“Ever since I met you, I’ve been in trouble.”
When a street hustler (Spencer Tracy) and his bumbling compatriot (Warren Hymer) meet a well-to-do con (Humphrey Bogart) in prison, they receive support from Bogart’s incarcerated new girlfriend (Claire Luce) in escaping, and later help prevent newly released Bogart from being blackmailed by a crooked salesman.
Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
- Humphrey Bogart Films
- John Ford Films
- Satires and Spoofs
- Spencer Tracy Films
When The Big House (1930) was released, John Ford changed his plans for starring two of his recent stage discoveries (Spencer Tracy and Humphrey Bogart) in a prison drama, instead pivoting to this satire of the new genre. Unfortunately, it’s a mess of a movie, straying so far from realism it too often smacks of fantasy — i.e., the warden’s daughter is allowed to befriend the convicts:
… male inmates have easy access to female inmates:
… and inmates perform a variety show involving knife throwing!
Meanwhile, the plot skitters around like crazy, shifting from inside the prison to out and then back again, with a visit to a country manor and a couple of baseball games thrown in for good measure. This one is only worth a look if you’re curious to see Tracy and Bogart in their cinematic debuts.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Spencer Tracy and Humphrey Bogart in their screen debuts
No; you can skip this one unless you’re a major enthusiast of Ford, Tracy, or Bogart.