Hell’s House (1932)


Bil’s rating (out of 5):  BB.5.  USA, 1932.  .  Story by Howard Higgin, adaptation by , .  Cinematography by .  Produced by .  Production Design by .  Film Editing by

A teenager () loses his mother in a ridiculous traffic accident (a car mows her down in front of her farmhouse), so he goes to live in the big city with his aunt and uncle.  Knowing his relatives to already be struggling financially before having to take on the burden of his upkeep, Jimmy gets a job with his guardians’ lodger (), not knowing him to be a bootlegger. His efforts get him a three year stint in juvy since his boss refuses to own up to his part of the deal to help cut the kid a break.  co-stars as O’Brien’s mistress, and proves her future stardom with her dominant voice and sharp delivery outdoing everything else that’s musty about this early talkie.  The familiar story (rural life once abandoned for urban leads to destruction) is made easy to take by good performances and the amiability of its young lead, who sadly died three years after this film in a car accident (ironically).  Notice that plays his “Uncle Henry” seven years before he would portray a similarly-named character in The Wizard Of Oz (and his wife here is named “Aunt Emma” to boot).


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