7.2/10
1,505
24 user 20 critic

The Big House (1930)

A convict falls in love with his new cellmate's sister, only to become embroiled in a planned break-out which is certain to have lethal consequences.

Directors:

George W. Hill (as George Hill), Ward Wing (uncredited)

Writers:

Frances Marion (story and dialogue), Joseph Farnham (additional dialogue) (as Joe Farnham) | 1 more credit »
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Won 2 Oscars. Another 2 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Chester Morris ... John Morgan
Wallace Beery ... Machine Gun 'Butch' Schmidt
Lewis Stone ... Warden James Adams
Robert Montgomery ... Kent Marlowe
Leila Hyams ... Anne Marlowe
George F. Marion ... Pop
J.C. Nugent J.C. Nugent ... Mr. Marlowe
Karl Dane ... Olsen
DeWitt Jennings ... Wallace
Matthew Betz ... Gopher (as Mathew Betz)
Claire McDowell ... Mrs. Marlowe
Robert Emmett O'Connor ... Donlin (as Robert Emmet O'Connor)
Tom Kennedy ... Uncle Jed (scenes deleted)
Tom Wilson Tom Wilson ... Sandy
Eddie Foyer Eddie Foyer ... Dopey
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Storyline

After a manslaughter conviction from drunk driving, nice but foolish Kent is sent to a prison over-crowded and unable to properly deal with it's inmates. There he meets veteran criminals like Morgan and his hardened pal Butch. And the system punishes them all, turning them against each other and bringing out the worst. Written by Ken Yousten <kyousten@bev.net>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

Timely! Tremendous! Thrilling! Drama of Love and a Jail-Break! See more »

Genres:

Crime | Drama | Thriller

Certificate:

Passed | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English | Russian

Release Date:

14 June 1930 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Big House See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.20 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

This film was released in Buenos Aires, Argentina, without Spanish subtitles nor any title in Spanish. It was released only for a "distinguished English-speakers audience" from Buenos Aires. See more »

Goofs

The position of Wallace Beery'd head in relation to the wall in the letter sequence with Morris. See more »

Quotes

John - Prison Guard: Kent Marlowe. Manslaughter. Sentenced to 10 years. First time in prison?
Kent: Yes.
John - Prison Guard: Sir, to me!
Kent: Yes sir.
John - Prison Guard: How old are you?
Kent: Twenty-four, sir.
John - Prison Guard: Ever serve in the Army? Navy? Marine Corps?
Kent: No sir.
John - Prison Guard: Use tobacco?
Kent: Yes sir.
[...]
See more »

Connections

Featured in MGM: When the Lion Roars: The Lion's Roar (1992) See more »

Soundtracks

Ring the Bells of Heaven
(1866) (uncredited)
Music by George Frederick Root
Words by William O. Cushing
Sung by the Prisoners in Chapel
See more »

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User Reviews

 
Time has shrunk Big House slightly.
6 June 2009 | by st-shotSee all my reviews

The archetype prison break picture may show it's age but it has some decent action scenes, good performances and an oppressive and intimidating setting that enables it to retain a creaky toughness.

Imprisoned after being convicted of a drunk driving, death resulting charge privileged Kent Marlowe (Robert Montgomery) finds himself in an inhuman environment of an overcrowded prison. There he meets the likes of hardened criminals Machine Gun Schmidt (Wally Beery) and cell mate John Morgan (Chester Morris) who attempts to teach him the ropes. Marlowe in turn sets up Morgan causing him to be denied parole. Morgan is forced to go over the wall but is recaptured and returned just in time to participate in a major break out.

Some of the Big House is downright preposterous with stilted dialog and lame brain logic but Beery and Morris come across well as pretty tough mugs and Montgomery's Marlowe is a suitably craven rat. There's a bravura prison riot at the tail end of the film that is well edited and suspenseful pitting Beery against the warden played by Lewis Stone who refuses to meet inmate demands and stoically responds to the threat of hostage sacrifice by calling in tanks. In its own way and especially in its time The Big House is as uncompromisingly tough as the warden.


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