AFI Catalog of Feature Films
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Brute Force
Director: Jules Dassin (Dir)
Release Date:   Aug 1947
Premiere Information:   New York opening: 16 Jul 1947
Production Date:   mid-Feb--late Apr 1947
Duration (in mins):   94-95 or 98
Duration (in reels):   10
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Cast: As the men on the "inside": Burt Lancaster (Joe Collins)  
    Hume Cronyn (Captain Munsey)  
    Charles Bickford (Gallagher)  
  As the women on the "outside": Yvonne De Carlo (Gina)  
    Ann Blyth (Ruth)  
    Ella Raines (Cora Lister)  
    Anita Colby (Flossie)  
    Sam Levene (Louie)  
    Jeff Corey (Freshman)  
    Jack Overman (Kid Coy)  
    Sir Lancelot (Calypso)  
    Jay C. Flippen (Hodges)  
    Frank Puglia (Ferrara)  
    John Hoyt (Spencer)  
    Roman Bohnen (Warden Barnes)  
    Vince Barnett (Muggsy)  
    Richard Gaines (McCollum)  
    James Bell (Crenshaw)  
  And introducing three new screen personalities: Howard Duff (Soldier) Radio's "Sam Spade"
    Art Smith (Dr. Walters)  
  and Whit Bissell (Tom Lister)  
    Ray Teal (Jackson)  
    James O'Rear (Wilson)  
    Howland Chamberlin (Gaines)  
    Kenneth Patterson (Bronski)  
    Crane Whitley (Armed guard in drainpipe)  
    Charles McGraw (Andy)  
    John Harmon (Roberts)  
    Gene Stutenroth (Hoffman)  
    Wally Rose (Peary)  
    Carl Rhodes (Strella)  
    Guy Beach (Convict foreman)  
    Edmund Cobb (Bradley)  
    Tom Steele (Machine gunner)  

Summary: Captain Munsey, the prison captain of the Westgate Penitentiary, is despised by inmates and prison officials alike for his brutal treatment of the inmates. While Munsey's enemies include prison doctor Walters and Warden Barnes, he is supported by some inmate stool pigeons. One of the stool pigeons, Wilson, is killed when a group of prisoners force him into the workshop steel press. As living conditions at the prison continue to deteriorate, some of the inmates, including leader Joe Collins, who landed in prison for stealing money to support his wheelchair-bound wife, Spencer, Tom Lister and Soldier, plan a breakout. A painting of a woman hanging on one of the prison's walls prompts each of Joe's pals to recall his sweetheart, and the specific circumstances that led up to his imprisonment. Spencer remembers every detail about the day he was framed by his sweetheart, Flossie: When an illegal casino in Miami is raided, Flossie helps Spencer escape through a rear exit. She takes Spencer's gun under the pretext of protecting him, but then holds him up, steals all his money, forces him out of his car and drives off, never to be seen again. It is Spencer, not Flossie, however, who is eventually captured by police and sent to prison. Next, Tom tells his tale of woe: One day, he presents his beloved wife Cora with a three-thousand dollar fur coat, but admits that he feels guilty about having juggled the books at his job to pay for it. Cora cares little about Tom's worries and is only concerned about keeping her new coat. Even after being imprisoned for embezzeling, Tom still eagerly awaits Cora's letters. Soon after Spencer and Tom conclude their stories, Tom is pressured by Munsey to inform on his fellow inmates. When Tom refuses to cooperate, Munsey devastates him by lying that Cora is divorcing him, and as a result Tom hangs himself in his cell. When the suicide is discovered, Munsey accuses the cellmates of murder and punishes them with backbreaking work in the prison drainpipe. While they work, Soldier tells his pals about the fateful day when he took a murder rap for his beloved: After completing his tour of duty during World War II, Soldier returns to a small Italian town to resume his romance with his sweetheart Gina. Gina's father, however, disapproves of their romance, and when he threatens to report Soldier to the military police, Gina shoots him, and Soldier takes the blame. As the men continue to work, Dr. Walters accuses Munsey of torturing the prisoners, causing Munsey to become enraged and strike the doctor. At the same time, the men plan to escape through the drainpipe, but only hours before the breakout, Munsey begins to suspect them and denies one of the prisoners, Louie, a special pass to enter the pipe area. Munsey then tortures Louie in an attempt to wring a confession from him. Joe soon discovers that Louie was tortured and that one of his fellow inmates tipped off Munsey. Joe decides to test his pals to determine who the informant is, and eventually comes to suspect an inmate known as Freshman. Joe's suspicions are confirmed when Freshman violently objects to being the first to enter the drainpipe. Instructed by Munsey to shoot to kill anyone attempting an escape, the guards kill Freshman as he emerges from the drainpipe. When Joe and the others try to sneak past the guards, a gun battle erupts during which Joe kills Munsey. Joe himself is soon shot, but manages to open the prison gate before he dies. The prisoners' escape appears assured until Gallagher, the getaway truck driver, is killed and the guards capture or kill the rest of the inmates. Surveying the bloody scene, Dr. Walters wonders out loud why the men attempted such a foolish escape, saying, "Nobody escapes. Nobody ever escapes." 

Production Company: Mark Hellinger Productions, Inc.  
  Universal-International Pictures Co., Inc.  
Distribution Company: Universal Pictures Company, Inc.  
Director: Jules Dassin (Dir)
  Fred Frank (Asst dir)
Producer: Mark Hellinger (Prod)
  Jules Buck (Assoc prod)
Writer: Richard Brooks (Scr)
  Robert Patterson (From a story by)
Photography: William Daniels (Dir of photog)
Art Direction: Bernard Herzbrun (Art dir)
  John F. DeCuir (Art dir)
Film Editor: Edward Curtiss (Film ed)
Set Decoration: Russell Gausman (Set dec)
  Charles Wyrick (Set dec)
Costumes: Rosemary Odell (Gowns)
Music: Miklos Rozsa (Mus)
Sound: Charles Felstead (Sd)
  Robert Pritchard (Sd)
Special Effects: David S. Horsley (Spec photog)
Make Up: Carmen Dirigo (Hairstylist)
  Bud Westmore (Makeup)
Production Misc: Jacques Gordon (Tech adv)
  John Decker (Portrait painter)
Country: United States

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number
Universal Pictures Co., Inc. 25/6/1947 dd/mm/yyyy LP1086

PCA NO: 12441
Physical Properties: b&w:
  Sd: Western Electric Recording

 
Genre: Drama
Sub-Genre: Prison
 
Subjects (Major): Prison escapes
  Prison life
  Prison wardens
  Reformers
  Romance
  Sadism
 
Subjects (Minor): Alcoholics
  Casinos
  Coats
  Embezzlement
  Gamblers
  Gunfights
  Handicapped
  Informers
  Italians
  Murder
  Newspapers
  Physicians
  Police raids
  Self-sacrifice
  Soldiers
  Suicide
  Torture

Note: Howard Duff and Jay C. Flippen made their screen debuts in this picture. Duff, who played the character of "Soldier" in the film, was known for his portrayal of Sam Spade on the CBS radio series The Adventures of Sam Spade , and Flippen, who played "Guard Hodges," was a New York baseball commentator. The portrait of the woman used in the film to evoke the memories of each inmate was actually a composite picture of actresses Yvonne De Carlo, Ann Blyth and Ella Raines, painted by John Decker. HR production charts list Glenn Strange, Rex Dale and Ruth Sanderson as members of the cast, but their appearance in the final film could not be confirmed. According to a 26 Feb 1947 HR item, background footage was shot at the Sacramento River in Northern California. 

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
Box Office   28 Jun 1947.   
Daily Variety   18 Jun 1947.   
Film Daily   18 Jun 47   p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter   14 Feb 47   p. 17.
Hollywood Reporter   26 Feb 47   p. 14.
Hollywood Reporter   12 Mar 47   p. 11.
Hollywood Reporter   31 Mar 47   p. 14.
Hollywood Reporter   11 Apr 47   p. 15.
Hollywood Reporter   16 Apr 47   p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter   17 Apr 47   p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter   18 Jun 47   p. 3.
Independent Film Journal   1 Mar 47   p. 45.
Life   11 Aug 47   p. 69.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest   28 Jun 47   p. 3702.
New York Times   17 Jul 47   p. 16.
Variety   18 Jun 47   p. 8.

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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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