IMDb > The Doorway to Hell (1930)
The Doorway to Hell
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The Doorway to Hell (1930) More at IMDbPro »

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6.6/10   670 votes »
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Down 7% in popularity this week. See why on IMDbPro.
Rowland Brown (story)
George Rosener (screen play)
View company contact information for The Doorway to Hell on IMDbPro.
Release Date:
18 October 1930 (USA) See more »
Inside you see the terrors of organized crime - the land of cross and double-cross - where the best you can get is the worst of it! See more »
Lou Ricarno is a smart guy. His plan is to organize the various gangs in Chicago so that the mugs will not liquidate each other... See more » | Add synopsis »
Nominated for Oscar. See more »
User Reviews:
Lew Ayres works as the lead in this film... See more (23 total) »


  (in credits order) (verified as complete)

Lew Ayres ... Louie

Charles Judels ... Florist (scenes deleted)
Dorothy Mathews ... Doris

Leon Janney ... Jackie

Robert Elliott ... O'Grady

James Cagney ... Mileaway

Kenneth Thomson ... Capt. of Academy
Jerry Mandy ... Gangster

Noel Madison ... Rocco
Edwin Argus ... Midget
Eddie Kane ... Dr. Morton
Tom Wilson ... Gangster

Dwight Frye ... Gangster
rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Fred Argus ... Machine Gunner (uncredited)
Marie Astaire ... Kitty - Fortune Teller (uncredited)
Elmer Ballard ... Tommy - Louie's Chauffeur (uncredited)

Ward Bond ... Policeman (uncredited) (unconfirmed)
Joe Bordeaux ... Joe - a Gangster (uncredited)
Clark Burroughs ... Nigger Mike (uncredited)
Nick Copeland ... The Midget's Henchman (uncredited)

Bernard Granville ... Dr. J.W. Johnson - Plastic Surgeon (uncredited)
Ruth Hall ... Girl (uncredited)
Eddie Hart ... Tansey (uncredited)

Al Hill ... Jimmy Kirk - Gangster (uncredited)
Thomas E. Jackson ... Undetermined Role (uncredited)
John Kelly ... Whitey Eckhart (uncredited)
Gus Leonard ... Shop Owner (uncredited)
Larry McGrath ... Detective (uncredited)
Collette Merton ... Jane (uncredited)
Eddie Moran ... Hymie - a Gangster (uncredited)

Dick Purcell ... Undetermined Role (uncredited)

George Rosener ... Slick (uncredited)
Cliff Saum ... Poolroom Proprietor (uncredited)
Tony Stabenau ... Undetermined Role (uncredited)
Jack Wise ... Delivery Waiter (uncredited)

Directed by
Archie Mayo 
Writing credits
Rowland Brown (story "A Handful of Clouds")

George Rosener (screen play)

George Rosener (dialogue)

Produced by
Darryl F. Zanuck .... executive producer (uncredited)
Cinematography by
Barney McGill (photography)
Film Editing by
Robert O. Crandall (edited by) (as Robert Crandall)
Costume Design by
Earl Luick (costumes by)
Makeup Department
Perc Westmore .... makeup artist (uncredited)
Sound Department
Charles David Forrest .... sound recordist (uncredited)
Music Department
Erno Rapee .... general musical director
Louis Silvers .... conductor: Vitaphone Orchestra
Leo F. Forbstein .... musical director (uncredited)
Crew verified as complete

Production Companies
  • Warner Bros. (present) (as a Warner Bros.-Vitaphone Talking Picture)

Additional Details

Also Known As:
78 min
Aspect Ratio:
1.37 : 1 See more »
Sound Mix:
Mono (Western Electric Recording)
USA:Passed (National Board of Review) | USA:TV-PG (TV rating)

Did You Know?

No information about the publication of Rowland Brown's story, "A Handful of Clouds," has been found; it may not have been published.See more »
Incorrectly regarded as goofs: What appears to be a typo in the gangland slaughter headline of the newspaper Louie reads in the boarding house - it reads 'grewsome' instead of 'gruesome' - is in fact an acceptable variant that was more popular at the time the film was released.See more »
Louie:How do you like it, sucker! I oughta give you a little of that heat, just for luck.See more »
TapsSee more »


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4 out of 4 people found the following review useful.
Lew Ayres works as the lead in this film..., 22 November 2009
Author: calvinnme from United States

... even though many people complain that the role should have gone to Cagney. Ayres' baby-faced good looks and polished exterior were supposed to clash with the reality of the gangster that he was - that is part of the whole point of the film.

Ayres plays Louie Ricarno, a gangster who has decided to take the warring gangs of the city and run them like departments of a corporation of which he, of course, is president. In spite of some beefing by the other gangsters at first, in the long run this ends the in-fighting and all the gangsters make more money in the bootleg booze business and like the arrangement. Ricarno makes more money than any of them and this enables him to marry his dream-girl, retire, and live the life of a gentleman in Florida. At something like the tender age of 25 he is even writing his memoirs. However, he has two problems. First, you can take the girl out of the speak-easy (his wife) but you can't take the speak-easy out of the girl. Secondly, once Louie is retired, the same old in-fighting starts up again among the gangsters he left behind and they yearn for Louie to return and restore order. When he refuses, a couple of the gangsters cook up a plan to force him to return that goes horribly wrong and ends up killing someone close to Louie. Full of vengeance, Louie does return home, but not to restore order.

Cagney here has a minor role as right hand man to Louie and one-time boyfriend of Louie's now bored wife Doris. He's perfect in the role since his openly wise-guy exterior is in sharp contrast to Ayres' gee-whiz personna, in spite of the fact that they are equally violent.

Louie is a sympathetic character in many ways. He isn't someone who just picked crime as a career. Instead he grew up in poverty, lost his parents at a young age, lost two siblings to typhoid from bad milk, and just doesn't know any other way to live than dog eat dog. This doesn't excuse what he does, but it is something of an explanation. In this sense this film is ahead of its time in complexity. Also interesting is Louie's almost-friendship with Captain Pat O'Grady, the cop that is determined to get Louie and his gang off the street once and for all.

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