Danger Lights (1930)

70 or 87 mins | Drama | 12 December 1930

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HISTORY

As noted in the Var review, when the film opened at the State-Lake Theatre in Chicago, it was shown in the Spoor-Berggren Natural Vision Process, which had a 63mm gauge. Although the review intimated that the film had been shown throughout the country in the 35mm gauge prior to the Chicago 63mm premiere, no earlier theatrical showings have been verified. Danger Lights was the first film to be released in the Spoor-Berggren process, and, according to the Var review, the State-Lake was the only theater with "complete Spoor projection equipment now in existence." The process was developed by George K. Spoor, who founded Chicago's Essanay Studios in 1907, and inventor P. John Berggren. According to modern sources, only three additional films were released in the process.
       The FD review lists a running time of 70 minutes, although the Var sources list 87 minutes. The 6,500 length of the film listed in copyright records, and the print viewed, suggest that the running time was closer to 70 or 72 minutes. The Var review credits the film's story to "G. C. Ashcraft," but that name, which is not credited onscreen or in any other contemporary source, appears to have been listed in error. The film itself and all other contemporary sources credit James Ashmore Creelman with the story and dialogue. As noted in a FD news item on 2 May 1930, actress Jean Arthur was borrowed from Paramount for the production, which the news item incorrectly reported was a "Western." Modern sources include James Donlan, Frank Mills and Lee Phelps ... More Less

As noted in the Var review, when the film opened at the State-Lake Theatre in Chicago, it was shown in the Spoor-Berggren Natural Vision Process, which had a 63mm gauge. Although the review intimated that the film had been shown throughout the country in the 35mm gauge prior to the Chicago 63mm premiere, no earlier theatrical showings have been verified. Danger Lights was the first film to be released in the Spoor-Berggren process, and, according to the Var review, the State-Lake was the only theater with "complete Spoor projection equipment now in existence." The process was developed by George K. Spoor, who founded Chicago's Essanay Studios in 1907, and inventor P. John Berggren. According to modern sources, only three additional films were released in the process.
       The FD review lists a running time of 70 minutes, although the Var sources list 87 minutes. The 6,500 length of the film listed in copyright records, and the print viewed, suggest that the running time was closer to 70 or 72 minutes. The Var review credits the film's story to "G. C. Ashcraft," but that name, which is not credited onscreen or in any other contemporary source, appears to have been listed in error. The film itself and all other contemporary sources credit James Ashmore Creelman with the story and dialogue. As noted in a FD news item on 2 May 1930, actress Jean Arthur was borrowed from Paramount for the production, which the news item incorrectly reported was a "Western." Modern sources include James Donlan, Frank Mills and Lee Phelps in the cast.
       A 5 Jul 2002 article in the Miles City Star noted that a 70th anniversary commemorative screening of the film was held in the town's public library. According to that article and other modern sources, much of the filming took place, beginning in early May 1930, in the Miles City, MT area and along an area of railroad service known as "The Milwaukee Road." More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Film Daily
2 May 1930.
---
Film Daily
14 Dec 1930.
---
New York Times
15 Dec 1930.
---
Time
1 Sep 1930.
---
Variety
29 Nov 1930
p. 21.
DETAILS
Release Date:
12 December 1930
Premiere Information:
World premiere in Chicago: 15 November 1930
New York opening: 12 December 1930
Production Date:
began early May 1930
Copyright Claimant:
RKO Productions, Inc.
Copyright Date:
5 December 1930
Copyright Number:
LP1786
Physical Properties:
Sound
RCA Photophone
Black and White
gauge
35mm and 63mm
gauge
63mm prints in the Spoor-Berggren Natural Vision Process
Duration(in mins):
70 or 87
Length(in feet):
6,550
Length(in reels):
8
Country:
United States
Language:
English
Passed by NBR:
Yes
SYNOPSIS

A landslide on the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul & Pacific Railroad ties up traffic and throws employees into confusion until Dan Thorn, the railroad's division superintendent, sets about clearing the debris. Realizing that his own men will not be able to clear the tracks quickly enough, Dan enlists the help of a group of hoboes hiding in a boxcar. Among the hoboes is Larry Doyle, a former railroad engineer discharged for insubordination who refuses to work until Dan bests him in a fight. Dan, who boards with retired railroad man Ed Ryan and his daughter Mary, is in love with Mary and hopes to marry her. Although Mary is resigned to marrying Dan because she is grateful to him for his kindness to her and her father, she does not love him. One day, while visiting the railroad yard, Mary meets Larry, whom Dan has hired as a fireman, and the two fall in love. Despite her feelings, Mary refuses to break her engagement to Dan, who plans to marry her when he is given a vacation. On the night of a party during which they will announce their plans, Dan is angered by an emergency call about a washout on the line, but resigns himself to doing one last job for the railroad before his marriage. After Dan and the partygoers leave, a tearful Mary goes to her bedroom, followed by Larry, who convinces her that they should run away together. Later, as the couple walks through the rain along the railroad tracks, Larry's foot becomes stuck in an electric switch as a train approaches. Having been told of the lovers' ... +


A landslide on the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul & Pacific Railroad ties up traffic and throws employees into confusion until Dan Thorn, the railroad's division superintendent, sets about clearing the debris. Realizing that his own men will not be able to clear the tracks quickly enough, Dan enlists the help of a group of hoboes hiding in a boxcar. Among the hoboes is Larry Doyle, a former railroad engineer discharged for insubordination who refuses to work until Dan bests him in a fight. Dan, who boards with retired railroad man Ed Ryan and his daughter Mary, is in love with Mary and hopes to marry her. Although Mary is resigned to marrying Dan because she is grateful to him for his kindness to her and her father, she does not love him. One day, while visiting the railroad yard, Mary meets Larry, whom Dan has hired as a fireman, and the two fall in love. Despite her feelings, Mary refuses to break her engagement to Dan, who plans to marry her when he is given a vacation. On the night of a party during which they will announce their plans, Dan is angered by an emergency call about a washout on the line, but resigns himself to doing one last job for the railroad before his marriage. After Dan and the partygoers leave, a tearful Mary goes to her bedroom, followed by Larry, who convinces her that they should run away together. Later, as the couple walks through the rain along the railroad tracks, Larry's foot becomes stuck in an electric switch as a train approaches. Having been told of the lovers' elopement, an enraged Dan finds them on the tracks, but when he realizes that Larry's foot is trapped, he saves his rival's life by pulling him to safety. Without enough time to situate himself far enough away from the tracks, when the train passes, Dan is struck and suffers a serious head injury. When the local doctor reveals that Dan will certainly die within a few hours unless he has a brain operation that can only be performed at a Chicago hospital, Larry drives the train, shattering the speed record to Chicago. Several weeks later, when a recovering Dan arrives back in town, he gives his blessing to Mary and Larry, who have stayed by his side, and decides to get back to the work he loves. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.