Romeo’s Photos in Hell’s Highway (1932)

I'm currently working on a post about RKO's 1932 prison chain gang drama Hell's Highway, a title which released to theaters about a month and a half ahead of that more famous chain gang movie.

I'm hoping to have that for you tomorrow, but in the meantime I found myself distracted by the collecting activities of one prisoner.

Hells Highway

Before we get distracted, yeah, that is a target on his back. That's on every inmate's uniform in Hell's Highway.

This is Romeo Schultz (Jed Kiley), a very minor character in Hell's Highway, who seems to have passed his time (while doing his time) writing the pretty movie stars. More specifically writing the prettiest RKO movie stars since, after all, Hell's Highway was an RKO production.

We're given a closer look at Constance Bennett, in a very familiar pose, and Gwili Andre:

Hells Highway Fan Photos

Sure enough, I've used that Constance Bennett image several times before:

Constance Bennett 1930s Aguila Trading Card

The image Romeo gazes upon each morning was picked up by Aguila chocolates in Uruguay and used on the card above, one from a set of 300.

“Do you really know all those dames, Romeo?” asks Duke Ellis, played by Hell's Highway star Richard Dix.

“Do I know them?" Romeo asks. "They’re all signed, ain't they?”

(Nice try, Romeo, but we know better than Duke does.)

“It’s a good thing they got you locked up in a chain gang,” says Duke as he heads out for the day.

I'll say, keep that guy away from Connie! Though he also seems to have the hots for Rochelle:

Rochelle Hudson

Actually that's Mary Ellen. Rochelle Hudson just plays her. For one scene. Two to three minutes tops and she's billed third. Not bad!

Mary Ellen goes with Johnny Ellis, Duke's kid brother who's also locked up. Tom Brown plays him.

The Rochelle Hudson/Mary Ellen photo gets Johnny in a bit of trouble after Romeo steals it out of his pocket to add to his own collection. But more on that next time.

It's good to know that no matter how harsh conditions on the chain gang may be, Romeo still remains an active collector. A little later on he has an entire new set of photos pinned up behind him:

Jed Kiley in Hells Highway

Those look to be more random cheesecake shots picturing unidentified models. I'm more interested in that first group of photos Romeo had on display. Once more:

Hells Highway

There are six in all. We've got two of them ID'ed, Constance Bennett and Gwili Andre--and I swear I've had that Gwili Andre photo before but I could not for the life of me find an image on file this evening.

I'm going to guess that the actress to the left of Constance Bennett is Dolores Del Rio.

Dolores Del Rio 1933 United Kingdom Cinema Stars Tobacco Card

Different image, but I tried to select my closest match when attempting to identify these photos.

Up next, to the right of Gwili Andre, I'm pretty sure we have Irene Dunne, who was also working for RKO at this time:

Irene Dunne 1934 Godfrey Phillips Stars of the Screen Tobacco Card

I can't pull out the next one. All I can say is that what I at first thought was a bad hairstyle is actually a hat.

I've convinced myself that the last one is Helen Twelvetrees:

Helen Twelvetrees 1933 BAT World Famous Cinema Artistes Tobacco Card

Especially since she had her hand, or hands, on her face in a few different card poses I had on file. Just like the actress in Romeo's right most photo. Seems to be a Helen Twelvetrees type post at least.

But I wouldn't flinch if you said Ann Harding.

Here's the entire bunch, once more:

Hells Highway

Can you name Romeo's collection? I've got, Dolores Del Rio, Constance Bennett, Gwili Andre, Irene Dunne, unknown and Helen Twelvetrees. The movie spots us Bennett and Andre. All those I've named worked for RKO during this time.

I'll be back next time with a more in-depth look at Hell's Highway (1932) itself.

As is so often the case my copy comes from a previous TCM airing and so I was disappointed that there was no video release for this movie. That really limits the audience.

Here's something to expand it though:

In case that embed does not show up for you, you can view Hell's Highway for free at the Internet Archive HERE.

It's a whopping 61 minutes and highly recommended, especially for fans of I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang (1932). Check it out and come back and chat in a day or two after I post the main article to the site!

See you then,

Richard Dix in Hells HIghway

Closing it out with a shot of Richard Dix, who is actually the star of this movie!


  1. April says

    I love stuff like this…I’m always gazing at pictures in the backgrounds of scenes. Sometimes they reveal a bit of character, or are one way for production personnel to insert a little individuality or humor.

    • says

      Glad you enjoyed it, April, thanks! Yes, so many times I’m watching a movie and an innocent photo on a wall or sitting on a table will be one I have or have sold. Always pretty neat–I really should start cataloging those instances as I run into them.

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