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The Big House (1930)

Passed | | Crime, Drama, Thriller | 14 June 1930 (USA)
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 »
Reviews
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 ... 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 its 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 »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

This film's television premiere took place in Philadelphia Wednesday 24 April 1957 on WFIL (Channel 6), followed by New Haven CT 1 May 1957 on WNHC (Channel 8), by Altoona PA 8 May 1957 on WFBG (Channel 10), by Chicago 18 May 1957 on WBBM (Channel 2), by Los Angeles 16 June 1957 on KTTV (Channel 11), by Hartford CT 3 July 1957 on WHCT (Channel 18), by Norfolk VA 8 August 1957 on WTAR (Channel 3), by Seattle 29 September 1957 on KING (Channel 5), by Portland OR 15 October 1957 on KGW (Channel 8), by San Francisco 22 February 1958 on KGO (Channel 7), by Minneapolis 22 July 1958 on WTCN (Channel 11), and, finally, by New York City 25 August 1958 on WCBS (Channel 2). See more »

Goofs

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

Quotes

'Machine Gun' Butch Schmidt: What's your name?
'Machine Gun' Butch Schmidt: [after getting no response] I said what's your name?
Kent: Kent Marlowe.
'Machine Gun' Butch Schmidt: Mine's Schmidt. I'm known the world over as "Machine Gun Butch." You heard of me, naturally.
'Machine Gun' Butch Schmidt: [after Kent shakes his head 'no.'] Never heard of the Delancey Gang bein' wiped out? Well, I done the wipin'.
See more »

Connections

Alternate-language version of El presidio (1930) 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 »

User Reviews

 
Breakout at Noon
10 October 2005 | by sol1218See all my reviews

(Some Spoilers) Brutal prison drama that ends in a storm of fire and bullets with a jail break that turns the state penitentiary into a free-fire zone.

Young Kent Marlow, Robert Montgomery, is given ten years for a New Years Day car accident that killed a pedestrian. Kent is put in a cell with two hardened and career convicts murderer and hold-up artist Butch "Machine Gun" Schmidt, Wallace Berry, and professional forger and stick-up man Joe Morgan, Chester Morris. Not being able to take prison life Kent is willing to do anything to get out even rat on his fellow convicts in order to get an early parole.

Getting under the wings of prison rat-fink Oliver, Fletcher Norton, Kent learns the ropes and about selling out his friends by making friends with convicts like Butch and Morgan then winning over their confidence getting the goods on them; then running to Warden James Adams, Lewis Stone, and ratting, or selling, them out to get his early out.

It seems that Kent hasn't learned that a rat has no friends on either side of the prison gate and will learn that hard lesson when he pulls off his biggest sell-out of all by not only getting the news to the warden Adams about a Thanksgiving noon prison break. Kent gets his very honest and ethical cell-mate Joe Morgan to take the blame for the break-out in him ratting out his friends like Butch who engineer the breakout. Morgan and Butch are by far more sympathetic then Kent by being straight forward and on the level. Where Kent is an opportunist who's life of luxury, before his car accident that landed him in the clink, and high status on the outside made him in a way looked down on those he was incarcerated with.

Both Butch and Morgan end up in the hole, solitary confinement, Butch for starting a food riot in the prison mess hall and Morgan for having a shiv, or knife, in his cell that Kent planted on him. Morgan later escaping from prison on the meat wagon, the autopsy truck, has a new life on the outside and even meets and falls in love with Kent's sister Anne, Leila Hyams. At first being accepted by Anne, and Kent's, family Morgan is caught before he can get out of the country and ends up back in the pen, with seven more years added on to his sentence.

Back behind bars Morgan is determined to go straight and distanced himself not from his friends in the pen but in what they plan to do in breaking out of prison and it's that non-involvement on Morgans part that leads to the disastrous prison beak-out at the end of the movie. It was Kent who gave the news of the breakout to Warden Adams but it was Morgan who ended up getting blamed for it which cost the lives of over 50 prisoners and guards.

Stomach crunching action as the screen lights up with not only small and heavy arms fire but also an assault on the revolting convicts fortress, the prisoners quarters, with an armored unit of early combat ready tanks. Powerful performances all around that has some of the most unforgettable characters ever put in an American Prison flick who have been copied in scores of prison movies over the years but have never been equaled.


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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English | Russian

Release Date:

14 June 1930 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

The Big House See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$414,000 (estimated)
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Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.20 : 1
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