Release dateJuly 31, 1935 (1935-07-31) (U.S.) WriterPhilip Klein (screen play), Robert Yost (screen play) DirectorsHarry Lachman, Kim Sang-jin CastSpencer Tracy (Jim Carter), Claire Trevor (Betty McWade), Scotty Beckett (Alexander Carter), Henry B. Walthall (Pop McWade), Alan Dinehart (Jonesy), Rita Hayworth (Dancer) Similar moviesPinocchio, What Dreams May Come, The Place Beyond the Pines, American Gangster, Liliom, The English Patient
TaglineThe Poet's Conception of Hell
Dante's Inferno is a 1935 motion picture starring Spencer Tracy and loosely based on Dante Alighieri's The Divine Comedy. The film remains primarily remembered for a 10-minute depiction of hell realised by director Harry Lachman, himself an established post-impressionist painter. This was Fox Film Corporation's last film when the company merged with Twentieth Century Pictures to form 20th Century Fox.
Jim Carter, a former stoker, takes over a fairground show, run by 'Pop' McWade, which depicts scenes from Dante's Inferno. He marries Pop's niece Betty and they have a son, Alexander. Meanwhile, the show becomes a great success, with Carter making it larger and more lurid. An inspector declares the fair unsafe but Carter bribes him into silence. There is a partial collapse at the fair which injures Pop. Recovering in hospital, he admonishes Carter and we see a lengthy vision of the Inferno. Undeterred, Carter establishes a new venture with an unsafe floating casino, only for disaster to strike again at sea.
Spencer Tracy as Jim Carter
Claire Trevor as Betty McWade
Henry B. Walthall as Pop McWade
Alan Dinehart as Jonesy
Scotty Beckett as Alexander Carter (as Scott Beckett)
Rita Cansino as Dancer (Rita Hayworth's original screen name)
Willard Robertson as Building Inspector Harris
Morgan Wallace as Chad Williford
Robert Gleckler as Dean
The film uses a conventional story of greed and dishonesty to project an image of the Inferno conjured up in Dante's 14th-century epic poem. Director Lachman had established a substantial reputation as a painter before embarking on a Hollywood career and he summoned his artistic vision to realise Dante's work in cinematographic form, drawing on the engravings of Gustave Doré. The film's reputation pivots on the 10 minute vision of the Inferno and reception has been mixed. Leslie Halliwell described it as "one of the most unexpected, imaginative and striking pieces of cinema in Hollywood's history," while Variety held that it was, "a pushover for vigorous exploitation."
Some hell scene footage was taken from Fox's Dante's Inferno (1924) which was originally tinted red. The film featured many naked men and women suffering in hell.
The 1935 film was produced by Fox Film Corporation just before the May 31, 1935 merger that created Twentieth Century-Fox, and so was released as a Twentieth Century-Fox film.
This was Spencer Tracy's last film for Fox before moving to MGM.