6.6/10
69
8 user 4 critic

Ladies of the Big House (1931)

Married couple is imprisoned for a crime they didn't commit.

Director:

Marion Gering

Writers:

Ernest Booth (play), William Slavens McNutt (additional dialogue) | 1 more credit »
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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Sylvia Sidney ... Kathleen Storm McNeil
Gene Raymond ... Standish McNeil
Wynne Gibson ... Susie Thompson
Earle Foxe ... Kid Athens
Rockliffe Fellowes ... Martin Doremus
Purnell Pratt ... John Hartman
Frank Sheridan ... Warden Hecker
Louise Beavers ... Ivory
Miriam Goldina Miriam Goldina ... Maria - The Mexican
Hilda Vaughn ... Millie
Fritzi Ridgeway ... Reno Maggie
Esther Howard ... Clara Newman
Edna Bennett Edna Bennett ... The Countess
Ruth Lyons Ruth Lyons ... Gertie
Jane Darwell ... Mrs. Turner
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Storyline

On their Wedding day, Kathleen and Standish McNeil are followed home by Kid Athens, (a wanted murderer), and Policeman Martin French (sent to get Kathleen as a witness). Athens shoots French and tosses a gun, engraved with "with love" next to French's body. This sets up Kathleen (once a moll for Athen's) and Standish as the murderers. Eager Assistant Attorney John Hartman, who works for Athens, manipulates the jury to a guilty verdict. Standish (Mac) is sent to death row and Kathleen to a violent Woman's Prison. She's befriended by Ivory and Maria, but is viciously treated by inmate, Susie Thompson, a former moll of Athens before Kathleen. Kathleen discovers that her appeal has been denied and decides to escape with pregnant inmate, Maria. Kathleen is allowed a visit with Mac (Standish) and tells him of her plan to escape and tell the world of their innocence. Maria is shot while trying to cut the fence. Kathleen's getaway boat is smashed and she's recaptured... Written by Kelly

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Genres:

Drama

Certificate:

See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

26 December 1931 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Almas Cativas See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Paramount Pictures See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Noiseless Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.20 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

One of over 700 Paramount Productions, filmed between 1929 and 1949, which were sold to MCA/Universal in 1958 for television distribution, and have been owned and controlled by Universal ever since. See more »

Connections

Remade as Women Without Names (1940) See more »

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User Reviews

 
Sylvia Sidney is strong in this prison drama
17 March 2018 | by gbill-74877See all my reviews

It's a little contrived how two young lovers end up in prison on false charges, and you'll have to suspend disbelief over the judicial processes in this film. If you can get past the set-up, you will probably enjoy the performances, particularly those behind bars. Sylvia Sidney is a revelation, and really delivers here. We see close shots of her pretty face amidst flowers early on, and she progresses through scenes of outrage over their false imprisonment, and passion in saying good-bye to her husband in his jail cell, all of which are wonderful.

When you hear 'pre-code women's prison film' you may have an impression based other films, such as 'Ladies They Talk About' (1933), but this one is refreshing in its portrayal of the inmates. There are no lecherous references or other exploitation, for one thing. The performances are also strong, from the inmate who hates Sidney's character (Wynne Gibson), to the one who befriends her (Louise Beavers). It also has an edge in its dialogue, and in showing a row of agitated prisoners rattling their bars and hollering, something we've seen many times through the years, but this is 1931. On the men's side of the prison (...as for the 'Gentlemen of the Big House'), Gene Raymond has some touching moments with a fellow inmate on death row, played well by Rockliffe Fellowes. There are also some nice camera angles employed from director Marion Gering, as well as a dramatic scene on the water that looked scarily realistic. Overall, not great, but a reasonably good film.


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