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Heat Lightning (1934)

Passed | | Crime, Drama | 3 March 1934 (USA)
In the Mohave Desert, Olga runs a gas station, lunch counter, and auto camp with her younger sister Myra. In a 24-hour period, Olga must deal with Myra's desire to go to a town dance with a... See full summary »


Mervyn LeRoy


Leon Abrams (from the original play by), George Abbott (from the original play by) | 2 more credits »


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Complete credited cast:
Aline MacMahon ... Olga
Ann Dvorak ... Myra
Preston Foster ... George
Lyle Talbot ... Jeff
Glenda Farrell ... Mrs. Tifton
Frank McHugh ... Frank - the chauffeur
Ruth Donnelly ... Mrs. Ashton-Ashley
Theodore Newton ... Steve Laird
Willard Robertson ... Everett Marshall
Harry C. Bradley ... 'Popsy' - a Businessman
James Durkin ... The Sheriff
Jane Darwell ... Gladys - the Wife
Edgar Kennedy ... Herbert - the Husband
Muriel Evans ... Blonde Cutie


In the Mohave Desert, Olga runs a gas station, lunch counter, and auto camp with her younger sister Myra. In a 24-hour period, Olga must deal with Myra's desire to go to a town dance with a cad, the appearance by happenstance of George, an old boyfriend whose conduct is never above suspicion, and the overnight presence of two women recently divorced in Reno, who, with a chauffeur, are carrying valuable jewels. George gets wind of the jewels and plays with Olga's heartstrings to set up a robbery. Myra arranges to sneak off with her beau. It's hot, and the heat lightening is crackling on the horizon. Is Olga's life of peace and hard work in the desert about to change for the worse? Written by <jhailey@hotmail.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


"I JUST KILLED A RAT!" (original poster-all caps) See more »


Crime | Drama


Passed | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

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Release Date:

3 March 1934 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Heat Lightning See more »

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?


The play opened on Broadway in New York City, New York, USA at the Booth Theatre, 222 W. 45th St., on 15 September 1933 and ran for 44 performances. In the cast were Eddie Acuff, Jean Dixon, Joe Downing and Robert Gleckler. See more »


At the end of the film, Olga removes the radiator cap from a car and no steam emerges. See more »


George: Want another barbequed sandwich?
Jeff: I can hear the warden ask if I have any last words before they turn on the heat and you ask if I want another barbequed sandwich?
See more »


Version of Highway West (1941) See more »

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User Reviews

Women Of The Desert
14 March 2010 | by bkoganbingSee all my reviews

Heat Lightning was an early work by George Abbott, written and directed by him in 1933 it had only a run of 44 performances in that anemic Depression Era season on Broadway. It was not the best work Abbott was ever associated with, but I'm sure he was grateful that Warner Brothers bought the screen rights in those cash strapped times.

It stars Aline McMahon and Ann Dvorak as a pair of sisters running a filling station, automobile camp out in the American west, very similar to the one Bette Davis and her family was running in The Petrified Forest. They're both a bit antsy being stuck out in the desert without the attention of the male of the species. But McMahon's been around the track a little too often and she tries to steer Dvorak right.

The guy who gave her that ride a few times is Preston Foster and he's shown up with pal Lyle Talbot. On the lam as it turns out, but the sisters don't know it. Foster's putting the moves on Dvorak and McMahon ain't having any of that. Truth be told she's got a bit of a yen still left and the desert isolation ain't curing the yen.

Some other characters pop up in this drama, a pair of would be divorcées heading for Reno with their 'chauffeur' played by Glenda Farrell, Ruth Donnelly and Frank McHugh. Also at the beginning Edgar Kennedy and Jane Darwell are a married couple going west. I wish we could have seen more of them. In fact I'm surprised that Jack Warner didn't recognize a good potential comic team there and made more films with them.

As you can see there are a lot of similarities to The Petrified Forest, but I think that even with the tragedies that befall both Humphrey Bogart and Leslie Howard there, The Petrified Forest is a more optimistic play. Bette Davis does get her chance to leave and see the wider world. Not quite what happens here, but I can't say more.

As compared to some of the legendary work George Abbott was associated with on stage Heat Lightning is definitely minor league. Yet it's not a bad piece of work, definitely in keeping with the times. Mervyn LeRoy did a good job in filling the screen and striking a nice balance between the comic and the dramatic. Very typical of what came from the working man's studio.

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