Men of San Quentin (1942)

June 22, 2011

Martin Mooney who spent time in prison produced and did the screenplay this semi-documentary film for Producers Releasing Corp. Directed by veteran William Beaudine it starred J. Anthony Hughes, Eleanor Stewart and Charles Middleton. There is a breakout and prisoners and guards are killed with one prison official (Middleton) trying to blame the incident on another (Hughes). It fails and Hughes becomes the new warden who comes up with some pretty major changes which is where the documentary and stock prison footage of San Quentin comes in. The prison footage paints a pretty picture of San Quentin with beautiful buildings, flower gardens, and landscaping. At the end of the film there is song “Lonesome and Sorry” that is sung by the San Quentin glee club. The plot, what there is of one is pretty thin and sappy. In fact it might have worked better if they had just stuck to a straight documentary picture. There was enough PR in the film to make one think that perhaps the state of California subsidized it. As it was done during the Second World War there was a bond appeal at the end saying that inmates are buying bonds. This film is available for free viewing from the Internet Archive.

This is a hard one to recommend. (*1/2)


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