Murder in the Big House was a remake of the 1936 Warner Bros. programmer Jailbreak. In his first starring role, Van Johnson plays reporter Bert Bell, who wonders how it came to be that death-row inmate Dapper Dan Mallory (Michael Ames) was "accidentally" killed just before his appointment with the electric chair. Digging a little deeper, Bell discovers that Dapper Dan was planning to make a big revelation just before his execution, one which would expose the corrupt political machine for which he worked. With the help of heroine Gladys Wayne (Faye Emerson) and perenially drunken columnist Scoop Connor (George Meeker), Bell contrives to have himself thrown in jail to solve the mystery. Though the film passed unnoticed when first released, Murder in the Big House raked in a pile of cash when it was reissued as Born to Trouble in 1945, by which time Van Johnson had become the hottest male star in the movies.