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The Doorway to Hell Photos

Movie Info

A Manhattan bootlegger (Lew Ayres) courts a woman (Dorothy Mathews) who has been flirting with his right-hand man (James Cagney).

Cast & Crew

Lew Ayres
Louie Ricarno
James Cagney
Steve Mileaway
Dorothy Mathews
Doris Ricarno
Ken Thompson
Capt. of Academy
George Rosener
Screenwriter
Darryl F. Zanuck
Executive Producer
Barney McGill
Cinematographer
Earl Luick
Costume Designer
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Critic Reviews for The Doorway to Hell

All Critics (2) | Rotten (2)

Audience Reviews for The Doorway to Hell

  • Jun 16, 2016
    This pre-Code gangster movie is interesting primarily because of James Cagney, who is in a supporting role, that of a gangster's right-hand man. His boss is played somewhat improbably by 21-year-old Lew Ayres, who is hard to believe as he threatens rival gang members to fall in line under his authority. However, fall in line they do, that is, until Ayres decides he's had enough and decides to retire. (Yes, the pretty boy baby-face had had enough of the game, when it looks like he hasn't started shaving) When he's gone, all hell breaks loose for reasons we can't really fathom, prompting them to attempt to reel him back in by kidnapping his kid brother, who is away at a military school. Ayres is one of the casting issues; the other is the policeman played by Robert Elliott, who is far too lethargic as he delivers his lines. The script is actually pretty good, and there are some lines that are wry and just perfect for the genre and time period. The ending is drawn out, however, and it's too bad the story surrounding the love interest (played well by Dorothy Matthews) who marries Ayres but secretly loves Cagney isn't expanded on, though the scene where she coyly slips off her wedding ring to encourage him is nice. The movie hits you over the head with an anti-crime message, but as you think about the actions of the police officer, coercing statements and selectively deciding who to protect, you have to wonder how effective this message was. Anyway, the net of all of this is a reasonably entertaining movie, but nothing to write home about. This was only Cagney's 2nd movie, just before a string of movies the following year which would cement him as a star, most notably, The Public Enemy, and he's such a natural with great screen presence. As a footnote, I found it ironic that while Ayres in the movie lauds Napoleon, his brother's military training, and war in general, Ayres in real life was a conscientious objector during WWII, making him very unpopular at the time, though he served with honor in the medical corps instead.
    Antonius B Super Reviewer
  • Dec 05, 2013
    A bit muddled and creaky but decent crime drama that suffers from miscasting in the lead role. Lew Ayres was a fine actor but never convincing as a villian, Cagney should have played the role and the picture would have had much more impact. The actor playing the police chief stinks up the screen whenever he appears with some of the worst, most wooden acting you'll ever see.
    jay n Super Reviewer

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