Up the River (1938)

 |  Comedy  |  9 December 1938 (USA)
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In this lampoon on prison movies, con men go to jail and become stars of the football team.



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Complete credited cast:
'Chipper' Morgan
Tommy Grant
Phyllis Brooks ...
Helen Lindsay
Slim Nelson
Arthur Treacher ...
Darby Randall
Alan Dinehart ...
Warden Clarence Willis
Eddie Collins ...
Fisheye Conroy
Mrs. Graham
Jeffrey Mitchell
Memphis Jones
Edward Gargan ...
Robert Allen ...
Ray Douglas
Dorothy Dearing ...
Martha Graham
Charles D. Brown ...
Warden Harris


Card sharps Chipper Morgan and Darby Randall pick the wrong victim, Detective Willis, on a transatlantic crossing, and are arrested upon docking in New York and returned up the river to Rockwell Prison, their old alma mater. They had played brilliant football for "dear old Pen" during their prior semesters, and prison coach Slim Nelson is happy to see them back for graduate work, especially with the annual grudge game with Larson State Pen coming up. Willis, who has been named the new warden for Rockwell, gives them soft jobs and then places a large bet on the Larson eleven. Both Chipper and Darby feel badly about the raw deal handed fellow "student" Tommy Grant and his sweetheart, Helen, who were innocently caught up in a phony pension racket ran by swindlers Jeffrey Mitchell and Ray Douglas, and were both jailed. When Phyllis is released from Stillwell Prison for Women, she tells Tommy about the two men and their racket, and he decides to escape, even though he has only a month more... Written by Les Adams <longhorn1939@suddenlink.net>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

prison | football | See All (2) »







Release Date:

9 December 1938 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Erros da Juventude  »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?


Remake of Up the River (1930) See more »


It's The Strangest Thing
Lyrics by Sidney Clare
Music by Harry Akst
Sung by Tony Martin
See more »

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User Reviews

How to trick tricksters
21 August 2012 | by (Buffalo, New York) – See all my reviews

This version of Up The River is one of the strangest conglomerations of genres ever put on film. It's got elements of a caper film, a prison film, a musical, and finally a football game climax to rival what the Marx Brothers did in Horsefeathers and Wheeler&Woolsey did with Hold 'Em Jail. Still in a goofy sort of way it's actually fun. In some ways it's better than the original Fox version that John Ford directed and that had those two young rookies in film, Spencer Tracy and Humphrey Bogart.

Preston Foster who is playing the part Spencer Tracy had showed that he had a nice flare for comedy that will surprise many who are used to seeing him in action/adventure films. He and his sidekick Arthur Treacher pull one too many cons which earns them a trip back to their old correctional alma mater. And then the cop who arrested them, Alan Dinehart, becomes the new warden.

Where they also meet up with Eddie Collins the talent show impresario, the prison football coach Slim Summerville, his trainer Bill Robinson, and a new kid getting ready for parole Tony Martin.

Martin and Phyllis Brooks his fiancé are both doing time, she in the women's facility, for a confidence game where the mastermind Sidney Toler skipped and left them holding the bag. When Brooks finds out that Toler is working an insurance swindle in their hometown and one of the scammed is Tony's mother Jane Darwell she goes to Martin.

Instead of Martin breaking out it's Foster and Treacher who know how to trick tricksters. All this with the big game with a rival prison hanging over everyone's head.

Let's just say that a happy ending is arrived at where all get their just deserts. It was interesting to see that the comedy here was broader and funnier than the first version, especially since John Ford was a master at knockabout comedy.

Of course the film hasn't the slightest resemblance or pretense to reality. You would think prison was one long summer camp the way this whole cast behaves. But to hear Tony Martin sing and Bojangles dance is reason enough to watch Up The River.

Up The River is as goofy as F-Troop or The A-Team, but it's fun and I think people will still enjoy it.

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