AFI Catalog of Feature Films
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Heaven with a Barbed Wire Fence
Director: Ricardo Cortez (Dir)
Release Date:   3 Nov 1939
Production Date:   8 Jun--31 Jun 1939; addl scenes 20 Jul--26 Jul 1939
Duration (in mins):   60-62 or 65
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Cast:   Jean Rogers (Anita [Santos])  
    Raymond Walburn (The Professor [Townsend Thayer])  
    Marjorie Rambeau (Mamie)  
    Glenn Ford (Joe [Riley])  
    Nicholas Conte (Tony [Casselli])  
    Eddie Collins (Bill)  
    Ward Bond (Hunk)  
    Irving Bacon (Sheriff [Clem Diggers])  
    Kay Linaker (Nurse)  
    Paul Hurst (Guard)  
    Edward Gargan (Truck driver)  
    Nick Copeland (Brakeman)  
    George Melford (Hobo)  
    Nigel De Brulier (Russian priest)  
    Billy Wayne (Bartender)  
    Dave Morris (Farmer)  
    Fred Kelsey (Detective)  
    Harry Strang (Trainman)  
    Paul Kruger (Trainman)  
    Otto Hoffman (Station agent)  
    Paul Burns (Railroad dispatcher)  
    Victor Potel (Ranch hand)  

Summary: At the Empire State Building, Joe Riley bids farewell to New York City as he prepares to head West to his ranch in Arizona. He dreams of his twenty acres of beautiful farmland called "Shady Acres" for which he has saved for six years. Hitchhiking across the country, Joe runs into a friendly drifter named Tony Casselli at a truck stop just outside of Cleveland. Tony tells Joe that the only way to travel cross-country is by rail, though Joe prefers to rely on his thumb. Joe jumps into a truck on its way to Cincinnati, but is discovered by the truck driver. Also discovered is another stowaway, Anita Santos, disguised as a boy. Anita follows Joe as he jumps onto a train, only to find Tony in the same car. Anita joins them, much to Joe's chagrin and Tony's pleasure. Forced off the train, the three discover a hobo camp. Leaving Anita in the woods for her safety, Tony and Joe go into the camp where they find Tony's old friend and traveling companion, The Professor. Hunk, the leader of the camp, watches Tony take Anita food, and later attacks her, with Joe coming to her defense. After The Professor knocks Hunk unconscious with a walking stick, the four hightail it out of the camp. Traveling cross country, Anita tells how her parents died during the Spanish Civil War and that she came to America to find her uncle in California. Although Joe constantly wants to leave Anita behind, the other two men become attached to her. When Tony receives a gunshot wound stealing food, The Professor pawns his prized pocket watch to get him medical attention. Although the three are told that Tony is fine and Tony, himself, promises to join them at Joe's ranch, Tony actually has lost his leg due to septic poisoning. After buying Anita new clothes, the three go into a bar where The Professor regains the acquaintance of old love Mamie. When the local sheriff comes in to question them on the origin of Tony's wound, he arrests Anita as an illegal alien and Joe for aiding and abetting her. The Professor convinces the sheriff to drop all charges on the condition that the two marry, which they do in an elaborate Russian Orthodox ceremony. When Joe tells Anita that he wants a divorce, however, she slips out of town during the reception. The next day, Joe tells The Professor and Mamie what has happened. The Professor has decided to stay behind with Mamie and run the bar, so Joe heads for Arizona alone. Finally there, Joe discovers his dream ranch is a nightmare, a broken down farm with nothing but bare ground. Anita arrives with supplies for the house, only to be met by a hostile Joe. Forced inside by a sudden rainstorm, Anita tells Joe how wonderful the ranch can be with a lot of hard work. As she prepares to leave, Joe stops her, telling her that they will build the ranch together. 

Production Company: Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.  
Distribution Company: Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.  
Director: Ricardo Cortez (Dir)
  Arthur Berthelet (Dial dir)
  Jasper Blystone (Asst dir)
  Jerry Braun (Asst dir)
Producer: Sol M. Wurtzel (Exec prod)
Writer: Dalton Trumbo (Scr)
  Leonard Hoffman (Scr)
  Ben Grauman Kohn (Scr)
  Dalton Trumbo (Orig story)
  Sam Duncan (Contr to scr const)
Photography: Edward Cronjager (Dir of photog)
  Joe MacDonald (Cam op)
  Henry Cronjager (Asst cam)
  George Switzer (Head grip)
  Fred Kelly (Gaffer)
  Robert Campbell (Best boy)
  Ray Nolan (Still photog)
Art Direction: Richard Day (Art dir)
  Chester Gore (Art dir)
Film Editor: Norman Colbert (Film ed)
Set Decoration: Thomas Little (Set dec)
  Mack Elliott (Props)
  Charles Fremdling (Asst prop man)
  Bob McLaughlin (Asst prop man)
Costumes: Herschel (Cost)
  Sam Benson (Ward)
  Gladys Isaacson (Ward)
Music: Samuel Kaylin (Mus dir)
Sound: Joseph E. Aiken (Sd)
  William H. Anderson (Sd)
  J. L. Sigler (Sd op)
  Bob Bertrand (Boom man)
Make Up: Lydia Blythe (Hair)
  Gene Klum (Makeup)
Production Misc: William Koenig (Prod mgr)
  Sam Schneider (Unit mgr)
  Elena Torres (Scr clerk)
  R. C. Moore (Location mgr)
  William Eull (Follow-up)
Country: United States

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number
Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp. 3/11/1939 dd/mm/yyyy LP9458

PCA NO: 5488
Physical Properties: b&w:
  Sd: RCA High Fidelity Recording

 
Genre: Drama
 
Subjects (Major): Fugitives
  Hispanic Americans
  Hoboes
  Marriage--Forced by circumstances
  Professors
  Ranches
  Trains
 
Subjects (Minor): Arizona
  Disguise
  Empire State Building (New York City)
  Hitchhiking
  Hospitals
  Immigrants
  New York City
  Nurses
  Oranges
  Saloon keepers
  Sheriffs
  Truck drivers
  Watches
  Weddings

Note: According to a Twentieth Century-Fox press release, Jean Rogers worked on another film, Stop, Look and Love , simultaneous to the production of this film. The Twentieth Century-Fox Records of the Legal Department at the UCLA Theater Arts Library state that location filming was done in Thousand Oaks, Newhall, and Saugus, California. Press releases also reported that Nicholas Conte was signed by Twentieth Century-Fox for this film based on his screen test for the lead in Columbia Pictures' Golden Boy , a part he lost to William Holden.
       Heaven with a Barbed Wire Fence marked the film debut of actor Glenn Ford (1916--2006). Following service in the armed forces during World War II, Ford went on to star in such films as Gilda in 1946 and Blackboard Jungle in 1953 (see above). From the mid-1950s through the early 1960s, Ford was one of Hollywood's top box office stars, becoming number one in the world in 1958. He continued to act in film and on television until the early 1990s. 

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
Box Office   7 Oct 1939.   
Daily Variety   29 Sep 39   p. 3.
Film Daily   26 Jan 40   p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter   6 Jun 39   p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter   7 Jun 39   p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter   17 Jun 39   p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter   1 Jul 39   p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter   20 Jul 39   p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter   26 Jul 39   p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter   30 Sep 39   p. 3.
Motion Picture Daily   4 Oct 39   p. 9
Motion Picture Herald   7 Oct 39   p. 39.
Variety   6 Dec 39   p. 14.

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.
 
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