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Heat Lightning (1934)

 -  Drama  -  3 March 1934 (USA)
7.2
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Ratings: 7.2/10 from 357 users  
Reviews: 14 user | 10 critic

In the Mohave Desert, Olga runs a gas station, lunch counter, and auto camp with her younger sister Myra. In a 24-hour period, Olga must deal with Myra's desire to go to a town dance with a... See full summary »

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(from the original play by), (from the original play by), 2 more credits »
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Title: Heat Lightning (1934)

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Cast

Complete credited cast:
Aline MacMahon ...
Olga
...
Myra
Preston Foster ...
George
...
Jeff
Glenda Farrell ...
Mrs. Tifton
Frank McHugh ...
Frank
Ruth Donnelly ...
Mrs. Ashton-Ashley
Theodore Newton ...
Steve Laird
Willard Robertson ...
Everett Marshall
Harry C. Bradley ...
'Popsy' - a Businessman
James Durkin ...
The Sheriff
...
Gladys - the Wife
Edgar Kennedy ...
Herbert - the Husband
Muriel Evans ...
Blonde Cutie
Edit

Storyline

In the Mohave Desert, Olga runs a gas station, lunch counter, and auto camp with her younger sister Myra. In a 24-hour period, Olga must deal with Myra's desire to go to a town dance with a cad, the appearance by happenstance of George, an old boyfriend whose conduct is never above suspicion, and the overnight presence of two women recently divorced in Reno, who, with a chauffeur, are carrying valuable jewels. George gets wind of the jewels and plays with Olga's heartstrings to set up a robbery. Myra arranges to sneak off with her beau. It's hot, and the heat lightening is crackling on the horizon. Is Olga's life of peace and hard work in the desert about to change for the worse? Written by <jhailey@hotmail.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

"I Just Killed A Rat"

Genres:

Drama

Certificate:

Unrated

Parents Guide:

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Details

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Language:

Release Date:

3 March 1934 (USA)  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

 »
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Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Condemned by the Catholic Legion of Decency just before it changed its name to the National Legion of Decency in April, 1934. See more »

Quotes

George: Want another barbequed sandwich?
Jeff: I can hear the warden ask if I have any last words before they turn on the heat and you ask if I want another barbequed sandwich?
See more »

Connections

Version of Highway West (1941) See more »

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User Reviews

 
Strong B-picture with precode interest
6 February 2006 | by (Montreal) – See all my reviews

A fine example of minimalist film-making, this Warners B-pic offers a proto-feminist scenario delivered with some swell precode attitude. Two sisters (one world-weary, the other innocent) run a service-station-cum-caravansary on an isolated desert highway. Every passerby kids them about how dull and lonely this existence must be, but in the space of one night they serve host to a pair of criminals on the run, a couple of gold-diggers on the way back from Reno with their swag (and with a wise-guy chauffeur), plus a large family of Mexicans on the way to a fiesta.

The main thrust of the film is melodramatic, as even in their isolation the women cannot avoid mistreatment by treacherous men. However, it's also filled with neat little comic bits and clever wisecracks. Director Mervyn Le Roy creates plenty of atmosphere with few resources, and the cheap-jack desert-palms backdrop (with the Mexican father tenderly serenading his family in the background) sticks in the memory. Le Roy uses an almost slow-motion tracking shot to great effect to show the hallucinatory influence of an ex-lover on the older sister as he intrudes into this sweaty environment. And it's pretty clear that there's a lot of casual sleeping around going on -- a lot of the jokes and situations probably wouldn't have survived the censors if this were a more prominent picture (and definitely not a year later). But the picture never flaunts its raciness -- sex is just part of the fabric of life.

Though consistently enjoyable, the movie never builds up enough intensity to be classed with the immortal second features like Detour (though the climax does pack a punch). Surprisingly, the two leads never really click. Aline MacMahon and Ann Dvorak were always marvelously idiosyncratic in supporting roles, but here the former's baroque style seems overdone for the milieu, and the latter doesn't have much opportunity to vent her repressed passion (maybe the censor trimmed that bit). Overall, though, the performances from the many familiar faces are excellent, my particular favorite occurring in the opening scene featuring Edgar Kennedy as the henpecked spouse of Jane Darwell.

Definitely worth seeking out for aficionados (but hard to find). Some might compare it to The Petrified Forest, but it gives me a bit of an offbeat Shack Out on 101 vibe, too.


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