CONVICTED (director: Henry Levin; screenwriters: from the play by Martin Flavin/Seton I. Miller/Fred Niblo Jr.; cinematographer: Burnett Guffey; editor: Al Clark; music: George Duning; cast: Glenn Ford (Joe Hufford), Broderick Crawford (George Knowland), Millard Mitchell (Malloby), Dorothy Malone (Kay Knowland), Carl Benton Reid (Captain Douglas), Frank Faylen (Ponti), Will Geer (Mapes), Martha Stewart (Bertie Williams), Henry O’Neill (Detective Dorn), Douglas Kennedy (Det. Bailey), Roland Winters (Vernon Bradley), Ed Begley (Mackay), Ilka Gruning (Martha Lorry), John Butler (Curly), Whit Bissell (Owens); Runtime: 91; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Jerry Bresler; Columbia Pictures; 1950)
“Despite being over-plotted and contrived, it ably gets across its point that prison life is hardly human.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Henry Levin confidently directs this dated routine miscarriage of justice crime drama, a remake of Howard Hawks’ 1931 The Criminal Code. It is based on a 1929 play by Martin Flavin and written by Fred Niblo Jr. and Seton I. Miller. This rare prison picture to be interpreted as film noir, offers a dark and cynical mood piece about how the wheels of justice sometimes become unglued. Though its theme is far from original, its power lies in its conviction that there are innocent people who wind up in jail for various reasons. The protagonist’s tale of woe punches holes in the infallibility of the American judicial system. Despite being over-plotted and contrived, it ably gets across its point that prison life is hardly human and a prison sentence is sometimes not the best answer for a felony conviction.
Joe Hufford (Glenn Ford) is a twentysomething, clean-cut, ex-army hero, brokerage firm worker, who goes to a nightclub and picks up a hot tootsie named Bertie (Martha Stewart). A frustrated suitor of Bertie’s picks a fight with Joe and gets slugged, hitting his head hard on the dance floor. The next morning he dies. But since the victim’s father is a big-shot in politics, the DA, George Knowland (Broderick Crawford), is forced to prosecute or else his career would be on hold. Joe’s firm gets him one of their corporation lawyers, Vernon Bradley (Roland Winters), who does not know how to lawyer for a murder case and is too pompous to ask for help. The sympathetic DA even tries to help Joe, but the lawyer refuses to take his advice. As a result of an incompetent defense, the innocent Joe is convicted on a manslaughter charge and is given a sentence of 1 to 10 years.
When Joe comes up for parole after serving six months as a model prisoner, the Parole Board gives him a 5-year sentence. They were ready to parole him, but when they realize he killed the son of an important man they give him this compromise sentence.
Warning: spoilers to follow in the next 2 paragraphs.
Joe gets caught up in the cruelties of prison life, feeling the only thing he has left is the loyalty of the inmates who protect him. When DA Knowland becomes the new warden, Joe is made a chauffeur trusty and promised by Knowland that he will work for his parole. On the job, Joe drives Knowland’s beautiful daughter Kay (Dorothy Malone) around on errands and a romance is planned for the future. But the hard luck Joe gets trapped in another bad situation, as a stoolie (Frank Faylen) is knifed to death by Joe’s best inmate friend Malloby (Millard Mitchell) and Joe is the only one found in the location where he was slain. Sent to solitary with the choice of squealing and getting an immediate parole or following the prisoner’s code of silence, Joe chooses the latter.
Feeling too much doom and gloom has been laid on the snake-bitten Joe, the film concludes in a happy ending– something the audience was probably rooting for. But this happy ending seemed a stretch.
The conclusion was so awkwardly handled, that it nearly ruined the film for me. Malloby picks a fight with a prison guard and gets sent to the same solitary cell as Joe. Malloby then opens fire on the guards with the concealed gun he was carrying and then knifes Captain Douglas to death with the weapon that was slipped into Joe’s cell by the cook. Douglas is sought after by Malloby for revenge because he’s the one who sent him back to prison for 12 more years for a parole violation of drinking a beer with an ex-con in public. Before Malloby is killed by the guards, he confesses to murdering the stoolie. This results in parole for Joe and Kay waiting for him on the outside with the blessings of her father. Knowland feels so guilty about what he did to Joe, that he not only offers him his daughter, but promises to help him get a good job.
REVIEWED ON 10/13/2004 GRADE: B
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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