Movieland Mystery Photo (Updated + + + + +)

April 25, 2020, Hell Harbor
This week’s mystery movie was Henry King’s  1930 picture “Hell Harbor,” with Lupe Velez, Jean Hersholt, John Holland, Gibson Gowland, Harry Allen, Al. St. John, Paul Burns, George Bookasta and Ulysses Williams.

Adapted by Fred DeGresac, from the novel “Out of the Night” by Rida Johnson Young. Dialogue and screenplay by Clark Silvernail.

Edited by Lloyd Nosler, scenario by N. Brewster Morse, photography by John Fulton, Max Stengler and Robert M. Hass (Haas), art direction by Robert M. Hass (Haas). Production staff Harry Ham, Louis King and Richard Harlan, settings by Tec-Art Studios, sound by Ernest Rovere. Music by Gene Berten, Harvey Allen, Sextetto Habanero and Ernesto Lecuona.

“Hell Harbor” is available on DVD from TCM and is on YouTube in multiple versions.

'Hell Harbor,' 1930
I picked “Hell Harbor” based primarily on this brief article in American Cinematographer. The movie was shot on location at Rocky Point Peninsula near Tampa, Fla., connected by a two-mile road to the mainland. Tampa welcomed the crew enthusiastically and honored various cast members with luncheons and, for Lupe Velez, a gala. Newspapers reported that local officials hoped the film would help establish Florida as a film center to rival New York and Hollywood.

“Hell Harbor” was filmed at a village built for the movie, and used many Tampa residents as extras. One of the people who showed up was Rondo Hatton, a reporter who came to write about the picture and was cast as a bouncer. A local boxer named Herman Weiner was drafted to appear in the picture as Ulysses Williams.  The Tampa Times (Sept. 13, 1929) said many locals  were cast in small roles, including Etta Allman as Hatton’s “wife”; Enrique Gonzales (“3 feet tall and bald as an egg”); D.B. Sota as the bartender; Cecil Cabanal, as an accordion player; and Ruth Ybanez, a daughter of one of the honkytonk gamblers.  “The costuming has been done by (Richard) Harlan, Rosita Gil and the Count d’Esco, and is typical of what the popular of Hell Harbor would wear,” The Tampa Times said.

A hurricane struck during filming, pushing the ship onto the beach and breaking it in two. The storm threatened to swamp equipment and the set until the crew worked furiously to get the lights and gear back to the mainland and protect the sets with sandbags.

Note: The dialogue on board the ship was recorded using cables run to barges holding the sound equipment.

“Hell Harbor” was also picture of the month in Broadway and Hollywood Movies magazine.

Writing in Exhibitors Herald World (March 1, 1930), the T.O. Service column said:

Very, Very good. Mark this down in red; not in your ledger but in your date book as something that shouldn’t be missed. This is an old sure-fire plot about the Caribbean, a drunk of a father and his beautiful daughter, and an American trader who marries the girl.

Somebody, somewhere, is going to say the action is far fetched, but this is a misconception. A large part of the film is given over to a whimsical, ingenuous treatment where Lupe Velez and an old sailor and a small boy play at being killers. There isn’t enough of the Peter Pannish trait to make the actual story nonsense, but enough to make it appealing.

Lupe Velez sings here, and a thousand times better than expected. The photography is nothing short of genius and the direction inspired. The supporting case was born expressly for this picture, Jean Hersholt especially. If you get the impression that this is a review of a thoroughly enjoyable picture, all right, that’s intended.

Hollywood Filmograph (March 8, 1930) said:

Inspiration Pictures spent a lot of money on this picture. It is well worth the money that they spent, for it is a very fine vehicle for Jean Hersholt and Lupe Velez, and at the same time it is laid in the Caribbean Seas, although it was shot down in Florida and smacks of new territory where the other producers haven’t sent their companies and that is worth its weight in gold to the box office.

It is an all-talkie that holds you every minute that it is on the screen. Comedy relief is offered by a newcomer who admits that it is his first picture. Naturally we are to expect better things of him in the future, but what he does he does well–yes, well enough to cause gales of laughter. His name is Paul E. Burns. John Holland’s part is commonplace but he did it well and it was unfortunate for him that it was just an ordinary part.

Gibson Gowland gives one of the most dramatic portrayals of his career. He is vicious and commands attention every minute he is on the screen. He is a good foil for both Jean Hersholt and Lupe Velez.

Extra fine work was rendered by Harry Allen as a peg-leg character. George Bookasta is one of the most promising youngsters on the screen. Al St. John’s work was refreshing and new types loomed on the screen, picked up down south by the producers and director.

April 20, 2020, Mystery Photo

For Monday, we have a mystery gent. He neither approves nor disapproves of such goings-on.

Update: This is Ulysses Williams, also known as Herman Weiner, in his film debut.

April 21, 2020, Mystery Photo

For Tuesday, we have a mystery woman. She is intrigued by such goings-on.

Update: This woman is so far unidentified (I gave credit for Ruth Hall, who is a dance hall girl in another scene). This woman is most likely one of the Tampa residents King cast for minor roles. So far, I have been unable to find her name in the Tampa papers.

April 22, 2020, Mystery Photo

For “Hm Wednesday,” we have this softly focused mystery gent. He approves of such goings-on.

Update: This is Harry Allen.

April 22, 2020, Mystery Photo
We also have this saucy mystery sailor.

Update: This is Al St. John.

April 22, 2020, Mystery Photo
And finally, we have this unsavory mystery gent. It’s safe to say he has evil intentions at this point in the plot.

Update: This is Paul E. Burns in his film debut.

April 23, 2020, Mystery Photo

For “Aha Thursday,” we have this mystery guest, who has a high “Aha” quotient….

Update: This is Gibson Gowland.

April 23, 2020, Mystery Photo

And this mystery gent, whose “Aha” quotient is even higher.

Update: This is newspaperman Rondo Hatton in his film debut

Brain Trust roll call: Howard Mandelbaum (mystery movie and all mystery guests).

April 24, 2020, Mystery Photo

For Friday, we have our mysterious leading man.

Update: This is John Holland.

April 24, 2020, Mystery Photo

We also have this disreputable mystery gent.

Update: This is Jean Hersholt.

April 24, 2020, Mystery Photo

And finally, our mystery leading lady.

Update: This is Lupe Velez.

Brain Trust roll call: Thom and Megan (mystery movie and all mystery guests), Mary Mallory (mystery movie and all mystery guests), Howard Mandelbaum (Thursday’s mystery guests), Michael Ryerson (mystery movie and Thursday’s mystery guests), Chrisbo (right mystery guests, wrong movie), Sheila (Thursday’s mystery guests), B.J. Merholz (right mystery guest, wrong movie), Sarah (mystery movie and Thursday’s mystery guest No. 2), Dan Nather (mystery movie and Thursday’s mystery guests), Sylvia E. (mystery movie and Monday’s, Wednesday’s and Thursday’s mystery guests, and peering into the future to see Friday’s mystery guests) and L.C. (mystery movie and mystery cast),

About lmharnisch

I am retired from the Los Angeles Times
This entry was posted in 1930, Film, Hollywood, Mystery Photo and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

37 Responses to Movieland Mystery Photo (Updated + + + + +)

  1. Howard Mandelbaum says:

    Roy Glenn in SLAVE SHIP.


  2. moviepas says:

    I may be wrong but fighter Canada Lee(1907-1952) comes to mind immediately.


  3. Gary says:

    I just reread the book:Two Years Before the Mast.


  4. You could make an excellent movie out of our excellent guesses.


  5. Sylvia E. says:

    Just for the heck of it, I’m going to guess “China Seas” 1935. That movie seems to be set in a similar part of the world as the mystery movie.


  6. I hesitate even saying this, in fact, I had this thought early this morning, Raquel Torres. I know, I know, ridiculous but there it is. Excellent guess?


  7. Howard Mandelbaum says:

    HELL HARBOR (1930)
    Monday: Ulysses Williams
    Tuesday: Rova Maris
    Wednesday: Harry Allen; Al St. John; Paul Burns


  8. Thom and Megan says:

    Ah, today’s movie is Hell Harbor with Gibson Gowland and Rondo Hatton.


  9. Mary Mallory says:

    HELL HARBOR. Ulysses Williams Monday, Ruth Hall Tuesday, Harry Allen, Al St. John, and Paul E. Burns Wednesday, and Gibson Gowland and Rondo Hatton today.


  10. Howard Mandelbaum says:

    Gibson Gowland; Rondo Hatton.


  11. Well Gibson Gowland and a very young Rondo Hatton make this Hell Harbor (1930).


  12. Chrisbo says:

    Aha! I’ll say Gibson Gowland and Rondo Hatton in Wolves of the Sea.


  13. Sheila says:

    Gibson Gowland and Rondo Hatton for Thursday.


  14. B.J. Merholz says:

    Ronda Hatton in Jungle Island.


  15. Megan and Thom says:

    To recap, the movie this week is Hell Harbor. Monday’s actor is Ulysses Williams. On Tuesday we have Ruth Hall. For Wednesday it’s Harry Allen, Al St. John and Paul E Burns. Today’s actors are Gibson Gowland and Rondo Hatton.


  16. Sarah says:

    Thank you Rondo Hatton! It’s Hell Harbor (1930).


  17. Dan Nather says:

    Gibson Gowland and Rondo Hatton today make this HELL HARBOR (1930).


  18. Sylvia E. says:

    Hell Harbor 1930
    Gibson Gowland and Rondo Hatton
    Guessing Friday will bring Lupe Velez and Jean Hersholt
    Is Monday’s strongman Ulysses Williams?

    Nice to see the lead actors from ‘Greed’ together again.


  19. Sylvia E. says:

    Also figured out Harry Allen, Al St. John and Paul Burns for Wednesday’s group-o-sailors.


  20. LC says:

    Hell Harbor (1930) w/Lupe Velez, Jean Hersholt, Rondo Hatton, …


  21. Benito says:

    Scary Rondo Hatton and Gibson Gowland and guessing Lupe Velez, so probably HELL HARBOR 1930.


  22. Mary Mallory says:

    John Holland, Jean Hersholt, and Lupe Velez.


  23. Howard Mandelbaum says:

    John Holland; Jean Hersholt; Lupe Velez.


  24. Friday’s star turn, John Holland, Jean Hersholt and Lupe Velez.


  25. Dan Nather says:

    And that’s John Holland, Jean Hersholt, and Lupe Velez today.


  26. IMDb shows Rondo Hatton with an uncredited part in Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1927)


    • lmharnisch says:

      Indeed it does. I’m not sure that it’s accurate however. According to the trade papers, “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” was filmed at Universal City and various locations in the South. An article in Universal Weekly says the company filmed at Universal City, Saranac, N.Y., “up and down the Mississippi” to New Orleans… numerous sections of the south and back to Universal City.” The Tampa newspapers (Hatton was a reporter in Tampa all through the 1920s) made a huge deal out of filming “Hell Harbor” locally, but said nothing of director Harry Pollard shooting there.

      More important, a Sept. 13, 1929, article in the Tampa Times about “Hell Harbor” says Hatton “has turned cinemactor temporarily.”

      I don’t have a copy of the film, and at a running time of 144 minutes, I’m probably not going to hunt through it to see if I can find him in an uncredited role. My hunch is that imdb is wrong.


      • Thanks for your lengthy reply, I appreciate it. I checked the January, 1928 issue of Photoplay and the review of Pollard’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin in that issue includes a cast listing but it does not show Hatton. By the same token, it is obviously not a complete listing for a film with these production values and further he has been characterized as ‘uncredited’ so likely not to appear in cast listings. I watched a copy of the film (with a listed running time of 1:51:38 so rather longer than the copy you’re referencing) and at about 1:30:47 a banjo player and a singer appear twice briefly. Clearly the actor someone is identifying as Rondo Hatton is on the right (the non-banjo player). If it is Hatton he is in blackface and because of the rhythmic movement of the two characters (supposedly singing) it is a bit hard to get a good, clear look at him but it is very possibly him. I would put it at better than 50-50. My two cents.


      • lmharnisch says:

        Checking the AFI Catalog on Rondo Hatton’s credits his first appearance is listed as HELL HARBOR. Hatton’s impromptu casting in the film was profusely documented at the time in numerous articles in the Tampa newspapers as a longtime reporter pressed into service as an actor. In contrast, there is nothing in contemporary accounts to connect him to UNCLE TOM’S CABIN. There is a Hatton biography that might shed light on the question, but alas, it’s not viewable online. Wishful thinking? Mistaken identity?


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