Up the River (1930)

Up the River (1930)

“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:

  • Ex-Cons
  • Humphrey Bogart Films
  • John Ford Films
  • Prisoners
  • 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

Must See?
No; you can skip this one unless you’re a major enthusiast of Ford, Tracy, or Bogart.


One thought on “Up the River (1930)

  1. First viewing (3/13/21). Not must-see. Ford completists may be curious.

    Ordinary (now forgotten) early talkie prison drama. The only pairing of Tracy and Bogart and the two work well together. Ford moves things along swiftly enough – but, all told, it’s nothing special.

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