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Hells House

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Director  Howard Higgin
Produced by  B. F. Zeidman
Country  United States
6.2/10 IMDb

Genre  Drama
Language  English
Hells House movie poster

Release date  January 30, 1932 (1932-01-30)
Writer  Howard Higgin (story), Paul Gangelin (adaptation), B. Harrison Orkow (adaptation)
Genres  Drama, Film noir, Crime Fiction, Prison film
Cast  Bette Davis (Peggy Gardner), Pat O'Brien (Matt Kelly), Junior Durkin (Jimmy Mason (as Junior Dirkin)), Frank Coghlan Jr. (Shorty (as Junior Coughlin)), Emma Dunn (Emma Clark), Charley Grapewin (Henry Clark (as Charles Grapewin))
Similar movies  Blood Diamond, Baby Boy, Moonshine County Express, Thunder Road, The Story of Temple Drake, I Cover the Waterfront

Hell s house 1932 drama

Hell's House is a 1932 American Pre-Code drama film starring Junior Durkin, featuring Bette Davis and directed by Howard Higgin. The screenplay by Paul Gangelin and B. Harrison Orkow, set during the waning days of the Prohibition era, is based on a story by Higgin.


Hells House movie scenes


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When orphaned Jimmy Mason is taken in by his Aunt Emma and Uncle Henry, he meets their boarder, Matt Kelly, who impresses the young man with his boastful swagger and alleged political connections, although in reality he's a bootlegger.

Hell's House FileHells House 1932 1jpg Wikimedia Commons

The boy's life is disrupted when, as one of Kelly's hired hands, he refuses to identify his boss during a police raid and is sentenced to three years of hard labor in reform school, where he befriends a sickly boy named Shorty, who eventually is sent to solitary confinement.

Hell's House Bette Davis Project 9 Hells House 1932 She Blogged By Night

When Jimmy realizes his new pal is seriously ill and desperately needs medical attention, he escapes and goes to Kelly and Kelly's girl friend, Peggy Gardner, for help. Peggy contacts newspaper columnist Frank Gebhardt, who is anxious to expose the conditions at the state industrial school.

Hell's House FileHells House 1932 Bette Davisjpg Wikimedia Commons

The authorities find Jimmy at Gebhardt's office, but before they can apprehend him Kelly admits his involvement in the bootlegging operation and the boy is set free. He discovers Shorty has died, victimized by a corrupt system.

Cast (in credits order)

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  • Bette Davis as Peggy Gardner
  • Pat O'Brien as Matt Kelly
  • Junior Durkin as Jimmy Mason
  • Frank Coghlan Jr. as Shorty
  • Emma Dunn as Emma Clark
  • Charley Grapewin as Henry Clark
  • Morgan Wallace as Frank Gebhardt
  • Hooper Atchley as Captain Of The Guard
  • Wallis Clark as Judge Robinson
  • James A. Marcus as Superintendent Charles Thompson
  • Production

    The film, shot in thirteen days, originally was entitled Juvenile Court. Bette Davis was loaned to B. F. Zeidman Productions Ltd. by Universal Pictures, and following her completion of this film studio head Carl Laemmle, Jr. allowed her option to drop. She was preparing to return to New York City when George Arliss offered her the ingenue role in The Man Who Played God.

    Critical reception

    In his review in the New York Times, Mordaunt Hall observed, "The attempt to pillory reform schools . . . is hardly adult in its attack, but it has a few moderately interesting interludes . . . The direction of this film is old-fashioned. Pat O'Brien . . . gives a forced performance. Young Durkin's playing is sincere and likewise that of Bette Davis as Peggy."


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