“Since the beginning of time there’s only been one sin and that’s failure. People don’t care how you win, so long as you win.”
An ambitious young man (Spencer Tracy) helps a carnival employee named Pop (Henry B. Walthall) turn his “Dante’s Inferno” show into a success; but his marriage to Pop’s daughter (Claire Trevor) and his general livelihood are threatened when he begins to cut corners on safety.
Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
- Carnivals and Circuses
- Claire Trevor Films
- Rise and Fall
- Spencer Tracy Films
Dante’s Inferno is primarily remembered today for its stunning special effects and set designs — most notably during a ten-minute dream sequence in which the protagonist (Tracy) literally descends into Dante’s vision of Hell. Director Harry Lachman was trained as a painter himself, and purportedly based his images on Gustave Dore’s well-known engravings, to haunting effect. Visuals aside, however, the film tells a fairly standard tale of greed coming before the fall; Tracy is an appealing presence, but his foolhardy decision to bribe a safety officer is beyond reproach, and he deserves his penance. Watch for young Rita Hayworth (billed as Rita Cansino) in a tiny dancing role.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Spencer Tracy as Jim Carter
- Claire Trevor as Jim’s long-suffering wife
- The haunting “Dante’s Inferno” sequence
No, but it’s worth viewing once.