This is the story of David Marshall 'Marsh' Williams, the real life inventor of the world famous M-1 Carbine automatic rifle used in WWII. It all started when Marsh, who was one to do things his way, was caught distilling moonshine, and was accused and convicted of shooting a federal officer in the process. This at first placed him in the chain gang which labeled him as a hard case. Later, to make room for those more deserving, he was moved to a prison farm, where he came under the direction of Captain H.T. Peoples. The Captain was a mild mannered warden, who did not shy from discipline when necessary, but also believed that given the opportunity, most men will respond to good. Believing that Marsh was just such a person, the Captain gave him every opportunity to reform, so much so, that he eventually allowed Marsh to work in the tool shop on his spare time to develop and build by hand, a working rifle, inside the prison farm itself. Written by
Bill Walch <TheWalchs@aol.com>
James Stewart actively sought the lead role, despite being too old for it, because the film reflected his conservative views. See more »
At the end of the film - Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer gratefully acknowledges the cooperation of the North Carolina prison authorities and wishes to state that the penal system existing in North Carolina today has been improved immeasurably over conditions depicted in this picture. See more »
As an actor, James Stewart seems to have hit his stride in the fifteen years or so after the Second World War. Known up to this point as a gee-whiz, gulp-and-golly, boy-next-door Everyman type, Stewart took on roles of increasing complexity, most notably in the psychological "adult" westerns of Anthony Mann. Even his famous and much loved role as George Bailey in "It's a Wonderful Life" contains a dark brooding undercurrent which belies its sunny reputation as a feel-good family Holiday film. All of which goes to show that Stewart could bring something unexpected to even the "corniest" movies.
In "Carbine Williams", Stewart plays the title role, a moonshiner who is convicted of murdering a Federal agent, and who then gets sent to a chain gang after being implicated in a prison murder. His rebellious nature brings him into conflict with the warden at the prison farm, Captain Peoples (Dracut MA's own Wendell Corey), until he discovers a means of channelling his anger and bitterness.
The real-life David Marshall Williams did indeed invent the improvements in firearms which led directly to the development to the M-1 carbine, the weapon which helped to win World War II. And he did it while serving a long prison sentence for murder. The story is interesting enough on its own, but Stewart brings an intensity and heart to the role which makes it even more fascinating than a mere telling of the facts would be.
One of many excellent films James Stewart made during the 1950's, this one is somewhat obscure, not particularly well-remembered today. But it deserves to be.
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