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Hell's House (1932)

 -  Drama  -  30 January 1932 (USA)
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Ratings: 6.3/10 from 512 users  
Reviews: 13 user | 13 critic

Jimmy idolizes bootlegger Matt, and when he refuses to implicate his friend, he is sent to reform school. He befriends Shorty, a boy with a heart condition, and escapes to let the world know about the brutal conditions.



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Title: Hell's House (1932)

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Complete credited cast:
Peggy Gardner
Matt Kelly
Junior Durkin ...
Jimmy Mason (as Junior Dirkin)
Frank Coghlan Jr. ...
Shorty (as Junior Coughlin)
Emma Dunn ...
Emma Clark
Henry Clark (as Charles Grapewin)
Morgan Wallace ...
Frank Gebhardt
Hooper Atchley ...
Captain of the Guard
Wallis Clark ...
Judge Robinson (as Wallace Clark)
James A. Marcus ...
Superintendant Charles Thompson (as James Marcus)


Jimmy Mason idolizes bootlegger Matt Kelly who is dating Peggy. Unwilling to squeal on his idol, Jimmy winds up in a cruel reformatory where a new- found friend is dying from abuse. Jimmy escapes to report the abuse. Matt and Peggy help him once he has escaped. Written by Ed Stephan <>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis







Release Date:

30 January 1932 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Juvenile Court  »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(RCA Photophone System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Peggy Gardner: If you'd give the kid a chance, Kelly, he might amount to something, instead of always thinking about yourself.
See more »


Referenced in All About Bette (1994) See more »

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User Reviews

The Lost Boys
28 June 2010 | by (Earth) – See all my reviews

In the days of Prohibition, orphaned country boy Junior Durkin (as James "Jimmy" Mason) goes to live in the city with his aunt and uncle, after his mother is hit by a car. There, Mr. Durkin becomes meets, and hero-worships charismatic boarder Pat O'Brien (as Matt Kelly). Durkin doesn't know it, but Mr. O'Brien is a bootlegger. O'Brien dupes Durkin into being the lookout for a cache of liquor, which police discover. Durkin naively thinks the booze was planted, and refuses to squeal. O'Brien lets the lad take the rap, and Durkin is sentenced to three years in "The State Industrial School for Boys".

After arguing over who gets top, Durkin befriends bunkmate Frank "Junior" Coghlan (as "Shorty"), who has a heart ailment. Conditions in the reformatory are terrible. The boys have a plan to spring Durkin, but young Coghlan is caught. While his pal lies close to death, in solitary confinement, Durkin breaks out to enlist O'Brien's help in finding suitable doctors for Coghlan. But, O'Brien doesn't want to get involved, or he'll have to leave pretty Bette Davis (as Peggy Gardner) for prison...

Howard Higgin's "Hell House" was relatively ahead of the juvenile reformatory curve, and boasts several points of interest.

First off, you have the two "Juniors" Durkin and Coghlan in the same picture, comparable to the 1980s "Coreys" Haim and Feldman. Durkin even looks a little like Feldman. Unfortunately, Durkin died in a car accident. Coghlan's supporting performance upstages even Ms. Davis - and, you will see Davis get her hair messed up as O'Brien tell her, "I just washed my hands and I can't do a thing with 'em!" Note, this was before Davis uttered her famous trademark response, "I'd like to kiss ya, but I just washed my hair" (see "The Cabin in the Cotton"). Finally, you have a delirious Coghlan "talking" to his dead mother quite credibly in one scene - and, in the end, Durkin's deathly "conversation" gives the story startling emotional closure.

******* Hell's House (1/30/32) Howard Higgin ~ Junior Durkin, Frank Coghlan Jr., Pat O'Brien, Bette Davis

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