The Criminal Code (1931) and Convicted (1950): When Worlds Collide

Every now and then, the worlds of Pre-Code and film noir have more in common than we might think. The films The Criminal Code and Convicted are a prime example. Here’s more about these two features:

The 1950 film noir Convicted, starring Glenn Ford as a brokerage-firm worker imprisoned after accidentally killing another man during a bar fight, was the remake of a 1931 Pre-Code feature, The Criminal Code. In both films, the luckless killer is befriended by the prison’s new warden who, as a district attorney, was the man’s reluctant prosecutor. The prisoner becomes the warden’s chauffeur, is subjected to solitary confinement when he refuses to implicate his cellmate in the murder of a prison stoolie, and winds up with the warden’s beautiful daughter.

The Criminal Code and Convicted were based on the 1929 play by Martin Flavin; the earlier version was nominated for an Oscar for Best Writing, Adaptation.

The great Walter Huston starred as the warden in The Criminal Code.

The Criminal Code was helmed by Howard Hawks, and Convicted by Henry Levin, who also directed the 1946 noir Night Editor.

The earlier film starred Philips Holmes in the role that was later portrayed by Ford. The warden was played by Walter Huston (1931 version) and Broderick Crawford (1950), the warden’s daughter by Constance Cummings and Dorothy Malone, respectively, and the vengeful cellmate by Boris Karloff in The Criminal Code and Millard Mitchell in Convicted. Incidentally, Karloff appeared in a whopping 16 films in 1931, including Frankenstein.

Boris Karloff -- before Frankenstein.

Philips Holmes was the son of actor Taylor Holmes, whose lengthy career included performances in a number of films noirs, including Kiss of Death (1947), Nightmare Alley (1947), and Act of Violence (1948). Philips Holmes’s best-known role was in the 1931 feature An American Tragedy (later remade as A Place in the Sun with Montgomery Clift and Elizabeth Taylor), but as the 1930s wore on, his career declined, and he was seen in his last film in 1938. He didn’t fare much better in his personal life — he was involved in a rocky relationship with scandal-plagued torch singer Libby Holman (whose signature song was Moanin’ Low, sung by Claire Trevor in the film noir feature, Key Largo). After splitting with Philips, Holman married Philips’ younger brother, Ralph. Philips was killed at the age of 35 in a mid-air plane collision, and three years later, after the failure of his marriage to Holman, Ralph Holman committed suicide with an overdose of barbituates. Holman herself committed suicide as well, in 1971, by carbon monoxide poisoning.

Philips Holmes, whose off-screen life could rival the plot of any film he was in.

~ by shadowsandsatin on July 17, 2011.

One Response to “The Criminal Code (1931) and Convicted (1950): When Worlds Collide”

  1. […] enthusiasts: Only the Cinema, January 14, 2009 Immortal Ephemera by Cliff Aliperti, April 5, 2011 Shadows and Satin, July 17, 2011 Acidemic by Erich Kuersten, May 18, 2013 Howard Hawks Movies by Hollywood’s Grey […]

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