Filmed in 1929 and released early in 1930, Dynamite was Cecil B. DeMille's first all-talking feature. As one observer has noted, this 128-minute opus has enough plots for seven pictures. The basic storyline here involves spoiled heiress Cynthia Crothers (Kay Johnson) who will lose her fortune if she isn't married right away. Her love Roger Towne (Conrad Nagel) isn't interested in marriage, so Crothers decides to wed convicted murderer Hagon Derk (Charles Bickford). Her plan: Derk will die, then she'll be a millionaire, free to chase after Towne without benefit of clergy. Unfortunately for Crothers, Derk is pardoned at the last minute when the real killer (Leslie Fenton) confesses. Crothers tries to drive Derk out of her life by humiliating him at a fancy party, only to discover that the conditions of her inheritance require that she live with her husband for a set period of time. She swallows her pride and heads for Derk's home town, a grimy mining village. Touched by Crother's inept efforts to keep house and cook dinner, Derk eventually falls in love with her--though he makes it clear that he wants no part of her money. Crothers, in turn, falls genuinely in love with her brutish but basically decent husband. It must needs be that fortune-hunting Towne arrives in the mining village, leading to a powerful climax wherein Derk, Crothers and Towne are trapped in a mine cave-in. Though the dialogue is occasionally quite silly (after the killer commits suicide in a crowded restaurant, one of the patrons is heard to complain "It's ruined my dinner!") and the performances overripe at times, Dynamite actually holds up better than you'd expect. DeMilles' utilization of sound is both innovative and imaginative, especially during the noisy climactic sequences. The film was a success, paving the way for DeMilles' camp classic Madame Satan (1930).
by Hal Erickson synopsis