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The Pace That Kills (1935)

PG | | Crime, Drama | December 1935 (USA)
Drug dealer on the run from the law meets an innocent young girl and her brother, and turns them into "cocaine fiends."


William A. O'Connor (as Wm. A. O'Connor)




Complete credited cast:
Lois January ... Jane Bradford aka Lil
Noel Madison ... Nick - The Pusher
Sheila Bromley ... Fanny (as Sheila Manners)
Dean Benton Dean Benton ... Eddie Bradford
Lois Lindsay ... Dorothy Farley
Charles Delaney ... Dan - the Detective - Dorothy's Boyfriend (as Chas. Delaney)
Eddie Phillips ... Manager of Dead Rat Club
Frank Shannon ... Mr. Farley
Fay Holden ... Madame / Henchwoman (as Gaby Fay)
Maury Peck Maury Peck ... Master of Ceremonies
Nona Lee Nona Lee ... Band Vocalist
Gay Sheridan Gay Sheridan ... Dorothy's Friend
Frank Collins Frank Collins ... Singing Waiter


Small town girl Jane Bradford falls for Nick, a guy from the big city who offers her the opportunity to get away from her small town life. He also offers her "headache powder", she not knowing that it's cocaine and that Nick is a drug pusher. By the time they get to the city, she's hooked on her new medicine. Jane's brother, Eddie, goes to the city to look for his sister, who has not kept in touch with her family. Eddie gets a job as a carhop at a drive-in and is befriended by a drive-in's waitress named Fanny. Fanny is one of Nick's customers, and Fanny soon gets Eddie hooked on the headache powder. Due to this vice, Eddie and Fanny's life soon goes downhill. They're both fired from their jobs and are unable to find other work in their drugged out state. On the periphery of both Eddie and Jane's life is Dorothy Farley, a customer at the drive-in. Dorothy, dating Dan, comes from a wealthy family and she throws her money around easily. She's willing to assist financially those in need.... Written by Huggo

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


AN ELOQUENT SERMON! (print ad - Lubbock Morning Avalanche - Texan Theatre - Lubbock, Texas - Feb. 15, 1938 - all caps) See more »


Crime | Drama


PG | See all certifications »

Did You Know?


When Fanny and Eddie go to the club, Fanny points out "Shirley Claire, the famous actress" and the shot is followed by two stock footage inserts from another film, showing a young man talking to a pretty young woman while seated at a table. This footage is actually from the original The Pace That Kills (1928), and the actress shown was the one who played the original Fanny. So essentially, in this scene, Fanny points to herself. See more »


Even though the original title was "The Cocaine Fiends" , and cocaine is the main plot point, no one is ever actually shown doing the drug on screen (every time someone goes for a line, the film cuts to a shot of the dealer watching with glee that he has a new customer/victim). See more »


Fanny: Hello everyone! This is Eddie, my new boyfriend. (a woman cosies up to Eddie, Fanny shoves her away) I said MY boyfriend!
See more »

Crazy Credits

Opening statement: Among the many evils against which society struggles, one of the most vicious is the traffic in dope . . in every community where the menace developes all the forces which society can mobilize, including social agencies, doctors, law enforcement officials and government band together to stamp it out . . . . . . Without such activity the dope evil would run rampant. Yet it has long been recognized that one other powerful force is necessary before the struggle can be completely successful. That force is an aroused and educated public awareness. It is in the hope of aiding in developing such awareness that this picture has been produced. What happens to Jane Bradford may happen to anyone. There will always be "Jane Bradfords" until you, Mr. Citizen, co-operate with the forces now fighting the dope evil to forever stamp it out in our land. --The Management. See more »


Featured in Hollywood Uncensored (1987) See more »


All I Want Is You
Performed by Nona Lee
See more »

User Reviews

As a piece of cinema it is rather shoddy and as a drug film it is one-sided and simplistic but it is not as bad as many people say
19 September 2004 | by bob the mooSee all my reviews

While on the run from the police in the countryside, small time city drug seller Nick meets an innocent country girl, Jane, who he easily wins over with his easy charm and magical headache cure (which Jane is unaware is cocaine). After several dates (and several hits) Jane moves to the city with Nick in order to get married and live the city high life. However, moving into a poor home in a bad neighbourhood, Jane hits bottom when Nick moves her out of the house and her need for drugs becomes increasingly desperate. With her mother worried as to her whereabouts, Jane's brother and his girlfriend try to find her – but even for them the world of illegal drugs has an overpowering and destructive influence.

Unlike many other viewers on this site, I did not deliberately turn to this film to have ironic laughs at it but more out of interest. I had seen clips of this film played in modern documentaries (Grass for example) and easily derided and, in fairness, it is easy to do because they are dated and rather corny but just to watch it with an agenda to mock it is to do the film (and yourself) a disservice. It is easy to forget that this was one of many attempts to control drug use in the 1930's, the Government turned to movies as part of trying to educate the public. Looking at it now of course, the film is pretty extreme in its depiction of the consequences but it is not as bad as others claim – it does show the good side of drugs, the feelings that it gives you etc but the consequences for every user will not be as extreme as this film tries to portray as the norm for even an one-time casual user; like Bill Hicks said 'never robbed nobody, never shot nobody, never lost one single job. Laughed my *ss off, and went about my day' (I'm paraphrasing).

In terms of its value as a film, it is of course pretty weak. The direction is OK but the production values are low even for the period; some shots are really badly lit, the film crackles and jumps around a lot due to frequent dropped frames and the soundtrack cuts in and out quite badly. The acting is also only average; it would be easy to criticise the actors for how quickly they take their characters from clean cut down to junkies but that is not their fault – they were only doing what they were told and I did think that they did do an OK job. Let's not forget that this is not a movie – it is an educational film and even today the production values and acting within educational films is still pretty dire; the last one I was a short film on confined space entry with William Shatner – hardly a piece of art!

I do think, despite retrospectively looking at it and seeing the way it over eggs the cake, that the film is a good try. It readily acknowledges the easy appeal of the drug (like it or not, many of us have tried drugs because they were available and, consequences or not, maybe have habits we never intended to) by showing how simple and fun it is to try once or twice as a casual thing. It also acknowledges the causes rather well – citing broken families, innocence and heck, just good old fashioned youthful rebellion and reckless abandon as reasons for getting into the scene in the first place; all reasons that apply today. I'm not going overboard on praise for this film but I think it is easy to laugh at it as a naïve, dated piece and just ignore the fact that it does have some good even if it does go to extremes in every case. It would have been better to show that drugs doesn't take every user to a moral low, some just do it as a occasional bit of fun but that, for some users, it does become an addiction and can lead to disease, moral decline, abuse and death, because for some this is the reality.

Overall, this is not a good film by any stretch of the imagination, but if you only watch it to get ironic laughs while you smoke some puff then you are not giving it a chance or meeting it on its own ground – that of the mid-thirties. The production is average at best – poor lighting, a poor script, simplistic characters and a real biased spin to the story, but it does have some good in it. It does acknowledge the appeal of the drugs (it doesn't paint those who chose to do drugs as morally deficient in any way) as well as showing an awareness of the deeper causation factors. Of course it is biased and goes to extremes in every case but it is not as bad as many say it is if you try to view it objectively and not just roar 'it's so bad it's good' within 2 minutes of starting it.

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Release Date:

December 1935 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

The Cocaine Fiends See more »

Company Credits

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Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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