28 user 10 critic

Hell's Highway (1932)

Passed | | Action, Crime, Drama | 23 September 1932 (USA)
Chain gang prisoners forced to construct a "liberty highway" for their overseer chasten under his brutal stewardship, causing Duke Ellis to mastermind a mass riot.


Rowland Brown, John Cromwell (uncredited)


Samuel Ornitz (by), Robert Tasker (by) | 1 more credit »




Complete credited cast:
Richard Dix ... Duke Ellis
Rochelle Hudson ... Mary Ellen
Tom Brown ... Johnny Ellis
C. Henry Gordon ... 'Blacksnake' Skinner
Oscar Apfel ... William Billings
Stanley Fields ... F. E. Whiteside
John Arledge ... Carter
Warner Richmond ... 'Pop-Eye' Jackson
Charles Middleton ... Matthew the Hermit
Clarence Muse ... Rascal
Louise Carter ... Mrs. Ellis
Sandy Roth Sandy Roth ... Blind Maxie
Fuzzy Knight ... Society Red
Learn more

More Like This 

Guilty Hands (1931)
Certificate: Passed Drama | Crime
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.9/10 X  

A district attorney commits the perfect murder when he kills his daughter's womanizing fiancé and then tries framing the fiancé's lover.

Directors: W.S. Van Dyke, Lionel Barrymore
Stars: Lionel Barrymore, Kay Francis, Madge Evans
Man Wanted (1932)
Romance | Comedy | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.5/10 X  

A female editor of a magazine falls in love with her male secretary.

Director: William Dieterle
Stars: Kay Francis, David Manners, Una Merkel
Adventure | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.5/10 X  

In the depths of the Depression, two teenage boys strike out on their own in order to help their struggling parents and find life on the road tougher than expected.

Director: William A. Wellman
Stars: Frankie Darro, Rochelle Hudson, Edwin Phillips
Jewel Robbery (1932)
Certificate: Passed Comedy | Crime | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.3/10 X  

A gentleman thief charms a Viennese baron's wife and also conducts a daring daylight robbery of a jewellers.

Director: William Dieterle
Stars: William Powell, Kay Francis, Helen Vinson
Ex-Lady (1933)
Comedy | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.6/10 X  

Although free spirit Helen Bauer does not believe in marriage, she consents to marry Don, but his infidelities cause her to also take on a lover.

Director: Robert Florey
Stars: Bette Davis, Gene Raymond, Frank McHugh
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.8/10 X  

A tenant farmer's son is caught in the middle of owner-tenant disputes when he falls for the plantation owner's seductive daughter.

Director: Michael Curtiz
Stars: Richard Barthelmess, Bette Davis, Dorothy Jordan
Blonde Crazy (1931)
Comedy | Crime | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.1/10 X  

The adventures of an egoistic con man and his glamorous accomplice.

Director: Roy Del Ruth
Stars: James Cagney, Joan Blondell, Louis Calhern
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.1/10 X  

Prosecutor becomes a defense attorney after an innocent man is sent to an electric chair.

Directors: James Flood, Elliott Nugent
Stars: Warren William, Sidney Fox, Aline MacMahon
Certificate: Passed Crime | Drama | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  

Although Vivian Revere is seemingly the most successful of a trio of reunited schoolmates, she throws it away by descending into a life of debauchery and drugs.

Director: Mervyn LeRoy
Stars: Joan Blondell, Warren William, Ann Dvorak
Safe in Hell (1931)
Certificate: Passed Crime | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7/10 X  

After accidentally killing the man who raped her and forced her into prostitution, a New Orleans woman flees to a Caribbean island. While she awaits her fiancé, the vicious local police chief sets his sights on her.

Director: William A. Wellman
Stars: Dorothy Mackaill, Donald Cook, Ralf Harolde
Drama | Romance | War
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.7/10 X  

World War I brings tribulations to an American woman married to a German.

Director: Archie Mayo
Stars: Barbara Stanwyck, Otto Kruger, Ralph Bellamy
Certificate: Passed Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.9/10 X  

Unscrupulous Paul Kroll, starting as a Chicago janitor, uses graft to finance a trip to Sweden where by trickery he gains control of his uncle's small match factory. By expert manipulation ... See full summary »

Directors: Howard Bretherton, William Keighley
Stars: Warren William, Lili Damita, Glenda Farrell


Chain gang prisoners forced to construct a "liberty highway" for their overseer chasten under his brutal stewardship, causing Duke Ellis to mastermind a mass riot.

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Heartpounding! Brutal! True! (original print ad) See more »


Action | Crime | Drama


Passed | See all certifications »

Did You Know?


RKO's David O. Selznick rushed "Hell's Highway" into production to compete directly with Warner Bros.' upcoming prison drama "I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang". In fact it beat "Fugitive" to the screens by two months in the autumn of 1932, though it did not enjoy the critical or commercial success of the latter film. See more »


Duke Ellis: [Chatting with a convicted bigamist] How many women did you really marry?
Matthew the Hermit: How many banks did you really rob?
Duke Ellis: Never more than one at the same time.
Matthew the Hermit: It takes nerves of steel to rob a bank.
Duke Ellis: It takes a lot of backbone to keep seven wives happy.
Matthew the Hermit: Yea, Brother!
See more »

User Reviews

Another Rowland Brown Gem
27 October 2011 | by dougdoepkeSee all my reviews

The story follows events in a southern chain-gang.

Catch those rolling cages the convicts are kept in. They'd even be sub-standard for wild animals in a circus. But then, this is a down and dirty look at a chain-gang work crew, circa 1932, where shooting a con is made easier by the bull's eye on their backs. And if a con misbehaves, like not working fast enough to make the road contractor more money, it's a time in the sweat box, which is like doing time in an upright coffin-- you walk in, they carry you out. Now all this might sound like a lefty screenwriter's fevered dream, but the prologue assures us that the abuses are based on fact.

Then too, the cons are toiling in the middle of one ugly nowhere, and when the place catches fire, it's big enough to take down Chicago. No wonder the cons are looking to escape, and being a prison movie, they do. In my book, the best scene is the luckless deaf guy who never hears the bullet coming. I hope his last minute mumbo-jumbo was enough to get him past the pearly gates—it's a moving and inspired moment.

Then too, Dix makes a convincing boss con, as does C. Henry Gordon as the brutal boss muleskinner. But my money's on the cadaverous Charles Middleton (the hermit) who's on prison vacation from three wives and apparently dabbles in the black arts as when he foresees doom in the stars. His graveyard voice and grim reaper demeanor are like no other and can chill you to the proverbial bone.

Of course, being a Rowland Brown directed film, there are passing references to homo-erotic behavior, (see especially his Blood Money {1933}). All in all, he manages to blend the diverse story elements, including the black men's chorus, into a forcefully memorable whole. Too bad his directing career was so brief. He was that rarest bird in old Hollywood—a genuinely independent spirit.

It's a bang-up 60-minutes from struggling little RKO that takes no prisoners, so to speak. More importantly, there's something topical about tax-supported labor being used to enrich private contractors, as in the movie. Too bad, this over-looked little gem was assigned to pre-Code oblivion.

6 of 6 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you? | Report this
Review this title | See all 28 user reviews »

Frequently Asked Questions

This FAQ is empty. Add the first question.






Release Date:

23 September 1932 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Liberty Road See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

RKO Radio Pictures See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Mono (RCA Photophone System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »

Contribute to This Page

Free Movies and TV Shows You Can Watch Now

On IMDb TV, you can catch Hollywood hits and popular TV series at no cost. Select any poster below to play the movie, totally free!

Browse free movies and TV series

Recently Viewed