The Doorway to Hell (1930)

77-79 mins | Melodrama | 18 October 1930

Full page view
HISTORY

Some contemporary sources refer to the film as Doorway to Hell . According to information in the file on the production in the Warner Bros. Archive at the USC-Cinema Television Library, the film's working title was A Handful of Clouds , which was also the title of the unpublished Rowland Brown story on which the film was based, and the film's release title in Britain. The phrase is spoken within the film by Robert Elliot who, as "Chief Pat O'Grady," warns Lew Ayres, as "Louie Ricarno" that any success he attains as a gangster will be like a handful of clouds. In the late 1920s and early 1930s, "a handful of clouds" also was an underworld expression related to killings by a handgun, which releases cloud-like smoke after being fired.
       The opening credits appear as headlines of newspaper stories. At the end of the film, after Louie exits his boardinghouse room, the sound of machinegun fire is heard on the soundtrack. Immediately after the start of the gunfire, page 214 of a book appears onscreen, with the closing passage reading: "The doorway to hell is a one-way door.--There is no retribution--no plea for further clemency. The little boy walked through it..." The lines from the book, as well as the film, close with the word " Finis [End]," which is how the character Louie ended his autobiography, thus leaving the impression that his dream of having the book published became a reality.
       Although Charles Judels is listed second in the onscreen cast of characters as "Florist," he was not in the viewed print. The florist, who according to Warner ... More Less

Some contemporary sources refer to the film as Doorway to Hell . According to information in the file on the production in the Warner Bros. Archive at the USC-Cinema Television Library, the film's working title was A Handful of Clouds , which was also the title of the unpublished Rowland Brown story on which the film was based, and the film's release title in Britain. The phrase is spoken within the film by Robert Elliot who, as "Chief Pat O'Grady," warns Lew Ayres, as "Louie Ricarno" that any success he attains as a gangster will be like a handful of clouds. In the late 1920s and early 1930s, "a handful of clouds" also was an underworld expression related to killings by a handgun, which releases cloud-like smoke after being fired.
       The opening credits appear as headlines of newspaper stories. At the end of the film, after Louie exits his boardinghouse room, the sound of machinegun fire is heard on the soundtrack. Immediately after the start of the gunfire, page 214 of a book appears onscreen, with the closing passage reading: "The doorway to hell is a one-way door.--There is no retribution--no plea for further clemency. The little boy walked through it..." The lines from the book, as well as the film, close with the word " Finis [End]," which is how the character Louie ended his autobiography, thus leaving the impression that his dream of having the book published became a reality.
       Although Charles Judels is listed second in the onscreen cast of characters as "Florist," he was not in the viewed print. The florist, who according to Warner Bros. casting sheets and the Var review, was named "Sam Margoni," is mentioned in the film, and Louie speaks to him on the telephone, but there are no scenes in which Judels appears. According to a Warner Bros. file memo from musical director Erno Rapee to studio production head Darryl F. Zanuck, an extensive sequence at the beginning of the film was cut from the production. That sequence, which took place at a theater in which a play entitled Napoleon of the Underworld was being presented, featured Judels as well as other members of the cast. According to Warner Bros. casting sheets, the play within the film featured Maurice Black, Vivian Oakland and Paul Fix as "counterparts" of Louie, "Doris" and "Steve Mileaway." Other cast members who appeared only in the cut sequence were Tom Shirley and Peter Diggie.
       In the first scene in the film, when Dwight Frye as the gangster "Monk" leaves a poolhall carrying a violin case, he answers a question about where he is going by saying "I'm going to teach a guy a lesson." Later, it is revealed that the case contained a machine gun that was used to kill another gangster. This may have been the first time that the popular movie gangland expression "teach a guy a lesson" was used onscreen.
       Doorway to Hell received a Best Writing (Adaptation) Academy Award nomination. Modern sources add the following actors to the cast: Thomas E. Jackson , John Kelly, Larry McGrath, Dick Purcell, Cliff Saum and Jack Wise. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Chicago Tribune
30 Jan 1931.
---
Exhibitor Daily
8 Sep 1930
p. 5.
Film Daily
2 Nov 1930.
---
Los Angeles Times
1 Dec 1930.
---
New York Times
1 Nov 1930
p. 23.
Variety
5 Nov 1930
p. 23.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
A Warner Bros. Vitaphone Talking Picture
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTOR
PRODUCER
Exec prod
WRITER
Scr and dial
PHOTOGRAPHY
Photog
FILM EDITOR
COSTUMES
Cost
MUSIC
Gen mus dir
Vitaphone orch cond
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the short story "A Handful of Clouds" by Rowland Brown (publication undetermined).
AUTHOR
DETAILS
Alternate Title:
A Handful of Clouds
Release Date:
18 October 1930
Production Date:
August 1930
Copyright Claimant:
Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
Copyright Date:
6 October 1930
Copyright Number:
LP1614
Physical Properties:
Sound
Vitaphone
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
77-79
Length(in feet):
7,092
Length(in reels):
8
Country:
United States
Language:
English
Passed by NBR:
Yes
SYNOPSIS

When Louie Ricarno, a handsome, dapper young Chicago gang leader, is called in for questioning by Captain Pat O'Grady, he denies having anything to do with a gangland murder but refuses to take Pat's advice to quit the rackets before he is killed. Louie soon becomes the underworld boss of an entire city, dividing the territory into zones confined to the rackets of separate mobs that pay him for protection. Some time later, Louie falls in love with Doris, unaware that she and Louie's second-in-command, Steve Mileaway, are in love. When Doris agrees to marry Louie, he decides to quit the rackets and retire to Florida, where he plans to write his autobiography. On the way to their new home, Louie introduces Doris to his beloved younger brother Jackie, who is attending a military school under the assumed family name of Locarno. In Florida, while Louie happily learns to play golf and finishes his memoirs, Doris becomes bored and yearns for a return to the excitement of Chicago. Meanwhile, squabblings by various factions of Chicago's underworld turn into a gang war which Mileaway is helpless to stop. After Louie turns down Mileaway's urgent plea to return to Chicago to take matters in hand, gangsters Midget and Rocco arrange to have Jackie kidnapped to force Louie to return. When Jackie is approached by two henchman, he senses that something is wrong and runs away, but is hit by an oncoming truck and dies. Shattered by the loss of his brother, Louie returns to Chicago to seek revenge against those responsible, while Doris secretly rekindles her affair with Mileaway. With the help of ... +


When Louie Ricarno, a handsome, dapper young Chicago gang leader, is called in for questioning by Captain Pat O'Grady, he denies having anything to do with a gangland murder but refuses to take Pat's advice to quit the rackets before he is killed. Louie soon becomes the underworld boss of an entire city, dividing the territory into zones confined to the rackets of separate mobs that pay him for protection. Some time later, Louie falls in love with Doris, unaware that she and Louie's second-in-command, Steve Mileaway, are in love. When Doris agrees to marry Louie, he decides to quit the rackets and retire to Florida, where he plans to write his autobiography. On the way to their new home, Louie introduces Doris to his beloved younger brother Jackie, who is attending a military school under the assumed family name of Locarno. In Florida, while Louie happily learns to play golf and finishes his memoirs, Doris becomes bored and yearns for a return to the excitement of Chicago. Meanwhile, squabblings by various factions of Chicago's underworld turn into a gang war which Mileaway is helpless to stop. After Louie turns down Mileaway's urgent plea to return to Chicago to take matters in hand, gangsters Midget and Rocco arrange to have Jackie kidnapped to force Louie to return. When Jackie is approached by two henchman, he senses that something is wrong and runs away, but is hit by an oncoming truck and dies. Shattered by the loss of his brother, Louie returns to Chicago to seek revenge against those responsible, while Doris secretly rekindles her affair with Mileaway. With the help of two of Jackie's friends, who identify the attempted kidnappers, O'Grady learns who planned the kidnapping and warns Louie not to get involved, but Louie has Midget and Rocco killed. After O'Grady arrests Louie, he brings Mileaway in for questioning. Telling Mileaway that he knows about his affair with Doris, O'Grady coerces Mileaway into confessing to killing Midget in self-defense in exchange for Louie's release and keeping the affair secret. Unknown to Mileaway, however, Louie has been charged with another murder. Louie escapes from the city jail and, with the help of his chauffeur Tommy, eludes both the police and rival gangsters. Some time later, Louie has become restless and lonely in his shabby boardinghouse hideout and asks the local paperboy to buy a sandwich for him. After the boy delivers the sandwich, O'Grady comes to see Louie and warns him that he should give up or be killed by his rivals, who certainly will have deduced where he is hiding. After O'Grady leaves, a waiter delivers an unordered tray of food. Knowing that his rivals now are waiting outside, Louie glances at a picture of Napoleon Bonaparte, with whom he has always identified, puts on his hat and coat and walks outside with his head held high. +

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

TOP SEARCHES

CASABLANCA

During World War II, Casablanca, Morocco is a waiting point for throngs of desperate refugees fleeing Nazi-occupied Europe. Exit visas, which are necessary to leave the country, are at ... >>

CITIZEN KANE

Seventy-year-old newspaper tycoon Charles Foster Kane dies in his palatial Florida home, Xanadu, after uttering the single word “Rosebud.” While watching a newsreel summarizing the years during which Kane ... >>

REAR WINDOW

Laid up with a broken leg during the height of summer, renowned New York magazine photographer L. B. “Jeff” Jeffries enters his last week of home confinement, bored and ... >>

RAGING BULL

In 1941, at a boxing match in Cleveland, Ohio, pandemonium breaks out when Jake La Motta, an up-and-coming young boxer, loses a decision to Jimmy Reeves, suffering his first ... >>

CITY LIGHTS

At an outdoor dedication ceremony, a tramp is discovered sleeping in the arms of a statue as it is being unveiled before a crowd. He is chased into ... >>

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.