Monday, September 02, 2013

Tonight's Movie: Condemned Women (1938)

After writing this month's post on TCM's September highlights, I suddenly remembered that I had previously recorded one of the movies I mentioned, CONDEMNED WOMEN (1938), so I enjoyed it today.

CONDEMNED WOMEN is a 77-minute RKO programmer directed by Lew Landers from a story and screenplay by Lionel Houser. It stars Landers regulars Sally Eilers and Anne Shirley, who look so much alike it's confusing at times. They should have been cast as sisters!

This is an interesting little movie with a lot going on. It starts out with young Jack Carson as a plainclothes officer escorting a group of women to prison via ferry. The women include lovely young Linda (Eilers), who is silent and bitter, and Millie (Shirley), who gazes with longing at her boyfriend (Richard Bond), who is riding on the boat to wish her farewell.

Linda meets a doctor (Louis Hayward) on the ship, and he saves her from jumping overboard. They later meet again when he takes a position as the doctor at the prison where she's serving time.

Goings-on at the prison include a typhoid epidemic, a prison breakout, and forbidden love between Linda and the doctor, so things are never dull! Not to mention moments which are unintentionally entertaining for the modern-day audience, such as the doctor and his assistant lighting up cigarettes in a hospital ward full of typhoid patients. Those were the days!

This is another fun one from director Landers' long list of "B" films for RKO and Columbia; this one was for RKO. Hayward and Shirley are the most sympathetic characters in the cast, although the poor doctor took leave of his senses in courting Linda, a violation of rules which only leads to a whole lot of trouble. Eilers plays the role a bit too perpetually glum and bitter, which somewhat dilutes audience interest in Linda.

The supporting cast includes Lee Patrick as a nasty inmate, Esther Dale as an equally nasty prison matron, and George Irving as the ineffectual warden. Dorothy Adams, Edythe Elliott, Netta Packer, and Paul Stanton are also in the cast.

The movie was filmed by the great Nicholas Musuraca, who shot so many of these kinds of films early in his career.

CONDEMNED WOMEN was shown on TCM in a C&C Television Corp. print. It will air on TCM again as part of a day of prison films on September 13, 2013.

Films directed by Lew Landers which have previously been reviewed at this site: NIGHT WAITRESS (1936), WITHOUT ORDERS (1936), FLIGHT FROM GLORY (1937), THEY WANTED TO MARRY (1937), THE MAN WHO FOUND HIMSELF (1937), DANGER PATROL (1937), BORDER CAFE (1937), DOUBLE DANGER (1938), CRASHING HOLLYWOOD (1938), SKY GIANT (1938), SMASHING THE RACKETS (1938), TWELVE CROWDED HOURS (1939), PACIFIC LINER (1939), CONSPIRACY (1939), STAND BY ALL NETWORKS (1942), ALIAS BOSTON BLACKIE (1942), AFTER MIDNIGHT WITH BOSTON BLACKIE (1943), THUNDER MOUNTAIN (1947), DAVY CROCKETT, INDIAN SCOUT (1950), and MAN IN THE DARK (1952).

4 Comments:

Blogger barrylane said...

Re Condemned Women. I was jusat thinking about this and other Landers films made at RKo as opposed to his Columbia output. The RKo projects were more ambitious productions. Recently re Columbia read Jon Tuska's book about The Detective in Hollywood with along chapter on Chester Morris. Morris went from MGM to RKO to Columbia. He thought the Columbia deal great but when it concluded he could not, at least for half-a-dozen years, get another job in pictures. I think the level of ppicture did Landers in as well. Left him with television. To tie it all together, I suppose you know that I was not only a lfelong friend of Louis Hayward but his personal manager, and of course that was a little later in the game. Hayward remarked that going into television was a mistake. Ah, well...

5:52 PM  
Blogger Vienna said...

Sounds fun. Would love to see it!

11:40 PM  
Blogger john knight said...

CONDEMNED WOMEN certainly sounds like my kinda movie.
As its an RKO picture must check if Warner Archive have
released it.
I was hoping TCM would show PRISON FARM a film that I
need an upgrade of. I am on a real Louis King "kick" at
the moment and am tracking down everything by him that I
can get.PRISON FARM (Paramount 1938) has a knockout cast
and gives us both a male and female prison film.
Real surprise is Marjorie Main as a grim prison matron.
Another little gem that packs a lot into a short running time.



5:39 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Barrylane, you must have such interesting stories to share regarding Louis Hayward. He's always a watchable actor, equally able to be very sympathetic and charming -- or more than a little creepy!

Vienna and John, I bet you would like CONDEMNED WOMEN, definitely your kind of fast-paced "B" movie with a fun cast.

I looked up PRISON FARM and see it also has Esther Dale. I'd watch Lloyd Nolan read the phone book so that's certainly one I hope to see someday.

Best wishes,
Laura

9:19 PM  

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