Back Door to Heaven (1939)

Film details


Frankie Roger is reluctantly sent by the Sheriff to the State Reformatory for stealing a mouth organ from Blair's hardware store. Believed soon to be back, it is not until he is alone among the towering battlements that he is reminded that freedom has been left behind, that he then breaks down.

The years go by. Frankie is in the County Jail, he socks a warden for his treatment of a young, sensitive boy, and earns himself another five years, this time in the State Penitentiary.

At last the great gates clang open and Frankie, together with Mouse and Jud, two fellow prisoners, is free.

After finding out that his mother was taken to a lunatic asylum, and catching up with his old school friends, he returns to his room one evening to find a note from Jud and Mouse - sick of being broke they are raiding Busy Bee Eating Joint. Frankie races to stop them but arrives too late, the shooting has begun, the police have arrived, and Frankie is up for murder. An old school friend called John Shelley defends Frankie in court, but they lose and Frankie is sent back to the State Penitentiary.

A re-union has been arranged to say goodbye to the old school which must be demolished. The door bursts open and Frankie stands on the threshold torn and dishevelled. He has broken jail to get one more glance at his old school. Frankie has one last drink with his friends then turns to go, there is the sound of a machine gun - John Shelley forces Carol (who had fallen in love with Frankie) to turn away from the cruel outside.

Cast & Credits

Latest from the BFI

  • Latest from the BFI

    Latest news, features and opinion.

More information

Films, TV and people

  • Films, TV and people

    Film lists and highlights from BFI Player.

More information

Sight & Sound magazine

  • Sight & Sound magazine

    Reviews, interviews and features from the international film magazine.

More information

Back to the top