Big House

Overview

Not the first of the prison pictures, but the one that truly put the genre on the map. Playboy Kent Robert Montgomery, driving drunk, kills a couple of pedestrians and is sentenced to a 10-year manslaughter term. His cellmate is forger Morgan Chester Morris, a tough but essentially decent con; the cell-block leader is Butch Wallace Beery, whose outer oafishness hides a cruel, calculating mind. Butch lives for the day that he can bust out and doesn't care who gets hurt along the way. Panicking, Kent "rats" on ...
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Overview

Not the first of the prison pictures, but the one that truly put the genre on the map. Playboy Kent Robert Montgomery, driving drunk, kills a couple of pedestrians and is sentenced to a 10-year manslaughter term. His cellmate is forger Morgan Chester Morris, a tough but essentially decent con; the cell-block leader is Butch Wallace Beery, whose outer oafishness hides a cruel, calculating mind. Butch lives for the day that he can bust out and doesn't care who gets hurt along the way. Panicking, Kent "rats" on Butch and is murdered during the climactic breakout as a consequence. Morgan behaves courageously, saving the warden Lewis Stone and the guards from Butch's wrath; as a reward, Morgan earns a reduced sentence and the love of Kent's sister Anne Leila Hyams. Remarkably brutal for an MGM film, The Big House a double Oscar winner, for best screenplay and sound recording established not only the grimy mise-en-scene of prison life, but also a whole new glossary of slang terms and a veritable menagerie of movie "types," from the firm but kindly prison chaplain to the embittered lifer. The film was gloriously lampooned by Laurel & Hardy's Pardon Us, in which Walter Long played the Beery counterpart.
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Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Richard Gilliam
The Big House established the prison drama as a motion picture genre, as it set new standards in realistic sound recording. Even by MGM's lofty standards, the film had high production values: the Cedric Gibbons-designed sets vividly recreated the harsh, sometimes brutal life inside U.S. prisons in the 1930s, and Douglas Shearer's Oscar-winning sound effects accentuated the stark visual tone. The sensation of bullets whizzing, rattling, and clanking off metal bars was a thrill to audiences who were embracing the transition away from silent films. Big House proved to be a star-making vehicle for Wallace Beery, who had been cast in the film only after the death of the studio's first choice, Lon Chaney. Frances Marion garnered a Best Writing Oscar for her screenplay, making her the first woman to receive an Academy Award outside of the Best Actress category.
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Product Details

  • Release Date: 3/23/2009
  • UPC: 883316126066
  • Original Release: 1930
  • Rating:

  • Source: Warner Archives
  • Time: 1:27:00
  • Format: DVD

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Chester Morris John Morgan
Wallace Beery Butch Schmidt
Robert Montgomery Kent Marlowe
Leila Hyams Anne Marlowe
Lewis Stone Warden James Adams
George F. Marion Pop Riker
Karl Dane Olsen
J.C. Nugent Mr. Marlowe
DeWitt Jennings Capt. Wallace
Matthew Betz Gopher
Claire McDowell Mrs. Marlowe
Robert E. O'Connor Sgt. Donlin
Tom Kennedy Uncle Jed
Tom Wilson Sandy, a guard
Roscoe Ates Putnam
Fletcher Norton Oliver
Michael Vavitch
Eddie Lambert
Technical Credits
George W. Hill Director
David Cox Costumes/Costume Designer
Joseph Farnham Screenwriter
Martin Flavin Screenwriter
Cedric Gibbons Art Director
Frances Marion Screenwriter
Lennox Robinson Screenwriter
Blanche Sewell Editor
Douglas Shearer Sound/Sound Designer
Harold Wenstrom Cinematographer
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