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The Criminal Code (1931)

Passed | | Crime, Drama, Romance | 3 January 1931 (USA)
After a failed attempt at running for governor, D.A. Mark Brady is appointed warden of the state prison where many of the criminals he prosecuted are incarcerated.

Director:

(uncredited)

Writers:

(from the stage play by), (adaptation) | 1 more credit »
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Nominated for 1 Oscar. See more awards »
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Cast

Complete credited cast:
...
...
Robert Graham
...
...
Galloway
...
Captain Gleason (as De Witt Jennings)
...
Gertrude Williams
Ethel Wales ...
Katie Ryan
Clark Marshall ...
Runch
Arthur Hoyt ...
Leonard Nettleford
...
Dr. Rinewulf
...
Tony Spelvin (as Paul Porcassi)
...
Jim Fales
...
McManus
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Storyline

A wily D.A.(Brady) gets a 10 year conviction of a young 20 year old (Robert Graham)who he knows killed a man in self defense. Years later Brady becomes warden of the prison holding Graham. When Brady realizes that 6 years of working in the prison jute mill has pushed Graham to the breaking point, he gives him a chance- a new job as his valet. Graham responds well and earns the respect of both the warden and his beautiful daughter. Graham's mettle is put to the test when he stumbles onto a prison murder committed by his cell-mate. He must choose between the criminal code of silence and the warden's strong persuasion to reveal the killer. Written by Gary Jackson <garyjack5@cogeco.ca>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Genres:

Crime | Drama | Romance

Certificate:

Passed | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

3 January 1931 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Codice penale  »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

(Western Electric System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.20 : 1
See  »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The only non-Caucasian prisoner in the 2500-man prison is Japanese Tetsu Komai. See more »

Goofs

Robert calculates there are 52,560 hours in six years. However, he forgets leap years with their extra day. So, in a span of six years there would actually be 52,584 or 52,608 hours, depending on if that period included one or two leap years. See more »

Quotes

Mary Brady: What good is it to save a man if you destroy him while you're doing it?
Mark Brady: Yeah, I thought of that myself.
Mary Brady: Prison is full of men like that with broken minds and souls. What good is it to save a man for that when he'd be better off dead?
Mark Brady: Yes, I've thought of that too.
See more »

Crazy Credits

The film's credits do not say that Howard Hawks directed the film; instead, they say that the film is "A Howard Hawks Production." See more »

Connections

Referenced in Public Enemies: The Golden Age of the Gangster Film (2008) See more »

Soundtracks

Cryptic Shadows (Agitato Mysterioso)
(uncredited)
Music by Giuseppe Becce
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

 
Familiar Material, Helped by Huston & Karloff
28 April 2010 | by (Claremont,USA) – See all my reviews

DA Brady sends young Graham to prison unjustly, and must redeem himself once he becomes the prison's warden.

The credits indicate icon Howard Hawks as the director; IMDb uncharacteristically lists no one; while Hawks' bio-site states he's the uncredited helmsman. I include this rather puzzling movie pedigree because I see very little of Hawks' characteristic style on screen. He may well have been adjusting to the new factor of sound (as others point out), but whatever the reason, the screenplay could have been filmed by any number of solid Hollywood craftsmen.

The movie itself has been made several times over, so the material is familiar. But except for Huston's dynamic performance and Karloff's formidable presence, there's not much to recommend beyond the story itself. The prison yard scenes are riveting with their marching phalanxes of inmates. Sort of like a non-musical Busby Berkeley. I also like that early scene where DA Brady (Huston) strips away shady lady Gertie's thin façade of respectability. To me, its spirited air bespeaks Hawks' guiding hand, as does Brady's surprisingly intense grilling of Graham. However, what should be a highlight, Ned's (Karloff) revenge killing of the squealer, is unnecessarily down-played for this pre-Code period.

Note how we're led to respect the inmates' code of conduct even though they are convicted criminals. Both the law and the inmates have their respective codes, but more importantly, the codes may well be linked by a common sense of justice. When, for example, those codes are broken by the squealer, on one hand, and by head guard Gleason, on the other, we're led to sympathize with the respective acts of retribution, bloody though they undoubtedly are. And since both acts are carried out by the hulking Ned, he becomes something of an avenging angel despite his gruesome appearance. It's the ambiguities of the two codes, united, perhaps, by a common sense of justice that suggests an interesting subtext to the story.

Anyway, in my little book, this is a Walter Huston showcase, proving again that an actor of less than handsome appearance could carry a Hollywood movie.


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