The Big House (1930)

Passed  |   |  Crime, Drama, Romance  |  14 June 1930 (USA)
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Ratings: 7.2/10 from 1,191 users  
Reviews: 19 user | 21 critic

A convict falls in love with his new cellmate's sister, only to become embroiled in a planned break-out which is certain to have lethal consequences.


(as George Hill) , (uncredited)


(story), (additional dialogue) (as Joe Farnham) , 1 more credit »
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Won 2 Oscars. Another 2 nominations. See more awards »
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Cast overview, first billed only:
George F. Marion ...
J.C. Nugent ...
Mr. Marlowe
DeWitt Jennings ...
Matthew Betz ...
Gopher (as Mathew Betz)
Mrs. Marlowe
Robert Emmett O'Connor ...
Donlin (as Robert Emmet O'Connor)
Tom Kennedy ...
Uncle Jed (scenes deleted)
Tom Wilson ...
Eddie Foyer ...


After a manslaughter conviction from drunk driving, nice but foolish Kent is sent to a prison over-crowded and unable to properly deal with it's inmates. There he meets veteran criminals like Morgan and his hardened pal Butch. And the system punishes them all, turning them against each other and bringing out the worst. Written by Ken Yousten <>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Timely! Tremendous! Thrilling! Drama of Love and a Jail-Break!


Passed | See all certifications »





Release Date:

14 June 1930 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Big House  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.20 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


MGM Production Chief Irving Thalberg sent screenwriter Frances Marion to San Quentin State Prison in northern California to observe real prison conditions and adapt them as closely as possible to her script. The warden at the prison reminded Marion of the actor Lewis Stone, who was cast to play the prison warden in the film. See more »


The position of Wallace Beery'd head in relation to the wall in the letter sequence with Morris. See more »


John Morgan: What happens when you get through the inner gate?
'Machine Gun' Butch Schmidt: We crash that outer gate and there's a car waitin' outside.
John Morgan: When does it come off?
'Machine Gun' Butch Schmidt: Thanksgiving day. Noon. Most of the screws go to turkey dinner. We'll give 'em a belly full.
See more »


Featured in Some of the Best (1943) See more »


Ring the Bells of Heaven
(1866) (uncredited)
Music by George Frederick Root
Words by William O. Cushing
Sung by the Prisoners in Chapel
See more »

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User Reviews

Good Story, Though A Bit Hokey
7 August 2000 | by (Los Angeles, CA) – See all my reviews

I thought this film was very strong from the story angle -- the main characters are not cliches and a relatively happy ending is contrived in a relatively believable way.

Still, there is some rather hokey preaching from the warden, which feels more like "social commentary" from the writer than believable dialogue from the character. And the "comic relief" of a stuttering convict falls flat.

Also, somewhat strangely, I didn't see any black faces in any of the shots that actually involve dialogue, or even in medium-long shots of say a dozen or so prisoners. But when you get extreme long shots, suddenly all sorts of black prisoners appear. I'm not sure if this accurately reflected segregation in prisons, racism in filmmaking, or a continuity problem.

9 of 13 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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