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Dynamite (1929)

Passed | | Drama | 13 December 1929 (USA)
Wealthy Cynthia is in love with not-so-wealthy Roger, who is married to Marcia. The threesome is terribly modern about the situation, and Marcia will gladly divorce Roger if Cynthia agrees ... See full summary »



(by), (dialogue) | 2 more credits »
Nominated for 1 Oscar. See more awards »


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Cast overview, first billed only:
... Roger Towne
... Cynthia Crothers
... Hagon Derk
... Marcia Towne
... Marco - Her Boy Friend
Muriel McCormac ... Katie Derk
... Wise Fool
William Holden ... Wise Fool
Henry Stockbridge ... Wise Fool
... Young 'Vulture'
Barton Hepburn ... Young 'Vulture'
Tyler Brooke ... The Life of the Party
Robert T. Haines ... The Judge
... Bobby (as Douglas Frazer Scott)
Jane Keckley ... His Mother


Wealthy Cynthia is in love with not-so-wealthy Roger, who is married to Marcia. The threesome is terribly modern about the situation, and Marcia will gladly divorce Roger if Cynthia agrees to a financial settlement. But Cynthia's wealth is in jeopardy because her trust fund will expire if she is not married by a certain date. To satisfy that condition, Cynthia arranges to marry Hagon Derk, who is condemned to die for a crime he didn't commit. She pays him so he can provide for his little sister. But at the last minute, Derk is freed when the true criminal is discovered. Expecting to be a rich widow, Cynthia finds herself married to a man she doesn't know and doesn't want to. Written by Ron Kerrigan

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


She Denied Him Her Love, So He Took It! She Stole His Name, Tricked Him, Humbled Him and - in the end - Worshipped Him!




Passed | See all certifications »




Release Date:

13 December 1929 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Dynamit  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

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Technical Specs


| (Turner library print)

Sound Mix:

(Western Electric System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.20 : 1
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Did You Know?


The earliest documented telecast of this film took place in Minneapolis Friday 15 February 1957 on KMGM (Channel 9); it apparently became a local favorite because it afterwards enjoyed several repeat performances, unusual for such a vintage film at that time; its next airings took place in Chicago Friday April 26, 1957 on WBBM (Channel 2), in Norfolk VA Thursday 20 June 1957 on WTAR (Channel 3) and in Lubbock TX Tuesday 30 July 1957 on KCBD (Channel 11). Because of its extreme age, virtually forgotten cast members, and severely pre-code aspects of the story, sponsors elsewhere showed little interest in it, and it was only rarely taken off the shelf. In Grand Rapids it first aired 31 March 1958 on WOOD (Channel 8) and in Miami 31 May 1958 on WCKT (Channel 7); television viewers first got sight of it in Indianapolis 29 August 1958 on WLW-I (Channel 13) and in Honolulu 2 September 1958 on KHVH (Channel 13). It's now happily housed in the TCM library and enjoys an occasional outing on cable TV on Turner Classic Movies, much to the delight of the ever increasing number of vintage film enthusiasts. See more »


Hagon Derk: Ahhhh... bull!
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Crazy Credits

Film Title is shown as the word DYNAMITE written on a box of..... dynamite, after being set down by a worker. See more »


Featured in Cecil B. DeMille: American Epic (2004) See more »


How Am I to Know
(1929) (uncredited)
Music by Jack King
Lyrics by Dorothy Parker
Played on guitar and sung by Russ Columbo in prison
Played on radio and hummed and sung by Kay Johnson
Played on piano as background music and played at the end
See more »

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User Reviews

The Coal Miner's Flapper
31 March 2009 | by See all my reviews

In his memoirs Cecil B. DeMille got the idea for Dynamite which became his first all talking film after reading a small article about a man on New Jersey's death row who got married three days before his execution. What if DeMille reasoned, the execution was canceled and the two had to live with each other? What might be the consequences. From this germ of an idea, DeMille got his favorite screen writer and sometimes mistress Jeanie MacPherson to fashion a story for the camera. The result was Dynamite.

DeMille was doing the first of a three picture deal with MGM and his memoirs do talk about his having to deal with sound, in fact they read a whole lot like the scenes from a future MGM classic, Singing in the Rain. You ought to read them.

Charles Bickford is a coal miner on death row for a crime he didn't commit. His only concern is the care for his younger sister Muriel McCormac when he dies. He even offers to sell his corpse to medical science.

At the same time good time party girl Kay Johnson has a different problem. According to the terms of her grandfather's will, Johnson can't inherit until her 23rd birthday and at that time she must be a married woman, otherwise she gets zilch. The guy she's in love with is polo player Conrad Nagel who is married to Julia Faye who in real life was another of DeMille's mistresses. Faye always got parts of varying size in just about every DeMille production and in this one she's got one of her more substantive roles. She'll part with Nagel for a price, but in the meantime she's got young Joel McCrea on the side.

Johnson reads about Bickford's offer and pays him $10,000.00 for a prison wedding right their on death row. But wonder of wonders within minutes of the execution, someone else confesses to the crime and Bickford is freed. And he wants to exercise his husbandly prerogatives also.

Instead of the usual triangle, what we've got is a lover's pentagon. Obviously one of the men will have to be eliminated in some fashion, but who will it be? That is the crux of Dynamite.

Cecil B. DeMille did a lot of discovering here. Dynamite was Kay Johnson's motion picture debut and was Bickford's second film and first substantial role. DeMille personally selected both of them from the stage because of sound to be cast. As for Joel McCrea, in his memoirs DeMille says that McCrea and his daughter Cecilia went to Hollywood High School together and he remembered him as one of Cecilia's friends over at his house many times. McCrea had several bit roles in silent films before Dynamite, but this was his first part of substance. In the book The Films of Joel McCrea, McCrea states that he was forever grateful to DeMille for this exposure. It led to a contract with RKO and his first lead the following year in The Silver Horde.

The song How Am I To Know comes from this film and its sung during the scenes on death row by a young convict who was starting his all too brief career. Written by Jack King and lyrics by Dorothy Parker, it's sung by Russ Columbo who got his first critical notice after several other bit parts that year. Quite a staggering list of people for whom this was a key film.

It wouldn't be a DeMille film without a big bacchanalian party and and some spectacular special effects. DeMille could show debauchery on screen like no other usually followed by a sermon on living a clean and sober life and Dynamite is no exception. The jazz age scenes with Kay partying with her friends are good risqué before the Code stuff.

And the mine cave-in at the end is also well staged in true DeMille style. Even his severest critics always credited DeMille with handling spectacle like no other.

Dynamite is a film that's melodramatic, overacted as most early sound films were and definitely does not hold up well today. Still it's good for its type and as it turns out a key film in many lives.

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