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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.


(as George Hill), (uncredited)


(story and dialogue), (additional dialogue) (as Joe Farnham) | 1 more credit »
Won 2 Oscars. Another 2 nominations. See more awards »
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Cast overview, first billed only:
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)
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 <kyousten@bev.net>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


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


Crime | Drama | Thriller


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?


Ward Wing concurrently directed a Spanish-language version of this film. Pál Fejös directed separate German- and French-language versions. See more »


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


[repeated line]
'Machine Gun' Butch Schmidt: Who, me?
See more »


Alternate-language version of Révolte dans la prison (1931) 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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