I WAS FRAMED (1942) is a pleasant Warner Bros. programmer about a reporter on the run from an unjust conviction for manslaughter.
Ken Marshall (Michael Ames, who was billed later in his career as Tod Andrews) is a newspaper reporter whose investigative work earns him some serious enemies. One night he's knocked out, doused in alcohol, and forced behind the wheel of a moving car, which crashes and kills three people.
No one believes he hadn't been drinking -- I guess no blood tests for alcohol then? -- and he's sent to jail for up to 20 years. His editor (Regis Toomey, seen below) fights unsuccessfully for a new trial.
Ken's pregnant wife Ruth is played by Julie Bishop, who had acted under the name Jacqueline Wells until the previous year. When Ken fears she is ill, he escapes the jail, fleeing with Ruth to a small town, where she goes into labor. A doctor (Aldrich Bowker) and his butler Kit (Sam McDaniel) become the couple's guardian angels, taking Ken and Ruth into their home, delivering the baby, and arranging a job for Ken.
Flash forward five years, and Ken and Julie still live with the doctor and Kit, along with their daughter Penny (Patty Hale). Ken has become very successful running the local paper. And then the man who'd shared Ken's jail cell shows up in town...
I found this an enjoyable film, with your standard newspaper/crime story taking an unexpectedly sweet small-town turn when the Marshalls arrive at the doctor's house. Although the film devotes more of its scant 61 minutes than it should to a birthday party "performance" by the couple's little girl -- ostensibly to help cement the notion of how happy the adopted "family" are together -- this is a fast-paced film which has some unexpectedly funny and moving moments.
It's hard to imagine in this day and age how someone could move to a new town and simply change his last name, eluding discovery for half a decade while enjoying a prominent career. I wonder if it was realistic even back in pre-Internet, pre-TV days, given that Ken worked in his former profession and dealt with political big shots in his new home. And wouldn't he have been likely to eventually cross paths with someone in the business who knew him under his former name?
Aldrich Bowker's film career began in 1939 and ended the year this was made; despite his short time in the movies, he appeared in 25 films in three years! His roles in 1942 also included Reverend Doyle in THE MAJOR AND THE MINOR (1942) and the Justice of the Peace in I MARRIED A WITCH (1942). He passed on in 1947.
Sam McDaniel, brother of Hattie McDaniel, acted until 1960, dying in 1962. He was in at least 220 movies and TV shows in a span of just over three decades.
D. Ross Lederman. It was filmed in black and white by Ted D. McCord.
The script was by Robert E. Kent. IMDb and the TCM website both indicate that I WAS FRAMED is a remake of an earlier Warner Bros. film, DUST BE MY DESTINY (1939), with both films based on a novel by Jerome Odlum. However, if it's a remake, it's a very loose one; I didn't recognize much of DUST BE MY DESTINY in this film, just the general concept of a couple on the run. The description about a reporter being framed for manslaughter sounds much more like another Warner Bros. film, EACH DAWN I DIE (1939), which was also based on a book by Odlum.
I WAS FRAMED has not been released on DVD. It's been shown on Turner Classic Movies. The trailer is on the TCM website.