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The Mayor of Hell (1933)

TV-PG  |   |  Crime, Drama, Romance  |  24 June 1933 (USA)
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Reviews: 26 user | 14 critic

Five members of a teen-age gang, including leader Jimmy Smith, are sent to the State Reformatory, presided over by the melodramatically callous Thompson. Soon, Patsy Gargan, a former ... See full summary »


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Cast overview, first billed only:
Arthur Byron ...
Judge Gilbert
Dudley Digges ...
Sheila Terry ...
Blonde with Mike
Robert Barrat ...
Fred Smith
Allen 'Farina' Hoskins ...
Smoke (as Farina)
Harold Huber ...
Dorothy Peterson ...
Mrs. Smith
Brandon (as George Pat Collins)
Louis Johnson
John Marston ...
William V. Mong ...
Mr. Walter


Five members of a teen-age gang, including leader Jimmy Smith, are sent to the State Reformatory, presided over by the melodramatically callous Thompson. Soon, Patsy Gargan, a former gangster appointed Deputy Commissioner as a political favor, arrives complete with hip flask and blonde. Gargan falls for activist nurse Dorothy and, inspired by her, takes over the administration to run the place on radical principles. But Thompson, to conceal his years of graft, needs a quick way to discredit Gargan... Written by Rod Crawford <>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Crime | Drama | Romance


TV-PG | See all certifications »




| |

Release Date:

24 June 1933 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Reform School  »

Box Office


$229,000 (estimated)

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


On the boys first night at the school, there are two shots of Jimmy in the dormitory in which his hair (in the area above his ears) is clearly longer than in any of the other shots. See more »


Mr. Hemingway: Excuse me, boss. I ain't no lawyer. I can't talk without thinkin'.
See more »


Remade as Hell's Kitchen (1939) See more »

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User Reviews

Before the Dead-End Kids
20 October 2007 | by (Claremont,USA) – See all my reviews

Before the Dead End Kids, there was Frankie Darro. Forgotten today, he epitomized angry desperate youth during those early depression years. Here he comes across with his usual hot-headed intensity, enough to make up for a nonthreatening small size. In fact, Darro acts a lot like a younger version of Cagney, which is no accident since the story line depends on Cagney seeing a lot of himself among the brutalized boys of the reform school. Without that, his transformation from racketeer to reformer makes little sense.

Some good scenes, such as the regimented mess hall with its robotic commands and synchronized quick-step. Also, the movie really comes alive during the well-staged riot scene. The raging mob, flickering shadows and wildly burning torches create a disturbingly hellish scene befitting the title. Still, unless I missed something, the mob really is responsible for the cruel Dudley Digges death, allowing the boys to get away with murder or at least manslaughter no matter how much Digges deserves it. This may be an example of justice prevailing over the law during those pre-code days.

Showing how closely the school's operation is tied to greedy political patronage provides an interesting touch. Nonetheless, Cagney's conversion from corrupt ward healer to the George Washington of a boy's republic remains something of a stretch. And I'm sure the stereotype of the Jewish kid may have brought some chuckles in that day, but not in this post-holocaust period. Then too, the black kid's dad may be a crude stereotype, but the boy isn't, participating importantly in republic activities. Notice how subtly his role emerges, probably so as not to offend some audiences. Still, it was a nervy move for the time. Notice also, how deglamorized the boys are. With the many shapes and sizes, they look as though they were recruited off the streets-- another nice touch.

As in most Warner Bros. pictures of the time, there's an atmosphere of New Deal reform, embodied here by the understanding judge who's willing to try unorthodox methods to remedy social ills. All in all, the film stands as an entertaining period piece, with a humane message that stands the test of time.

12 of 14 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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