Don Murray who played him in The Hoodlum Priest. He came from a working class coal mining background in Pennsylvania, his ancestors were Molly Maguires. Not the kind to rise in the Catholic Church and he didn't. He died only two years after The Hoodlum Priest came out. But two years before Clark founded Dismas House, the first halfway house for newly released criminals from prison. Though I'm sure each state has its different standards, Dismas House became the prototype for such programs.

Murray plays the jive talking priest who speaks the language of the streets and gains the trust of the hoodlum element by doing so. It's the portrayal of a deeply dedicated man to his cause of ministering to a class of people not usually thought of as Christian material. Murray also produced this independent film released by United Artists on a shoe string budget that went way overboard for clearly a B picture.

In an article I read about the film Murray was in St. Louis promoting one of his films when a priest literally accosted him at the premiere and it was Father Clark. Fascinated by the man Murray agreed to do the film and set about to find the cast and financing for Hoodlum Priest.

Larry Gates plays a criminal attorney who helps Murray with setting up and financing Dismas House. In helping Murray realize his dream Gates' role is not all that different from Henry Hull's in Boystown.

Another plot thread is taken from the Pat O'Brien film Fighting Father Dunne where O'Brien is also trying found a home for orphans like Spencer Tracy in Boystown. Keir Dullea plays a troubled youth in his breakthrough role and Darryl Hickman plays the same kind of part in Fighting Father Dunne. In both films it was the failure here that contrasts the overall success. Both Hickman and Dullea have tragic and identical ends. Murray's facial reactions at Dullea's death is a priceless bit of acting without dialog.

Hoodlum Priest is a fine film a great example of what just a few dollars will get you with the right script, direction, and playing. Even if it put a few gray hairs in Murray's head when it went over budget.

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