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The Doorway to Hell

The Doorway to Hell(1930)


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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at the USC-Cinema Television Library, the film's working title was A Handful of Clouds, which was also the title of the unpublished Rowland Brown story on which the film was based, and the film's release title in Britain.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.
       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 Variety 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.