26 user 19 critic

The Well (1951)

Approved | | Drama, Thriller | 24 September 1951 (USA)
A small, racially-mixed American town succumbs to violence and utter mayhem after a white man suspected of kidnapping a missing black girl is released by the white authority.


Leo C. Popkin (as Leo Popkin), Russell Rouse


Russell Rouse (written for the screen by), Clarence Greene (written for the screen by)
Nominated for 2 Oscars. Another 2 nominations. See more awards »




Cast overview, first billed only:
Gwendolyn Laster Gwendolyn Laster ... Carolyn
Richard Rober ... Ben Kellog
Maidie Norman ... Mrs. Crawford
George Hamilton George Hamilton ... Grandfather
Ernest Anderson ... Mr. Crawford
Dick Simmons ... Mickey
Lane Chandler ... Stan
Pat Mitchell Pat Mitchell ... Peter
Margaret Wells Margaret Wells ... Schoolteacher
Wheaton Chambers Wheaton Chambers ... Woody
Michael Ross ... Frank
Russell Trent Russell Trent ... Chet
Allen Mathews Allen Mathews ... Hal
John Philips John Philips ... Fred
Walter Morrison Walter Morrison ... Art


In a racially-mixed American town, a 5-year-old black girl falls unnoticed into a hidden, forgotten well on her way to school. With nothing better to go on, the police follow up a report that the child was seen with a white stranger, and rumors run wild. Before hapless, innocent Claude Packard is even found, popular hysteria has him tried and convicted. But Packard's troubles pale by comparison as ever more-inflated rumors uncap the well of racial tensions and mob violence. And young Carolyn Crawford, forgotten by most, is still missing. Written by Rod Crawford <puffinus@u.washington.edu>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


I have a wife and two kids ... a thing like this can ruin me !


Drama | Thriller


Approved | See all certifications »

Did You Know?


The only non-Best Picture Oscar nominee that year to be nominated for Best Editing. See more »


The gang who was chasing the young man down the street are closer to the car before the scene change of the car driving off. See more »

User Reviews

Excellent and potent sleeper from the early 50s.
8 August 2009 | by hitchcockthelegendSee all my reviews

This is a normal small American town, for years the mixed race inhabitants have lived in total harmony as one community. But when little black girl Carolyn Crawford falls down a well, she's feared to have been kidnapped, and this after having last being seen with a white man in town. This town becomes something completely different....

The Well, a B budgeted movie with a cast consisting largely of unknowns. Dually directed by two equally unheralded men. Boasting a DVD cover that has nothing to do with the theme of the film, and shunted out of conscious by the release the same year of Billy Wilder's bigger produced, "person in underground peril," Ace In The Hole.

It's a crime in itself that this B movie gem has had the odds stacked against it getting wider and more productive exposure. For thematically, which is three fold, it's a film that desperately deserves more people to take it on and appraise it in the modern age. Released in 1951, before racial tensions were to explode into American history, The Well is a brave offering from co-writer's Russell Rouse {also co-director} and Clarence Greene. Not content to just offer up a one dimensional rescue piece concerning mixed races, they take the ugly racial aggression here and sit it next to the ugliness of human wild fire ignorance. From a dubiously casted assumption, this town implodes, and it's an ugliness that paints the human race in a dim and unflattering light. Even the police, on who this town depends on, are pulled along by the tide of insanity. Five burly officers interrogating one bemused and frightened suspect, they have their man regardless of facts. Something that over the course of history we know has reared its ugly head. It very much reminded me of a Rod Serling Twilight Zone episode called "The Monsters Are Due On Maple Street". Anyone familiar with that particular piece will have some idea of what drives The Well forward.

Possibly part inspired by the sad and tragic case of little Kathy Fiscus, who in 1949 fell down a San Marino well, Rouse's picture shifts to an equally, and engrossing gear for its final third. After having been caught up in the town coming apart, we, as well as the town, suddenly get a jolt back to earth. There is after all a little girl missing here. Now we get the inevitable tonal shift that most viewers would have expected, but it's no less dramatic for it. And it's now when the film well and truly makes its point, a point of reference that should be heeded as long as we all shall live.

Having a cast of relative no names, tho Barry Kelley as Sam Packard and Harry Morgan as Claude Packard will be names to some {ie:me!} really gives the film a grounded in reality feel. It's not hard to accept these people as small town residents, and thus the film is far better for it. The story is further aided by the score from Dimitri Tiomkin, at times funereal, at others a booming bombastic character itself. Sadly the print of the film is desperately in need of a remaster, which as it's unlikely to get one, means that the cinematography work of Ernest Laszlo struggles to come thru. But don't let the print put you off, if you get the chance to see this film then don't pass up the chance, for you may find yourself better off for the experience. 9/10

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Release Date:

24 September 1951 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

El pozo de la angustia See more »


Box Office


$450,000 (estimated)
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Mono (RCA Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »

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