AFI Catalog of Feature Films
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Penitentiary
Director: John Brahm (Dir)
Release Date:   17 Jan 1938
Production Date:   26 Oct--22 Nov 1937
Duration (in mins):   78-79
Duration (in reels):   8
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Cast:   Walter Connolly (Thomas Matthews)  
    John Howard (William Jordan)  
    Jean Parker (Elizabeth Matthews)  
    Robert Barrat (Captain Grady)  
    Marc Lawrence (Jack Hawkins)  
    Arthur Hohl (Finch)  
    Dick Curtis (Tex)  
    Paul Fix (Runch)  
    Marjorie Main (Katie Matthews)  
    Edward Van Sloan (Dr. Rinewulf)  
    Ann Doran (Blanche Williams)  
    Richard Elliott (McNaulty)  
    Charles Halton (Leonard Nettleford)  
    Thurston Hall (Judge)  
    Ward Bond (Red, prison barber)  
    John Gallaudet (State's attorney)  
    Stanley Andrews (Captain Dorn)  
    James Flavin (Doran)  
    Perry Ivins (Lou)  
    Gennaro Curci (Spelvin)  
    Al Hill (Kitchen trusty)  
    Lee Prather (Sergeant)  
    Jack Dougherty (Policeman)  
    Ethan Laidlaw (Policeman)  
    Frank Mayo (Policeman)  
    Harry Hollingsworth (Policeman)  
    Frank Meredith (Policeman)  
    Lee Shumway (Guard)  
    George Chesebro (Guard)  
    Frank O'Connor (Guard)  
    Charles McMurphy (Guard)  
    Edward Hearn (Guard)  
    Bud Marshall (Guard)  
    Edward Peil Sr. (Guard)  
    Bud Geary (Guard)  
    Eric Wilton (Butler)  
    Robert Allen (Doctor)  
    Bruce Mitchell (Bailiff)  
    Billy Arnold (Fingerprint man)  
    Lester Dorr (Reporter)  
    Ray Johnson (Reporter)  
    Frank Wayne (Reporter)  
    Ed Randolph (Convict)  
    Al Rhein (Convict)  
    Jack Perry (Convict)  
    Frank Mills (Convict)  
    Cy Schindell (Convict)  
    Oscar G. Hendrian (Convict)  
    George Hoey (Convict)  
    Earl Bunn (Machine gunner guard)  
    Bill Lally (Machine gunner guard)  
    Art Dupuis (Machine gunner)  
    William Chapman (Machine gunner)  
    Kernan Cripps (Conductor)  
    George Magrill (Richard)  
    Russell Heustis    
    Ralph Brooks    
    Louise Stanley    
    Bess Flowers    

Summary: William Jordan, a naive young man celebrating his twenty-first birthday, is arrested after he hits a man who was acting improperly toward his friend, Blanche Williams, and the man, the son of an influential banker, dies. District attorney Thomas Matthews knows that a good attorney could win an acquittal for Will, but he convinces Leonard Nettleford, Will's ill-equipped counsel, to plead manslaughter in the case. After serving six years of a ten-year sentence, Will learns that his mother has died, and Matthews, the new prison warden, at the request of the prison doctor, allows Will to work as chauffeur to his daughter, Elizabeth. Will quickly falls in love with Elizabeth and tells her that parole is unimportant when compared to being with her. Meanwhile, Will's cellmates, Jack Hawkins and Finch, are planning an escape with Tex and Runch. During the escape, Finch is killed and Runch seeks refuge in Matthews' office, thereby marking himself an informer. Then, just as Will is about to be paroled, Runch is killed by Hawkins and Matthews tries to get Will to talk. However, Will refuses to break the "criminal code" by informing on a fellow prisoner. The heartless Captain Grady, who sent Hawkins back to jail for breaking parole by drinking a beer, sends Will to the dungeon run. Elizabeth informs her father that she loves Will, and just as Matthews is about to order Will paroled, he learns that Hawkins has killed Grady because he did not want Will to be forced to take the rap for Runch's death. After Hawkins admits killing Runch, he is shot, and Will and Elizabeth leave the prison together. 

Production Company: Columbia Pictures Corp. of California, Ltd.  
Distribution Company: Columbia Pictures Corp. of California, Ltd.  
Director: John Brahm (Dir)
  Arthur S. Black (Asst dir)
Producer: Robert North (Assoc prod)
Writer: Fred Niblo Jr. (Scr)
  Seton I. Miller (Scr)
  Martin Flavin (Story)
Photography: Lucien Ballard (Photog)
Art Direction: Stephen Goosson (Art dir)
  Lionel Banks (Art dir assoc)
Film Editor: Viola Lawrence (Film ed)
Music: Morris Stoloff (Mus dir)
Sound: Frank Goodwin (Sd eng)
Production Misc: Phil Shore (Spec weather eff)
Country: United States

Source Text: Based on the play The Criminal Code by Martin Flavin (New York, 2 Oct 1929).
Authors: Martin Flavin

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number
Columbia Pictures Corp. of California, Ltd. 15/1/1938 dd/mm/yyyy LP7737

PCA NO: 3862
Physical Properties: b&w:
  Sd: Western Electric Mirrophonic Recording

 
Genre: Drama
  Drama
Sub-Genre: Prison
  Social
 
Subjects (Major): Informers
  Parole
  Prison life
 
Subjects (Minor): Chauffeurs
  District attorneys
  Fathers and daughters
  Jailbreaks
  Lawyers
  Loyalty
  Manslaughter
  Murder
  Politicians
  Prison trustees
  Prison wardens
  Revenge
  Trials

Note: An earlier film adaptation of Martin Flavin's play was made by Columbia in 1931 under the title The Criminal Code , directed by Howard Hawks and starring Walter Huston (see above). The story was adapted a third time by Columbia in 1950 as Convicted , with Henry Levin directing and Glenn Ford and Broderick Crawford starring. 

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
Daily Variety   2 Feb 38   p. 3.
Film Daily   5 Feb 38   p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter   2 Feb 38   p. 3.
Motion Picture Daily   4 Feb 38   p. 7.
Motion Picture Herald   5 Feb 38   p. 53.
New York Times   7 Mar 38   p. 13.
Variety   26 Jan 38   p. 15.

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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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