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Ladies of the Big House (1931)

Married couple is imprisoned for a crime they didn't commit.



(play), (additional dialogue) | 1 more credit »


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Cast overview, first billed only:
Standish McNeil
Susie Thompson
Earle Foxe ...
Kid Athens
Rockliffe Fellowes ...
Martin Doremus
Purnell Pratt ...
John Hartman
Warden Hecker
Miriam Goldina ...
Maria - The Mexican
Hilda Vaughn ...
Fritzi Ridgeway ...
Reno Maggie
Esther Howard ...
Clara Newman
Edna Bennett ...
The Countess
Ruth Lyons ...
Mrs. Turner


On their Wedding day, Kathleen and Standish McNeil are followed home by Kid Athens, (a wanted murderer), and Policeman Martin French (sent to get Kathleen as a witness). Athens shoots French and tosses a gun, engraved with "with love" next to French's body. This sets up Kathleen (once a moll for Athen's) and Standish as the murderers. Eager Assistant Attorney John Hartman, who works for Athens, manipulates the jury to a guilty verdict. Standish (Mac) is sent to death row and Kathleen to a violent Woman's Prison. She's befriended by Ivory and Maria, but is viciously treated by inmate, Susie Thompson, a former moll of Athens before Kathleen. Kathleen discovers that her appeal has been denied and decides to escape with pregnant inmate, Maria. Kathleen is allowed a visit with Mac (Standish) and tells him of her plan to escape and tell the world of their innocence. Maria is shot while trying to cut the fence. Kathleen's getaway boat is smashed and she's recaptured... Written by Kelly

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis







Release Date:

26 December 1931 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Almas Cativas  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Noiseless Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.20 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


One of over 700 Paramount Productions, filmed between 1929 and 1949, which were sold to MCA/Universal in 1958 for television distribution, and have been owned and controlled by Universal ever since. See more »


Remade as Women Without Names (1940) See more »

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User Reviews

Exciting...very exciting.
1 January 2016 | by (Bradenton, Florida) – See all my reviews

When the film begins, nice girl Kathleen (Sylvia Sidney) learns that her boyfriend is a gangster and she dumps him. A bit later, she meets a nice guy, Stan (Gene Raymond) and they fall in love and marry. However, the old gangster boyfriend is enraged and vows to get even. So, he sneaks into her place and shoots a cop...and plants evidence to make it look like she did it. Then, she and her new husband are sent to prison. The film mostly follows her during her incarceration but you also see Stan...on Death Row!

What happens inside prison to Kathleen is what makes this film interesting. The inmates, for the most part, are NOT shown as homicidal maniacs and deviants...nor is the prison staff. Instead the main focus is on Stan's upcoming execution and the efforts of women in the prison to help Kathleen. However, the prosecutor is corrupt and evil...and in league with the real murderer!!

The cast of this film is very good and I particularly liked Louise Beavers and thought it interesting that a black prisoner would be so sweet and decent in a 1930s film. Jane Darwell is also in the film but this film actually is well done all around. Perhaps not 100% believable but often underplayed and intelligently written and directed. It helped that they didn't make everyone sadistic and evil--and there was some real depth to the prisoners.

By the way, one shortcoming of the film is that the evidence that convicted both people seemed flimsy--especially since they didn't have criminal records nor was there any motive for their killing him...none.

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