40 user 16 critic

One Way Passage (1932)

Unrated | | Comedy, Drama, Romance | 22 October 1932 (USA)
A terminally ill woman and a debonair murderer facing execution meet and fall in love on a trans-Pacific crossing, each without knowing the other's secret.



(screen play), (screen play) | 1 more credit »
Won 1 Oscar. See more awards »
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Complete credited cast:
Frederick Burton ...


Suave Dan Hardesty, a convicted murderer, is apprehended by Steve Burke, a police detective, in Hong Kong and accompanied on the SS Maloa headed for San Francisco. On board, Dan romances Joan Ames, a terminally ill socialite. She is unaware that his ultimate destination is San Quentin. Both realize that their time together is fleeting so they make a pact to meet at a Mexican night club on New Years Eve. When they part in San Francisco they know that the odds are against them. Written by Gary Jackson <garyjack5@cogeco.ca>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Romance...reaching the Heights of Heaven!


Comedy | Drama | Romance


Unrated | See all certifications »




Release Date:

22 October 1932 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

S.S. Atlantic  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


(TCM print)

Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Although the character's name would change, Frank McHugh plays the same part in the remake titled 'Til We Meet Again (1940). See more »


When Dan is carrying Joan back to the boat, her right arm swings about freely, then is neatly tucked underneath her (Dan's arm hasn't moved), then swings about freely -- after they've passed through a narrow passage and nearby passengers. See more »


[first lines]
Hong Kong Bartender: [mixing a very complex drink] I haven't made one of these since the fourth of July. I was making one when the quake hit Frisco. Believe me friend, I wouldn't go to all this trouble for any of these foreigners. Uh, uh, gotta wait a minute to let the oil sink in. There you are partner, you can tell your grandchildren about that one.
Dan: [before Dan can take a sip, the contents of the glass are knocked out of his hand by Joan backing into him] Say what in the name of...
Joan: Why... I'm so sorry.
Joan: [...]
See more »


Remade as 'Til We Meet Again (1940) See more »


On San Francisco Bay
(1906) (uncredited)
Music by Gertrude Hoffman
Played on the piano when Dan is being arrested
See more »

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User Reviews

An all-time classic romance
30 April 2001 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

He's set to be hanged for murder; she's dying of a mysterious illness. By chance, they meet before sailing on a ship set-sailing for San Francisco, and fall in love. He is William Powell, the most debonair leading man of the 30's. She is Kay Francis, the best dressed woman of the 30's. They are both very attractive, yet doomed.

Such is the basic storyline for this wonderful drama filled with tears, humor, and drama. The team of Powell and Francis had appeared together in four films at Paramount before being signed by Warner Brothers in 1932 when they made this film along with another classic, "Jewel Robbery". Where Powell and his later partner Myrna Loy exemplified sophisticated humor several years later at MGM, Powell and Francis were a romantic couple. Both Loy and Francis were well-dressed, dark-haired beauties. While Loy had a career that lasted almost 60 years, Francis would retire from the screen by the mid-late 40's. As a result, she was one of Hollywood's forgotten leading ladies until the success of Ted Turner's classic movie channel brought her back into the limelight.

"One Way Passage" is the team's most beloved film, and its Academy Award winning story is just one of the highlights. The stars are another, but the supporting cast was simply superb as well. Frank McHugh, as a drunken conman, is perfect comedy relief along with the fabulous Aline MacMahon as the phony "countess". If there had been Supporting Academy Awards for acting in 1932, she would have won for this film handsdown. She is simply wonderful. There is not a moment of hers on screen where she doesn't dominate it. Warner Brothers apparently offered her the chance to become a leading lady, but the realistic MacMahon realized that her best parts would come with the character roles that often stole the limelight away from the stars. Catch MacMahon in the very well known "Gold Diggers of 1933" and more obscure films such as "The Merry Frinks" and "While the Patient Slept" to see what I mean. Her later films, "Dragon Seed" and "The Search", are perfect examples of what a gem she was as a performer.

The music score, later heard in the background of many a Warners "B" film, is classic. The screenplay is superb, and the length-well, a mere 68 minutes, which goes to show that good things do come in small packages. Sadly, after this and "Jewel Robbery", Powell and Francis were never paired again; Powell went onto MGM where better things awaited him, while Francis remained at Warners for many similar films, none of which could surpass the charm of this film. It was remade of course by Warner Brothers in 1940 as "Till We Meet Again" with George Brent and Merle Oberon. That version was not bad, but certainly an also ran compared to this film. The ending will leave you joyfully heartbroken.

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