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Hell's House -- 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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Howard Higgin (story)
Paul Gangelin (adaptation) ...
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Release Date:
30 January 1932 (USA) See more »
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. Full summary » | Add synopsis »
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The Lost Boys See more (15 total) »


  (in credits order) (verified as complete)

Bette Davis ... Peggy Gardner

Pat O'Brien ... Matt Kelly
Junior Durkin ... Jimmy Mason (as Junior Dirkin)
Frank Coghlan Jr. ... Shorty (as Junior Coughlin)
Emma Dunn ... Emma Clark

Charley Grapewin ... 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)
rest of cast listed alphabetically:

Mary Alden ... Lucy Mason (uncredited)
Sherwood Bailey ... Boy at Trial (uncredited)
James P. Burtis ... Detective (uncredited)
Dick Curtis ... Cop on the Beat (uncredited)
Lew Hicks ... Bailiff (uncredited)
Earle Hodgins ... Joe - Street Cop (uncredited)
Jack Richardson ... Detective (uncredited)
Everett Sullivan ... Doctor (uncredited)

Directed by
Howard Higgin 
Writing credits
Howard Higgin (story)

Paul Gangelin (adaptation and screenplay) &
B. Harrison Orkow (adaptation and screenplay)

Produced by
B.F. Zeidman .... producer (uncredited)
Cinematography by
Allen G. Siegler  (as Allan G. Siegler)
Film Editing by
Edward Schroeder 
Art Direction by
Edward C. Jewell  (as Edward Jewell)
Production Management
Harvey C. Leavitt .... production manager
Crew verified as complete

Production CompaniesDistributors

Additional Details

Also Known As:
"Juvenile Court" - USA (reissue title)
See more »
72 min
Aspect Ratio:
1.37 : 1 See more »
Sound Mix:
Mono (RCA Photophone System)

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 »
Movie Connections:
Referenced in All About Bette (1994) (TV)See more »


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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful.
The Lost Boys, 28 June 2010
Author: wes-connors from Earth

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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