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I've got those stuck in Folsom Prison blues.


slaytonf
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Lots of prison movies on today. Some really early. One from '30. It's not very good though. The best early prison film I know of is The Big House. It stars Chester Morris, Wallace Beery, and Robert Montgomery (in a departure from his suave sophisticate roles-and a very good one, too), and directed brilliantly by George Hill. This may be the first great prison film. It certainly is the first one with a food fight in the cafeteria.

 

But are there any earlier films that take place in the prisoner's world. Are there any silents that take place in prison? Is The Big House the one that set the pattern for all the ones that came later?

 

I haven't watched it for a while, but if I remember correctly, it is one of the few movies in which the term "dead line" is used in it's original sense, that is a line on the ground which if you cross, you will be shot.

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DeMille's last silent film THE GODLESS GIRL was set in a reformatory. This was one that had an adjoining one for females and the story concerned a young couple sent to this instituition..

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> {quote:title=slaytonf wrote:

> }{quote}Are there any earlier films (than 1930) that take place in the prisoner's world? Are there any silents that take place in prison? Is The Big House the one that set the pattern for all the ones that came later?

>

The 1927 Laurel & Hardy short THE SECOND HUNDRED YEARS is set in prison.

And their 1929 short LIBERTY starts with them escaping.

And Charlie Chaplin's 1917 short THE ADVENTURER has him escaping from prison.

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Quite an interesting lineup today.

 

It shouldn't have mattered, but I was embarrassed for Van Johnson. I felt badly for Keye Luke too.

 

In the end, I had to turn it off.

 

BTW, was the blonde inviting Van to what I think the blonde was inviting Van to? Pretty racy for 1943, no? Or would she have been forgiven in those days, because as everyone knows, it's the absolute mission of every woman, if she can, to marry a doctor?

 

Oh, and how *was* Miss Hotsy-Totsy affording that drop dead gorgeous apartment on a nurse's salary?

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Prison movies, yeah, they're a genre unto themselves. Part crime, part noir, part drama, all prison.

 

Apropos of nothing other than the Johnny Cash song this thread title refers to, I've always thought that line where Johnny sings: "They're prob'ly drinkin' coffee, and smokin' big cigars..." should go

"They're prob'ly drinkin' whiskey, and smoking big cigars". It scans just as well, and it sounds more Johnny Cash-ish, somehow.

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> {quote:title=slaytonf wrote:}{quote}Lots of prison movies on today. Some really early. One from '30. It's not very good though. The best early prison film I know of is The Big House. It stars Chester Morris, Wallace Beery, and Robert Montgomery (in a departure from his suave sophisticate roles-and a very good one, too), and directed brilliantly by George Hill. This may be the first great prison film. It certainly is the first one with a food fight in the cafeteria.

>

>

>

> But are there any earlier films that take place in the prisoner's world. Are there any silents that take place in prison? Is The Big House the one that set the pattern for all the ones that came later?

>

>

>

> I haven't watched it for a while, but if I remember correctly, it is one of the few movies in which the term "dead line" is used in it's original sense, that is a line on the ground which if you cross, you will be shot.

Buster Keaton's Convict 13 is a silent film about prison.

 

The Big House is probably the first great prison film. It deals quite well with what is a familiar theme today - what happens when a weak and reckless but not necessarily predatory individual - Robert Montgomery's character - is thrown into prison with people that are predatory by nature. What these other fellows got caught doing probably isn't the tip of the iceberg compared to what they have done or would do if they got out. It won the first Oscar for Best Sound and was written by Frances Marion, one of the great early screenwriters.

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Many of the old prison films show the inside of a large two-story cell block that looks like a real prison. The building looks too large to be a movie set. And I always wonder where the inside scenes were filmed.

 

I found a list of films made at San Quentin:

 

http://www.imdb.com/search/text?realm=title&field=locations&q=san+quentin

 

Sing Sing in New York state:

 

http://www.imdb.com/search/text?realm=title&field=locations&q=sing+sing

 

Various prisons:

 

http://www.imdb.com/search/text?realm=title&field=locations&q=prison

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> {quote:title=willbefree25 wrote:}{quote}Quite an interesting lineup today.

>

> It shouldn't have mattered, but I was embarrassed for Van Johnson. I felt badly for Keye Luke too.

>

>

> In the end, I had to turn it off.

>

>

> BTW, was the blonde inviting Van to what I think the blonde was inviting Van to? Pretty racy for 1943, no? Or would she have been forgiven in those days, because as everyone knows, it's the absolute mission of every woman, if she can, to marry a doctor?

>

> Oh, and how *was* Miss Hotsy-Totsy affording that drop dead gorgeous apartment on a nurse's salary?

>

 

Apparently Dr. Gillespie's Criminal Case was a continuation of the previous film in the series, as far as the Donna Reed story line is involved. But there's was a lot of plot in this film--when the docs were tending to the girls in the children's ward, I was wondering whatever happened to Donna Reed & her predicament because it went on for so long. Then, they throw in the plot about the guy who lost his legs in the attack on Pearl HarbIor. I wasn't embarrassed for them but a little confused by the lack of cohesive plot. It all came together at the end though. Most of them were just starting their film careers and had to be in whatever film they were assigned to. Luke was probably glad he was in something besides a subservient role. It's just they laid on the Brooklyn bit a little thick.

 

Oh, and Marilyn Maxwell's character was a social services person not a nurse. I figured she was one of those trust fund Junior Leaguers doing charity work.

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http://www.amazon.com/Pardon-Us-Laurel-Hardy/product-reviews/B00078X3UE

L&H's Pardon Us was originally conceived as a typical 2 reel 20 minute short feature by Hal Roach studios, a spoof of MGM's The Big House. Hal Roach had requested the use of MGM's prison set - MGM was the distributing agent for all of Hal Roach's product in 1931, back when MGM owned and operated all of their own Loews theaters - but for whatever reason, MGM refused. Hal Roach, being the type A and stubborn personality that he was decided to build his own prison set, yet to recoup the costs of the massive set he needed to expand Pardon Us into a full length feature, which commanded a higher premium from MGM.

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I'm wondering if there are any sets you recognize as being resued? Of course, everyone knows about the grand staircase built for The Magnificant Ambersons being reused by RKO on a number of occasions. And I think I can recognize a staircase or two in MGM movies that were reused. And the spinning spiral staircase used in The Great Zigfeld for the song A Pretty Girl is Like a Melody (I think) was also used again.

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> Like the downtown set of Bedford Falls in It's a Wonderful Life. That is a huge outdoor set.

 

FredC,

 

Add to the movie magic the fact that the town of Bedford Falls was built on the RKO movie ranch in Encino and was shot during the heat of the summer. When Jimmy Stewart runs through the town in the falling snow that's not all tears running down his face. That scene was shot on the hottest day of summer and Jimmy was sweating up a storm.

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>sbMgjXnGeNNfFXRN4dCl6MIBt6i.jpg

 

It's an obvious set. The lack of detail is a dead giveaway. When Warner Bros. started making prison movies in earnest, Jasck Warner's friendship with the then-warden at Sing-Sing allowed the studio to film at the New York prison, but mainly exteriors and second unit interior establishing shots only. Filming indoors, even under the warden's auspices was too problematical to both security at the prison, and the safety of the film production people, so the actors were seldom there on location.

 

There was also the matter of studios valuing complete control -- of lighting, camera angles, sound -- over authenticity. They were already spending huge sums of money on studio overhead and the salaries in their art and construction departments, so it made more economic sense to use those resources to build a prison (or anything else) right there on the lot.

 

 

>MGM was the distributing agent for all of Hal Roach's product in 1931, back when MGM owned and operated all of their own Loews theaters - but for whatever reason, MGM refused.

 

You've got it backward: unlike all the other studios, which ran their theater chains, Loew's Corporation was the parent company; it owned MGM, and was the distributor of the studio's films, not the other way round.

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