Up the River


1h 15m 1938

Brief Synopsis

Card sharps Chipper Morgan (Preston Foster) and Darby Randall (Arthur Treacher) pick the wrong victim, Detective Willis (Alan Dinehart), on a transatlantic crossing, and are arrested upon docking in New York and returned up the river to Rockwell Prison, their old alma mater. They had played brilliant football for "dear old Pen" during their prior semesters, and prison coach Slim Nelson (Slim Summerville) is happy to see them back for graduate work, especially with the annual grudge game with Larson State Pen coming up. Willis, who has been named the new warden for Rockwell, gives them soft jobs and then places a large bet on the Larson eleven. Both Chipper and Darby feel badly about the raw deal handed fellow "student" Tommy Grant (Tony Martin) and his sweetheart, Helen (Phyllis Brooks), who were innocently caught up in a phoney pension racket ran by swindlers Jeffrey Mitchell (Sidney Toler) and Ray Douglas (Robert Allen), and were both jailed. When Phyllis is released from Stillwell Prison for Women, she tells Tommy about the two men and their racket, and he decides to escape, even though he has only a month more to serve, and put an end to their scheme. He plans his break for the night of the prison's "varsity show" and tells Chipper and Darby, who promise to help him. But the pair tie up Tommy and make the break themselves, dressed as women. They go to Springfield, save the victim's money, get a confession from Mitchell and Douglas clearing Tommy and Helen, turn them over to the sheriff...and race back to Rockwell to find their team behind 14-9 late in the game. Can they lead old Rockwell to a comeback victory?

Film Details

Also Known As
Hard to Get
Release Date
Dec 9, 1938
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.
Distribution Company
Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.
Country
United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the film Up the River , story, scenario and dialogue by Maurine Watkins (Fox Film Corp., 1930).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 15m
Sound
Mono
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
6,900ft (8 reels)

Synopsis

On an ocean liner heading to the United States, an American named George Lawson meets Englishman Ronald Barclay at the ship's bar and invites him to play blackjack at his suite. Barclay drops his wallet, and it is found by another American, Rex Parmalee. Parmalee returns the wallet and joins the two men for a poker game. When the boat docks, after three days of gambling, Lawson has lost $6,000 to Parmalee and $17,000 to Barclay. After insisting that they accept his checks, Lawson offers them a ride in his limousine, and they arrive at a police station, where Lawson reveals that he is really Clarence Willis, a police officer. He then arrests Parmalee and Barclay, who are really the infamous con artists Chipper Morgan and Darby Randall, respectively. Morgan and Randall are sent "up the river" to Rockwell prison, where they discover, to their dismay, that Willis has been appointed the new warden. Willis assigns them to the sweeping detail, and they are put into the same cell with Slim Nelson, the coach of the football team, and Tommy Grant, who is to be paroled soon. Tommy is looking forward to marrying Helen Lindsay, who is serving time in a reformatory because they got mixed up with con artists Jeffrey Mitchell and Ray Douglas and took the rap for them. After Willis sees that Morgan and Randall have significantly improved Slim's football team, he agrees to take them off the sweeping detail and places a $100 bet with Warden Harris, from a rival prison, on their upcoming game. When Helen is released, she goes to stay with Tommy's mother, who knows nothing of her prison record and thinks that she met her son in Shanghai, where, she believes, Tommy still is. Helen learns that Mitchell and Douglas have sold phony investment plans to nearly everyone in town and are about to close a deal with Tommy's mother. When Helen threatens to expose them, they point out the harm that will come if Tommy's past is found out, particularly as Tommy's sister is engaged to marry the mayor's son. Helen visits Tommy in prison and informs him of the situation, and he tells his cellmates that he wants to break out to help his mother. After the prisoners put on a "Frolics" show, Chipper slugs Tommy, so that he cannot escape. Dressed in women's clothes used for the show, Chipper and Randall then leave with the audience after shutting off the lights. When Tommy's parole is taken away because of the breakout, Slim tells Willis about the situation. Worried that the team will lose the next day without Chipper and Randall, Willis travels to Tony's hometown. Meanwhile, Chipper and Randall have contacted Helen, and they arrange to con Mitchell and Douglas into thinking that the townspeople are going to lynch them. Willis and his assistant Tiny break up the ruse, but when Chipper threatens to lose the game unless Willis gets Mitchell and Douglas out of town, Tiny hits Douglas over the head and Willis gives the crooks' money to Helen to return to her neighbors. Chipper and Randall arrive back at prison with one play left in the game. Randall gets the idea to have everyone on the team carry balloons that look like footballs, and while the others on the team are being tackled, Randall, Chipper and Tommy get the real ball across the goal line to win and make the day the happiest in Slim's life.

Film Details

Also Known As
Hard to Get
Release Date
Dec 9, 1938
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.
Distribution Company
Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.
Country
United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the film Up the River , story, scenario and dialogue by Maurine Watkins (Fox Film Corp., 1930).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 15m
Sound
Mono
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
6,900ft (8 reels)

Quotes

Trivia

Notes

The working title of this film was Hard to Get. According to a Hollywood Reporter news item, the film went back into production "to build production values" after executives saw a rough cut. Because Preston Foster and Arthur Treacher were already involved in other films, the additional shooting had to be done on Sunday. This film was a remake of the 1930 Fox film of the same title, which was directed by John Ford and starred Spencer Tracy and Humphrey Bogart (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1921-30; F2.5999). According to publicity for the 1938 film, the earlier film, which climaxed in a baseball game, was inspired by a prison riot in Auburn, N.Y. Variety commented concerning the 1938 film, "Major changes have been made in the original story, but basic idea is the same, and a few ideas have been retained in substance." They also noted that this film, as distinct from the earlier version, "emphasizes the burlesque."