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Merrily We Go to Hell (1932)

Not Rated | | Comedy, Drama, Romance | 10 June 1932 (USA)
A drunken newspaperman is rescued from his alcoholic haze by an heiress whose love sobers him up and encourages him to write a play, but he lapses back into dipsomania.


Dorothy Arzner


Cleo Lucas (novel), Edwin Justus Mayer (screenplay)




Credited cast:
Sylvia Sidney ... Joan Prentice
Fredric March ... Jerry Corbett
Adrianne Allen ... Claire Hempstead
Richard 'Skeets' Gallagher ... Buck (as Skeets Gallagher)
George Irving ... Mr. Prentice
Esther Howard ... Vi
Florence Britton ... Charlcie
Charles Coleman ... Richard Damery
Cary Grant ... Charlie Baxter
Kent Taylor ... Gregory 'Greg' Boleslavsky
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Adrienne Ames ... Minor Role (unconfirmed)
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Nere-do-well Jerry Corbett finally meets and marries the right girl, Joan Prentiss. Unfortunately their wedded bliss is interrupted when Jerry's play becomes a hit and he hooks up with the wrong woman from his past. Joan decides that turn-about is fair play and she picks another man to escort her around to various parties around New York. Eventually Jerry quits drinking and sends his girlfriend packing, just in time for Joan to take him back. Written by Anonymous

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


In her innocence she expected days and nights of tender love. What she got was a Bitter Shock!


Comedy | Drama | Romance


Not Rated | See all certifications »

Did You Know?


The word "HELL" could not be used in the UK as part of a title, so the UK version was simply re-titled "Merrily We Go to ____". See more »


Jerry Corbett: [singing] First she gave me ginger bread and then she gave me cake; and then she gave me creme de menthe for meeting her at the gate.
See more »


I Love You Truly
Music and lyrics by Carrie Jacobs-Bond
Played on church organ during wedding ceremony
See more »

User Reviews

Excellent performances and daring subject matter
18 March 2018 | by gbill-74877See all my reviews

Clever dialogue, fantastic acting, and several great scenes made this film a delight for me, but be forewarned, its main character may have you saying 'grrr', and reduce your enjoyment. Frederic March plays a newspaper reporter / playwright who has a drinking problem, and it's while he's drunk at a party that he meets a charming young lady, played by Sylvia Sidney. The two hit it off and despite the concerns of her rich father (George Irving), get married. Things get complicated when his ex-lover (Adrianne Allen) re-surfaces and he struggles to control his problem.

It's a very strong cast all around, and Sidney in particular turns in a great performance. She ranges from a sweet, naïve, and trusting soul, loving unconditionally, to hurt and confused, to woman whose solution is to give her husband a taste of his own medicine, in a rather shocking development. The scene with her partying with her own young lover (Cary Grant no less) and his friends and quipping "Gentlemen, I give you the holy state of matrimony, modern style: single lives, twin beds and triple bromides in the morning" is sad, empowering, and a little thrilling all at the same time. As they're in a bar that's practically a den of iniquity, it's all clearly pre-code, but there is an intelligence and honesty in this scene, and throughout the movie.

March is also strong as this affable but flawed man, and in early scenes we smile at his partying, at one point yelling "Is there a baritone in the house?" until he finds a barman to fill out a quartet with his friends so that they can break out in song. The warning signs are there in his tardiness and even at his wedding, as he and his best man (Skeets Gallagher) fumble for the ring, which he's forgotten. That scene is one of several that are well directed by Dorothy Arzner, as she cuts to guests making observations and the facial reactions of March and Sidney as they say their vows.

There is a lot of partying and revelry which may put some viewers off, but I found that allowed for some fantastic moments. In one, March asks Sidney to shut the door and hold him back from going to the other woman, and in a strong way she opens it wide and says "I'm no jailer - get out!" In another, as March and Allen 'play-act' a passionate kiss to the merriment of others right in front of her, we feel the shock and humiliation amplified by her brilliant facial reaction.

The title is clearly meant to titillate, but the film has real substance beneath. It's wild, but also realistic, though I didn't care too much for the ending. We see what destructive behavior leads to, and in that I suppose there is a message, but it's delivered without heavy-handed moralizing. The plot is a tad melodramatic, but it's daring and unique in the areas it explores. Well worth checking out, if you're in the mood for pre-code.

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Release Date:

10 June 1932 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

I, Jerry, Take Thee, Joan See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Paramount Pictures See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Noiseless Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »

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