Murder in the Big House (1942)

Approved  |   |  Action, Adventure, Crime  |  11 April 1942 (USA)
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Ratings: 6.1/10 from 79 users  
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When a prisoner on Death Row is "accidentally" killed just before his execution, a reporter smells something fishy. His investigation reveals that the condemned man was about to reveal some... See full summary »



(original screenplay), (based on an idea by) (as Jerry Chodorov)
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Cast overview, first billed only:
Gladys Wayne
George Meeker ...
'Scoop' Conner
Tod Andrews ...
Dapper Dan Malloy (as Michael Ames)
'Mile-Away' Gordon
Ruth Ford ...
Mrs. Irene Gordon
Joseph Crehan ...
Jim Ainslee
William Gould ...
Warden John Bevins
Douglas Wood ...
Lawyer Bill Burgen
John Maxwell ...
Prison Doctor
Patrick McVey ...
Chief Electrician (as Pat McVeigh)
Dick Rich ...
Death-house Guard
Fred Kelsey ...
Death-house Keeper
William 'Bill' Phillips ...
Mike - Henchman (as Bill Phillips)


When a prisoner on Death Row is "accidentally" killed just before his execution, a reporter smells something fishy. His investigation reveals that the condemned man was about to reveal some damaging information about the connection between the city's corrupt political machine and its major organized crime ring. The reporter hatches a plan, with the help of the paper's alcoholic political columnist, to get himself thrown in prison to get the information the murdered prisoner was going to reveal and expose both the crooked politicians and the gangsters they're in cahoots with. Written by

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Release Date:

11 April 1942 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Born for Trouble  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(RCA Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?


Referenced in The Player (1992) See more »


I'll Be Glad When You're Dead (You Rascal You)
Music and Lyrics by Spo-De-Odee
Title spoken by Ray Montgomery
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User Reviews

Van a man with a plan
26 March 2008 | by (Melbourne, Australia) – See all my reviews

I watched this smart little B film on TCM in Australia and was agreeably impressed. I was reminded somewhat of "His Girl Friday" with the newspaper setting, the theme of corruption and the hard-boiled dialogue though needless to say "Murder in the Big House" is not in the same league as the Howard Hawks classic. Incidentally, the version I watched was called "Born for Trouble", a title which makes no sense at all.

If you ignore the occasional plot hole in a movie lasting only an hour this is good entertainment with some very black humour concerning the electric chair. A street newspaper seller calls out "Mile-Away Gordon gets the hot squat tonight" and a potential execution witness declares "I like to see 'em sizzle" I've always found Van Johnson a little insipid for serious roles but perhaps that's just a personal prejudice; Faye Emerson, who I was unaware of, is a Rosalind Russell type ("His Girl Friday" again!) and the rest of the cast of mainly older unknowns perform competently.

"Murder in the Big House" was made and set in the era when hats for men were compulsory wear; a room full of reporters all sport felt hats and Van's fedora remains firmly in place after a fast and furious fist fight with much wrestling on the floor! I couldn't find a mention of this film in any of my reference books but I assure you they cover plenty that are worse. Have a look if you get a chance, you won't be sorry.

5 of 7 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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