Best Film
Deaths Scenes

1934-1938


Greatest Movie Death Scenes
Film Title/Year and Description
Screenshots

The Black Cat (1934)

In revenge for his atrocities, Hjalmar Poelzig (Boris Karloff) was vengefully skinned alive (seen in dark silhouette) with a scalpel by Dr. Vitus Werdegast (Bela Lugosi). Poelzig was suspended upon and shackled to an embalming, torture rack where he was stripped of his robes and prepared for being skinned alive! With a mad, delirious gleam in his eyes, Werdegast ranted and raved about what he was planning to do to the Satanist on his own embalming rack:

Do you know what I am going to do to you now? No? Did you ever see an animal skinned, Hjalmar? Ha, ha, ha. That's what I'm going to do to you now - flay/tear the skin from your body...slowly...bit by bit!

From a surgical table, Werdegast selected a scalpel for the operation. Joan (Julie Bishop) screamed when she realized she would be witnessing a live skinning. Slowly and bit by bit, the doctor sliced skin with a scalpel from his face (the skinning was filmed as a dark shadow play in black images of manacled hands on the wall).

He asked sadistically: "How does it feel to hang on your own embalming rack, Hjalmar?"

Cleopatra (1934)

Queen of Egypt Cleopatra (Claudette Colbert) experienced a memorable death scene, enacted with a live snake. Realizing that she would be quickly conquered, Cleopatra was attended to by her loyal handmaidens - she was dressed in black with a low-cut decolletage. She requested a basket to be extended to her on the throne: "It holds victory."

She removed a real, one-foot long snake/asp from the basket and applied it to her naked breast in one of the most memorable suicidal death scenes in film history. She was bitten, and then expired while sitting on the throne. She sat immobile and defeated there as her kingdom was conquered.


Bride of Frankenstein (1935)

In the ending of this classic horror film, the Monster (Boris Karloff) pulled the fateful lever to bring both creatures and creator to extinction.

The Bride (Elsa Lancaster) expelled one long, snake-like hiss at the Monster. A tear rolled down the Monster's repulsive face as he summoned a fatally-aborted 'honeymoon' night. Explosions rocked the stone-tower - rubble from the crumbling foundation buried everyone inside alive.

On a nearby hillside, Elizabeth (Valerie Hobson) and Henry Frankenstein (Colin Clive) (who had renounced his mad career once and for all) happily embraced as he offered comforting words to her: "Darling. Darling."


Camille (1936)

In a concluding soft-focus scene, consumption-wracked Marguerite 'Camille' Gautier (Greta Garbo) died in the arms of her lover Armand Duval (Robert Taylor).

She had gone limp and cried that she wasn't strong enough. After Armand called for the doctor, placed her in a chaise and knelt at her side, she experienced sadness for a love that she had lost forever in the temporal world. But she was not self-deluded - her death would release them from an untenable relationship into a more spiritual, mystical relationship ("Perhaps it's better if I live in your heart, where the world can't see me. If I'm dead, there'll be no staying of our love").

Armand embraced her as she perished, vowing:

Shhh. Don't say such things, Marguerite, even if we can't go to the country today. Think of how happy we were once, how happy we shall be again. (She signaled death when her eyes burst open once. She crumbled and fell lifeless, but remained tranquil with a gentle smile on her face.) Think of the day you found the four leaf clover, and all the good luck it's going to bring us. Think of the vows we heard Nichette and Gustave make and that we're going to make to each other. This is for life Marguerite. (He looked at her and noticed she had already passed away. He was horrified that this was the end.) Marguerite. Marguerite! No, don't leave me. Marguerite come back. (He buried his face on her breast, weeping.)

The film ended with a final fade-out, close-up shot of Marguerite's lovely, radiant face - imperishable in death.

The Petrified Forest (1936)

In the film's tearjerking finale, idealistic and disillusioned writer/world traveler Alan Squier (Leslie Howard) died in the arms of culturally-starved waitress Gabrielle "Gabby" Maple (Bette Davis). He had been shot by ruthless fugitive gangster Duke Mantee (Humphrey Bogart) in a run-down Arizona desert cafe.

She realized that his life insurance policy for $5,000 had been made out in her name - allowing her the freedom to leave the town. She planned to bury Alan out in the petrified forest, and then recited the film's final poetic lines, taken from "Ballad Written For a Bridegroom" (Part VI) by Victorian poet Algernon Charles Swinburne:

Thus in your field
My seed of harvestry will thrive
For the fruit is like me that I set
God bids me tend it with good husbandry
This is the end for which
We twain are met.

Captains Courageous (1937)

Portuguese fisherman Manuel (Spencer Tracy) died in fishing waters as he was cut free from the tangled mast ropes and drowned.

In the climactic race back to Gloucester port against a rival schooner, the Jennie Cushman, Manuel had volunteered to climb to the top of the mast to furl the sail, but tragically was mortally injured when the mast cracked and he was plunged into the water, caught in the tangled rope and the topsail canvas. Just before he was cut loose of the ropes to sink below the surface to his death, he delivered a memorable, sentimental, and tearful goodbye to young Harvey Cheyne (Freddie Bartholomew):

Now listen to me, leetle feesh. I go now...We had good times together, eh, leetle feesh? We laugh. We sing. So you smile...Manuel - he be watching you. You be best fisherman ever lived.

The Good Earth (1937)

Chinese farmer Wang Lung (Paul Muni) told selfless and ailing first wife O-Lan (Luise Rainer) that he would sell his land if it would help her to recover, and gave her two pearls.

He told her that she was always the one, but it was too late.

Lost Horizon (1937)

At film's end, in a fierce blizzard weather as they plodded along after leaving a remote Himalayan monastery, Maria's (Margo) face aged rapidly as she quickly reverted in appearance to her actual age.

George Conway (John Howard) screamed out:

Look at her face! Her face! Look at her face!

Maria died an old wrinkled and withered woman (aging by half a century, the amount of time she had spent in the Shangri-La valley).

George could not bear to see the decomposing body of the beloved woman and threw himself over the snowy cliffs.


Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs (1937)

Snow White 'died' after eating the poisoned apple, in the animated classic fairy-tale. She fell to the floor, the image of her hand extended as the bitten apple rolled on the floor.

She fainted into a sleeping death, locked in a deep sleep only the kiss of love could break. The old hag/Wicked Queen (voice of Lucille La Verne) was jubilant with cackling laughter as lightning flashed: "Now I'll be fairest in the land."

In a classic confrontation between good and evil, the dwarfs pursued the Queen up into the mountains just as a raging storm broke out. Thinking she was trapped on a rocky crag ledge, she attempted to send a large boulder crashing down on the dwarfs. Amidst lightning and thunder bolts, lightning struck the crag she was perched on and it gave way. She plunged to her death in the memorable death scene. Two ominous, macabre vultures lurked above, followed the path of her fall, swooped off their perch and circled down to her crushed body.


Angels with Dirty Faces (1938)

In one of the most tautly directed, unforgettable, harrowing execution sequences of any film in the 1930s, Rocky Sullivan (James Cagney) was taken away for his last walk. The scene was bathed in dark suggestive, oppressive shadows, and the incredible musical score (by Max Steiner) resembled a plodding, relentless death march as he walked to his death.

Rocky asks that long-time friend Father Jerry Connolly (Pat O'Brien) accompany him "going down the last mile." Still cocky and glaring with hatred, he snarled at and punched the sarcastic prison guard - it appeared that Rocky would be stoic to the end. Other prisoners on death row stared at the doomed man, bidding him goodbye through their jail cells. He shook Jerry's hand goodbye.

In the final moments before his execution as he entered the death chamber, Rocky broke down and became "yellow" on his way to the electric chair. [It was unclear whether or not his true nature or motives were revealed - was he pretending or not?]. Rocky was transformed into a screaming, snivelling, cowering coward begging not to be killed. Awful, heart-rending screams of pathetic cowardice were heard. Seen only in large shadows projected on the wall, Rocky's cowardice was never fully revealed:

Oh, I don't wanna die! Oh, please. I don't wanna die! Oh, please. Don't let me burn. Oh, please. Let go of me. Please...

Rocky's climactic cowardice brought tears to Father Connolly's eyes. His yellow-ness in the face of the electric chair would kill the kids' unhealthy adoration. Grateful love filled Jerry's face - his prayers were answered.


Greatest Movie Death Scenes
(chronological by film title)
Intro | 1915-1929 | 1930-1933 | 1934-1938 | 1939 | 1940-1942 | 1943-1945 | 1946-1947 | 1948-1949
1950-1952 | 1953-1955 | 1956-1957 | 1958-1959
1960-1961 | 1962-1963 | 1964-1966 | 1967-1968 | 1969-1970
1971 | 1972 | 1973 | 1974 | 1975 | 1976 | 1977-1978 | 1979
1980 | 1981 | 1982 | 1983 | 1984 | 1985 | 1986 | 1987 | 1987 | 1988 | 1989
1990 | 1991 | 1992 | 1993 | 1994 | 1994 | 1995 | 1995 | 1996 | 1997 | 1998 | 1998 | 1999
2000-2001 | 2002 | 2003 | 2004 | 2005 | 2006 | 2007 | 2008 | 2009 | 2010 | 2011

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