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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


See Warner Bros tear the taboo from another forbidden theme! A story more powerful than "I'm a Fugitive" Cagney lets go with everything he's got as the as THE BIG BROTHER OF TODAY'S WILD YOUTH! (Print ad from Los Angeles Times June 29, 1933) 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 »
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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


When Thompson falls on the barbwire fence after jumping from the burning barn, it is clearly a dummy. See more »


Lawyer: All he wants is that little velvet. You know, side money. Yeah, that deputy's salary.
See more »


Remade as Crime School (1938) See more »

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User Reviews

Tough melodrama from the Warner mill...
9 January 2008 | by DoylenfSee all my reviews

JAMES CAGNEY gets top billing in THE MAYOR OF HELL but it's really little tough guy FRANKIE DARRO who has the central role of a boy from the slums who lands in a reform school run by a ruthless warden (DUDLEY DIGGES) interested only in punishing the boys while he cooks the books. Darro makes quite an impression with his hostile looks, locking glances with the warden at every turn with eyes blazing with hatred.

It takes the entrance of Cagney to change things around, an ex- gangster who has been deputized to help run things at the reformatory and who sympathizes with the plights of the boys, especially Darro who reminds him of his own tough days as a street punk. JAMES CAGNEY puts all of his usual energy into the role of the do-gooder who changes things around, along with cooperative Nurse Griffith (MADGE EVANS), and is there when the going gets tough and things revert back to their nasty ways during his brief absence.

The last half-hour of the film gets a little too melodramatic as the kids take matters into their own hands after the warden causes the death of one of their fellow inmates. There's a climactic scene where they put him on trial. When he escapes their clutches by jumping out a window, a chase follows and a barn is burned down forcing him to jump to his death. The plot contrivances that follow are hard to swallow, but for Jimmy and Madge Evans at least there's a happy ending.

ALLEN JENKINS is a welcome presence for comic relief but the tone of the film borders on heavy prison melodrama almost all the way.

DUDLEY DIGGES plays the unsympathetic role of the sadistic warden fairly well, but I still think of him as the befuddled detective who has a hard time pinning down RAFFLES (Ronald Colman) in that Scotland Yard yarn.

For Cagney fans, this is a glimpse of him at his talented best in an early role. Archie Mayo directs the project in his brisk, no nonsense Warner style.

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