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The Big House (1930)

Passed | | Crime, Drama, Thriller | 14 June 1930 (USA)
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.

Directors:

(as George Hill), (uncredited)

Writers:

(story and dialogue), (additional dialogue) (as Joe Farnham) | 1 more credit »
Reviews
Won 2 Oscars. Another 2 nominations. See more awards »
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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
...
...
Butch
...
Warden
...
Kent
...
Anne
George F. Marion ...
Pop
J.C. Nugent ...
Mr. Marlowe
...
Olsen
DeWitt Jennings ...
Wallace
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 ...
Sandy
Eddie Foyer ...
Dopey
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Storyline

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 <kyousten@bev.net>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

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

Genres:

Crime | Drama | Thriller

Certificate:

Passed | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

Language:

|

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  »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

In Frances Marion's original script, the characters played by Leila Hyams and Robert Montgomery were husband and wife. After the film flopped in a preview screening, MGM studio executive Irving Thalberg decided that the problem was that audiences, especially women, didn't want to see the Chester Morris character have an affair with a married woman. So the script was rewritten to make Montgomery and Hyams brother and sister. Scenes were reshot and the film, in its modified form, became a major hit. See more »

Goofs

The hallway area outside Butch and Kent's cell changes between scenes, possibly due to re-shoots (see trivia). See more »

Quotes

Anne: If you're ever around here again, drop in.
John Morgan: Oh, you don't mean that.
Anne: Why, of course I do.
John Morgan: Gee, you're a peach of a girl.
See more »

Connections

Edited into Buried Loot (1935) See more »

Soundtracks

Goin' Home
(1922) (uncredited)
Music by Antonín Dvorák
from Second Movement (Largo) in Symphony No. 9 in E Minor "From the New World", Op.95, B.178 (1893)
Lyrics by William Arms Fisher (1922)
Sung offscreen by an unidentified prisoner in solitary
See more »

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User Reviews

 
Breakout at Noon
10 October 2005 | by (brooklyn NY) – See all my reviews

(Some Spoilers) Brutal prison drama that ends in a storm of fire and bullets with a jail break that turns the state penitentiary into a free-fire zone.

Young Kent Marlow, Robert Montgomery, is given ten years for a New Years Day car accident that killed a pedestrian. Kent is put in a cell with two hardened and career convicts murderer and hold-up artist Butch "Machine Gun" Schmidt, Wallace Berry, and professional forger and stick-up man Joe Morgan, Chester Morris. Not being able to take prison life Kent is willing to do anything to get out even rat on his fellow convicts in order to get an early parole.

Getting under the wings of prison rat-fink Oliver, Fletcher Norton, Kent learns the ropes and about selling out his friends by making friends with convicts like Butch and Morgan then winning over their confidence getting the goods on them; then running to Warden James Adams, Lewis Stone, and ratting, or selling, them out to get his early out.

It seems that Kent hasn't learned that a rat has no friends on either side of the prison gate and will learn that hard lesson when he pulls off his biggest sell-out of all by not only getting the news to the warden Adams about a Thanksgiving noon prison break. Kent gets his very honest and ethical cell-mate Joe Morgan to take the blame for the break-out in him ratting out his friends like Butch who engineer the breakout. Morgan and Butch are by far more sympathetic then Kent by being straight forward and on the level. Where Kent is an opportunist who's life of luxury, before his car accident that landed him in the clink, and high status on the outside made him in a way looked down on those he was incarcerated with.

Both Butch and Morgan end up in the hole, solitary confinement, Butch for starting a food riot in the prison mess hall and Morgan for having a shiv, or knife, in his cell that Kent planted on him. Morgan later escaping from prison on the meat wagon, the autopsy truck, has a new life on the outside and even meets and falls in love with Kent's sister Anne, Leila Hyams. At first being accepted by Anne, and Kent's, family Morgan is caught before he can get out of the country and ends up back in the pen, with seven more years added on to his sentence.

Back behind bars Morgan is determined to go straight and distanced himself not from his friends in the pen but in what they plan to do in breaking out of prison and it's that non-involvement on Morgans part that leads to the disastrous prison beak-out at the end of the movie. It was Kent who gave the news of the breakout to Warden Adams but it was Morgan who ended up getting blamed for it which cost the lives of over 50 prisoners and guards.

Stomach crunching action as the screen lights up with not only small and heavy arms fire but also an assault on the revolting convicts fortress, the prisoners quarters, with an armored unit of early combat ready tanks. Powerful performances all around that has some of the most unforgettable characters ever put in an American Prison flick who have been copied in scores of prison movies over the years but have never been equaled.


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