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The Mayor of Hell (1933)

Passed | | Crime, Drama, Romance | 24 June 1933 (USA)
Five members of a teen-age gang, including leader Jimmy Smith, are sent to the state reformatory, presided over by the melodramatically callous Thompson. Soon, Patsy Gargan, a former ... See full summary »


Archie Mayo, Michael Curtiz (uncredited)


Edward Chodorov (screen play), Islin Auster (based on a story by)


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Cast overview, first billed only:
James Cagney ... Patsy
Madge Evans ... Dorothy
Arthur Byron ... Judge Gilbert
Allen Jenkins ... Mike
Dudley Digges ... Thompson
Frankie Darro ... Jimmy
Sheila Terry ... Blonde with Mike
Robert Barrat ... Fred Smith
Allen 'Farina' Hoskins ... Smoke (as Farina)
Harold Huber ... Joe
Dorothy Peterson ... Mrs. Smith
G. Pat Collins ... Brandon (as George Pat Collins)
Edwin Maxwell ... Louis Johnson
John Marston John Marston ... Hopkins
William V. Mong ... Mr. Walter


Five members of a teen-age gang, including leader Jimmy Smith, are sent to the state reformatory, presided over by the melodramatically callous Thompson. Soon, Patsy Gargan, a former gangster appointed deputy commissioner as a political favor, arrives - complete with hip flask and blonde. Gargan falls for activist nurse Dorothy and, inspired by her, takes over the administration to run the place on radical principles. But Thompson, to conceal his years of graft, needs a quick way to discredit Gargan. Written by Rod Crawford <puffinus@u.washington.edu>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Cagney Tears loose with everything he's got in million-volt drama- 'The Mayor of Honor' (Print ad- Leader-Post,((Regina, sask.)) 9 July 1934) See more »


Crime | Drama | Romance


Passed | See all certifications »





English | Italian | Yiddish

Release Date:

24 June 1933 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Reform School See more »


Box Office


$229,000 (estimated)
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Warner Bros. See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


On the boys first night at the school, there are two shots of Jimmy in the dormitory in which his hair (in the area above his ears) is clearly longer than in any of the other shots. See more »


Hopkins: [Night at the reform school's front gate.the guards in the high tower hears a car's engine revving towards them, then .it stops at the gate and he shines a light on it, and barks an order] Who's there?
Patsy: [Sticks his fedora - covered head out the driver's window] Gargan, the new depot commissioner, you screw.
Hopkins: Oh, open the gate, Charlie,.it's Mr Gargan, the new deputy commissioner.
Patsy: Where's Thompson's office?
Hopkins: Yeah, third building on the right, Mr Gargan.
Patsy: You said it, bizarre.
See more »


Remade as Hell's Kitchen (1939) See more »

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User Reviews

Before the Dead-End Kids
20 October 2007 | by dougdoepkeSee all my reviews

Before the Dead End Kids, there was Frankie Darro. Forgotten today, he epitomized angry desperate youth during those early depression years. Here he comes across with his usual hot-headed intensity, enough to make up for a nonthreatening small size. In fact, Darro acts a lot like a younger version of Cagney, which is no accident since the story line depends on Cagney seeing a lot of himself among the brutalized boys of the reform school. Without that, his transformation from racketeer to reformer makes little sense.

Some good scenes, such as the regimented mess hall with its robotic commands and synchronized quick-step. Also, the movie really comes alive during the well-staged riot scene. The raging mob, flickering shadows and wildly burning torches create a disturbingly hellish scene befitting the title. Still, unless I missed something, the mob really is responsible for the cruel Dudley Digges death, allowing the boys to get away with murder or at least manslaughter no matter how much Digges deserves it. This may be an example of justice prevailing over the law during those pre-code days.

Showing how closely the school's operation is tied to greedy political patronage provides an interesting touch. Nonetheless, Cagney's conversion from corrupt ward healer to the George Washington of a boy's republic remains something of a stretch. And I'm sure the stereotype of the Jewish kid may have brought some chuckles in that day, but not in this post-holocaust period. Then too, the black kid's dad may be a crude stereotype, but the boy isn't, participating importantly in republic activities. Notice how subtly his role emerges, probably so as not to offend some audiences. Still, it was a nervy move for the time. Notice also, how deglamorized the boys are. With the many shapes and sizes, they look as though they were recruited off the streets-- another nice touch.

As in most Warner Bros. pictures of the time, there's an atmosphere of New Deal reform, embodied here by the understanding judge who's willing to try unorthodox methods to remedy social ills. All in all, the film stands as an entertaining period piece, with a humane message that stands the test of time.

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