Dante's Inferno (1935 film)

Dante's Inferno
Directed by Harry Lachman
Produced by Sol M. Wurtzel
Written by Philip Klein
Starring Spencer Tracy
Claire Trevor
Rita Hayworth
Music by R.H. Bassett
Cinematography Rudolph Maté
Edited by Alfred DeGaetano
Distributed by 20th Century Fox
Release dates
  • July 31, 1935 (1935-07-31) (U.S.)
Running time
88 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $748,900 (estimate)

Dante's Inferno is a 1935 motion picture starring Spencer Tracy and loosely based on Dante Alighieri's The Divine Comedy. The film remains primarily remembered for a 10-minute depiction of hell realised by director Harry Lachman, himself an established post-impressionist painter. This was Fox Film Corporation's last film when the company merged with Twentieth Century Pictures to form 20th Century Fox.

Plot summary

Jim Carter, a former stoker, takes over a fairground show, run by 'Pop' McWade, which depicts scenes from Dante's Inferno. He marries Pop's niece Betty and they have a son, Alexander. Meanwhile, the show becomes a great success, with Carter making it larger and more lurid. An inspector declares the fair unsafe but Carter bribes him into silence. There is a partial collapse at the fair which injures Pop. Recovering in hospital, he admonishes Carter and we see a lengthy vision of the Inferno. Undeterred, Carter establishes a new venture with an unsafe floating casino, only for disaster to strike again at sea.


Production background

The film uses a conventional story of greed and dishonesty to project an image of the Inferno conjured up in Dante's 14th-century epic poem. Director Lachman had established a substantial reputation as a painter before embarking on a Hollywood career and he summoned his artistic vision to realise Dante's work in cinematographic form, drawing on the engravings of Gustave Doré. The film's reputation pivots on the 10 minute vision of the Inferno and reception has been mixed. Leslie Halliwell described it as "one of the most unexpected, imaginative and striking pieces of cinema in Hollywood's history," while Variety held that it was, "a pushover for vigorous exploitation."

Some hell scene footage was taken from Fox's Dante's Inferno (1924)[1] which was originally tinted red. The film featured many naked men and women suffering in hell.

The 1935 film was produced by Fox Film Corporation just before the May 31, 1935 merger that created Twentieth Century-Fox, and so was released as a Twentieth Century-Fox film.

This was Spencer Tracy's last film for Fox before moving to MGM.


  1. Bond, Jeremy (2009), "Dante's Inferno: Pre-Code Decadence Falls to the Flames", in New England Vintage Film Society, Spencer Tracy Fox Film Actor: The Pre-Code Legacy of a Hollywood Legend, Xlibris, p. 177, ISBN 978-1-4363-4137-0

External links

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