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Hell's Highway (1932)

Passed | | Action, Crime, Drama | 23 September 1932 (USA)
Chain gang prisoners forced to construct a "liberty highway" for their overseer chasten under his brutal stewardship, causing Duke Ellis to mastermind a mass riot.


Rowland Brown, John Cromwell (uncredited)


Samuel Ornitz (by), Robert Tasker (by) | 1 more credit »


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Complete credited cast:
Richard Dix ... Duke Ellis
Rochelle Hudson ... Mary Ellen
Tom Brown ... Johnny Ellis
C. Henry Gordon ... 'Blacksnake' Skinner
Oscar Apfel ... William Billings
Stanley Fields ... F. E. Whiteside
John Arledge ... Carter
Warner Richmond ... 'Pop-Eye' Jackson
Charles Middleton ... Matthew the Hermit
Clarence Muse ... Rascal
Louise Carter ... Mrs. Ellis
Sandy Roth Sandy Roth ... Blind Maxie
Fuzzy Knight ... Society Red


Chain gang prisoners forced to construct a "liberty highway" for their overseer chasten under his brutal stewardship, causing Duke Ellis to mastermind a mass riot.

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


A Drama of the Doomed! (original print ad) See more »


Action | Crime | Drama


Passed | See all certifications »






Release Date:

23 September 1932 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Liberty Road See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

RKO Radio Pictures See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Mono (RCA Photophone System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


RKO executives were concerned about a possible plagiarism suit by the author of the book and the movie version I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang (1932) in production at Warner Bros. at the time. Some deletions and changes were made until they were satisfied that no legal action would be taken. See more »


Duke Ellis: [Chatting with a convicted bigamist] How many women did you really marry?
Matthew the Hermit: How many banks did you really rob?
Duke Ellis: Never more than one at the same time.
Matthew the Hermit: It takes nerves of steel to rob a bank.
Duke Ellis: It takes a lot of backbone to keep seven wives happy.
Matthew the Hermit: Yea, Brother!
See more »


Referenced in Hollywood on Trial (1976) See more »

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User Reviews

A really surprising find...
22 August 2010 | by MartinHaferSee all my reviews

What surprised me about "Hell's Highway" more than anything else was that it addressed the abuses of the chain gang system two months before the much more famous "I Am a Fugitive From a Chain Gang" debuted. So why is the latter film a super-famous film for its social commentary and "Hell's Highway" is pretty much forgotten? Well, the biggest reason is focus. In "Hell's Highway", while the system is bad, the movie ALSO focuses on the inmates--and shows them, in most cases, as a bunch of bad folks. Killers, thieves, cut-throats and homosexuals seem to make up most of the prisoners--so at the time the message of reform was somehow lost. The public no doubt was torn between hating the prisoners and the system that mistreated them.

The film stars Richard Dix in an unusual role. He plays perhaps the toughest of all these prisoners--a guy respected yet feared by everyone. Only when his young brother is also committed to this same chain gang is Dix's toughness challenged. Amidst this strange family reunion is the purpose of this chain gang--not to rehabilitate but to provide cheap labor for a jerk trying to produce a road and make himself rich in the process.

The film excels due to pretty good acting and an exciting script. While it's not as timeless and important as "I Am a Fugitive...", it is, nonetheless, well worth seeing and might surprise you at the film's quality and strength.

sign language gibberish

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