Heat Lightning (film)

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Heat Lightning
Heat Lightning FilmPoster.jpeg
Directed by Mervyn LeRoy
Produced by Samuel Bischoff (uncredited)
Written by Brown Holmes
Warren Duff
Based on Heat Lightning
1933 play
by George Abbott
Leon Abrams[1]
Starring Aline MacMahon
Ann Dvorak
Preston Foster
Music by Leo F. Forbstein
Cinematography Sidney Hickox
Edited by Howard Bretherton
Distributed by Warner Bros.
Release date
  • March 3, 1934 (1934-03-03)
Running time
63 minutes
Country United States
Language English

Heat Lightning is a 1934 Pre-Code drama film starring Aline MacMahon, Ann Dvorak, and Preston Foster. It is based on the play of the same name by Leon Abrams and George Abbott.

The movie was one of the last to be released before the Motion Picture Production Code was rigorously enforced. According to Robert Osborne of Turner Classic Movies, two months after its release, it was banned by the Catholic League of Decency.


Olga (Aline MacMahon) runs an isolated gas station and restaurant in the stifling hot desert somewhere in the American Southwest with her discontented younger sister Myra (Ann Dvorak). The sisters clash when Olga forbids Myra from going to a dance with her boyfriend Steve.

That same day, chance sends Olga an unexpected and unwelcome customer, ex-boyfriend George (Preston Foster). Unbeknownst to her, George and his nervous partner Jeff (Lyle Talbot) are on the run from the police after a botched robbery that left two men dead, killed by George. Initially intent on sneaking across the border to Mexico, George decides to stay awhile when two jewelry-laden, wealthy divorcees, "Feathers" Tifton (Glenda Farrell) and "Tinkle" Ashton-Ashley (Ruth Donnelly), are stranded there for the night by their long-suffering chauffeur Frank (Frank McHugh).

Frank pretends there is something wrong with their car so he can have a rest from driving. Olga, the mechanic, plays along. When Mrs. Ashton-Ashley becomes worried about a large Mexican family spending the night nearby, Olga offers to store the women's valuables in her safe.

George manipulates Olga's feelings, reviving the love she once felt for him. Though she knows better and tries to resist, she eventually succumbs to his charms, and they sleep together. This gives Myra the opportunity to sneak away to meet Steve. Myra returns later that night, terribly upset after having been taken advantage of by Steve. When Olga starts berating her for going off with her boyfriend, she responds by revealing she saw George leaving Olga's bedroom. The two miserable women then comfort each other.

Meanwhile, George orders Jeff to open the safe. Jeff is reluctant to cause trouble for Olga, but gives in when George pulls out his gun. Olga overhears George say he slept with her just to set up the theft. She gets her pistol and shoots him. As he lays dying, he apologizes to her. Olga lets Jeff go.


1941 remake[edit]

Using Abbott and Abrams' play for Heat Lightning, Allen Rivkin, Charles Kenyon, and Kenneth Gamet wrote the screenplay for Warner Bros. remake Highway West (1941).[2]


  1. ^ League, The Broadway. "Heat Lightning – Broadway Play – Original - IBDB". ibdb.com. 
  2. ^ Highway West profile, imdb.com; accessed June 8, 2017.

External links[edit]