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A Criminal Is Born (1938)

An entry in the "Crime Does Not Pay" series, it tells the true story of how a young man, ignored by his parents, gets into a gang and starts a crime spree which leads to murder.




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Credited cast:
Norman Phillips Jr. ...
Tom (as Norman Phillips)
Jimmy Wheeler
Frank Wheeler
Martha Wheeler
Joe - Cafe Owner, Second Shooting Victim
Man in Alley - First Shooting Victim
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Police Car Driver (archive footage)


A message about parenting and prevention. A judge provides statistics about the percentages of crimes in the United States committed by persons under the age of 21. We then meet four high school students who hang around together - and their four sets of parents: socialites too busy to care, a local businessman who's on civic committees and his wife, a belligerent pair, and a caring couple. As the four boys drift into petty crime, one set of parents figures out their son is about to get in serious trouble. The other three youths, armed with a gun they've stolen, pick up the pace of their crimes, from burglary to robbery. Will anyone intervene before lives are ruined? Written by <jhailey@hotmail.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Short | Crime | Drama





Release Date:

5 June 1938 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Crime Does Not Pay No. 17: A Criminal Is Born  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

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Technical Specs

Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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User Reviews

Preachy--a rare misfire in the series.
13 November 2013 | by See all my reviews

This installment of the "Crime Does Not Pay" series begins with an introduction by Judge Marshall. However, like many of the 'experts' in these shorts, the judge is actually an actor (William Stack)! What follows is a story about some kids from normal homes that go bad--thanks to bad parenting! It begins by introducing the viewer to four young men. Three have selfish and self-absorbed parents--and ultimately the three boys end up going on a crime spree in some sick attempt to get attention and get their kicks. It goes from some petty thefts and ultimately ends up with murder! While much of this episode is very good, too many times the short preaches at the audience. It also makes the assumption that bad or indifferent parenting makes criminals--and the judge at the end even goes off on a harangue about this. Subtle, it ain't! Despite the slick MGM production values, this one is shallow and comes up short.

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