Synopsis by Hal Erickson
William K. Howard, a once-prestigious director fallen on hard times in 1939, proved that he still had the "right stuff" with the modest tearjerker Back Door to Heaven. Wallace Ford stars as Frankie, a pugnacious drifter stigmatized by his reform-school upbringing. Frankie and his former "classmate" Jud (Stu Erwin) try to go straight, but get mixed up in a robbery, during which a man is killed. Though not responsible for the murder, it is Frankie who is railroaded to the death house. Nonetheless, he manages to bust out -- just in time for his grammar school class reunion, presided over by teacher Miss Williams (Aline MacMahon), the only person who ever tried to give Frankie a break. Despite severe storytelling shortcomings and gaping logic holes, director Howard managed to make a silk purse out of the critically acclaimed Back Door to Heaven. However, what may once have been social realism, now seems more like a sentimental, mawkish melodrama.
robbery, murder, prison-escape, drifter, class-reunion, reformatory