Day 28 of Noirvember: Convicted and The Criminal Code
Today’s Noirvember post takes a look at two films: one from the film noir era and one from the pre-Code era. Did you know…?
- 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 earlier film starred Phillips Holmes in the role that was later portrayed by Ford. The warden was played by Walter Huston in the pre-Code version, and Broderick Crawford in the noir version; the vengeful cellmate by Boris Karloff (1931) and Millard Mitchell (1950), and the warden’s daughter by Constance Cummings in the earlier film and Dorothy Malone in the latter.
- Phillips 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). Phillips Holmes’s best-known role was in the 1931 feature An American Tragedy, 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 Key Largo). After splitting with Phillips, Holman married Phillips’ younger brother, Ralph. Phillips 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 Holmes committed suicide with an overdose of barbiturates. Holman herself committed suicide as well, in 1971, by carbon monoxide poisoning.
- 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 Criminal Code was helmed by Howard Hawks, and the director of Convicted by Henry Levin, who also directed the 1946 noir Night Editor.
Join me tomorrow for Day 29 of Noirvember!