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: The Doorway to Hell (1930)  ( 2591 )
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« : December 05, 2013, 04:52:38 PM »

The Doorway to Hell (1930)

cast, courtesy of imdb

Lew Ayres    ...    Louie
Charles Judels    ...    Florist (scenes deleted)
Dorothy Mathews    ...    Doris
Leon Janney    ...    Jackie
Robert Elliott    ...    O'Grady
James Cagney    ...    Mileaway
Kenneth Thomson    ...    Capt. of Academy
Jerry Mandy    ...    Gangster
Noel Madison    ...    Rocco
Edwin Argus    ...    Midget
Eddie Kane    ...    Dr. Morton
Tom Wilson    ...    Gangster
Dwight Frye    ...    Gangster

I give this early Warner Bros. gangster film a 7.5/10. Of all the "non-famous" – I'd never heard of the film before I saw it playing TCM – 30's gangster movies, this is probably the best one I've seen.

Lew Ayres plays a Chicago gangster who rules the alcohol racket.... till he gets married and decides he wants out, wants to settle down in Florida, play golf and write his autobiography. Al Pacino should have been around to tell him that just when you think you're out, they pull you back in.

As you can expect from a movie of this time: its all studio-based, with a static camera, lots of tough-guy talk, and there's a postscript preaching to us how this is the fate of every gangster, etc.

Ayres is good in the lead role. Sixth-billed James Cagney – six months before the release of The Public Enemy – has a significant supporting role.

If you are a fan of the 30's gangster movies, definitely catch this one the next time it plays TCM. It's like watching the birth of a genre  O0

« : December 07, 2013, 11:22:57 PM drinkanddestroy »

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« #1 : December 05, 2013, 11:36:32 PM »

Here are some reviews of The Doorway to Hell that I enjoyed (I should warn you that these reviews are full of spoilers, so, I'd suggest you don't read them before you see the movie).

First of all, here is a review from the NY Times when the movie was released. I'll cut and paste it in full. I got a kick out of how the nameless reviewer says of the cast – which, as mentioned above, includes a pre-stardom James Cagney – "only Lewis Ayres may properly be called a star" Wink

Movie Review
GANG "WARS" IN NEW FILM.; "The Doorway to Hell" at Strand Is Intelligent and Exciting.
Published: November 1, 1930

Racketeering as a ruthless industry, with an organization so strong that its operatives can afford to flaunt police authority, provides the theme for "The Doorway to Hell," an intelligent and exciting motion picture of Chicago gangland, which opened at the Strand yesterday. With imaginative directing by Archie Mayo and an excellent cast, among whom only Lewis Ayres may properly be called a star, "The Doorway to Hell" is a plausible screen version of the underworld which will bring the flavor of familiar things to a public that has watched with growing alarm the reckless activities of gangland.

It is for the most part an unsentimental chronicle. Hijackers prey on beer-runners and die when they are not strong enough to pillage successfully. Racketeers protect the beer-runners against their enemies and they, too, die when they cannot hold their territory against the encroachments of rival gangsters. The film has humor, but it is a humor growing almost always out of a grim irony. The police stand by powerless in the face of wholesale slaughter and gradually learn to adopt the weapons of the underworld they are fighting. Thus at the end when the gangster chief is jailed on a murder charge, the police captain stands by and lets rival gangsters effect his escape, knowing they will kill him, while the courts would let him go for insufficient evidence.

Lewis Ayres, although perhaps too much the clean-cut young college boy to have a hand in such business, plays excellently as a sort of Jack Diamond, heading a huge network of beer-runners. Additional honors go to Robert Elliott as Captain O'Grady, the wise old police chief who knows gangsters and is known and admired by them, except when they have blood on their hands.

The story has its romance, but it is plausible and cruel like the rest of the film. Louis Ricarno, young gangster chief, marries Doris, who, unknown to him, is the mistress of his lieutenant. Ricarno quits the racket, taking his wife with him. Bereft of his leadership, the underworld resumes factional wars. Two beer-runners, helpless without the protection of Ricarno, try to kidnap the gangster's young brother, hoping to bring Ricarno back to Chicago and his old leadership. The boy is killed, Ricarno returns and murders the two gunmen. Captain O'Grady jails him, and the gangster escapes. Hiding in a cheap room while the nation searches for him, Ricarno is visited by O'Grady, who informs him that the gunmen who effected his escape are waiting to put him on the spot. The young man takes a look at the portrait of Napoleon, with whom he has always identified himself, and walks down the steps to his death.


here's a review from


here is a long review by Cliff Aliperti at

« : December 08, 2013, 06:30:33 PM drinkanddestroy »

There are three types of people in the world, my friend: those who can add, and those who can't.
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