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Duffy of San Quentin (1954)

Passed | | Action, Crime, Drama | 16 March 1954 (USA)
A group of prisoners are planning an escape. They take hostages. Warden Duffy tries to convince one of the inmates that their plight is useless, and to give up.


Walter Doniger


Walter Doniger (screenplay), Berman Swarttz (story) (as Berman Swarttz) | 3 more credits »

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Cast overview:
Louis Hayward ... Edward 'Romeo' Harper
Joanne Dru ... Anne Halsey
Paul Kelly ... Warden Clinton T. Duffy
Maureen O'Sullivan ... Gladys Duffy
George Macready ... John C. Winant
Horace McMahon ... Pierson
Irving Bacon ... Doc Sorin
Joel Fluellen Joel Fluellen ... Bill Lake
Joe Turkel ... Frank Roberts (as Joseph Turkel)
Jonathan Hale ... Boyd
Michael McHale ... Pinto
Peter Brocco ... Nealy


Based on the book and the reflections of San Quentin Prison Warden Clinton T. Duffy, the film is episodic and rambling in nature but, unlike most prison dramas, there are touches of humor. Duffy, whose "time" at San Quentin covered over 50 years was initially appointed on a thirty-day basis, which makes him one of the best job-huggers of all time. Some of his first acts, such as abolishing the stool-pigeon system and solitary confinement and hiring a female nurse (Anne Halsey) were met with opposition and outrage in some quarters. The dominant story in the film is that of Edward Harper, a prisoner deemed incorrigible by the system until Duffy builds up trust and respect. His attitude was a bit justified as he was innocent of the charges that sent him to prison. Written by Les Adams <longhorn1939@suddenlink.net>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


First Came "The Hose"...the Hole...then came the worst punishment of all...THE DAME WHO PARADED BEFORE HIM EVERY DAY! (original print ad) See more »


Action | Crime | Drama


Passed | See all certifications »






Release Date:

16 March 1954 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Men Behind Bars See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Mono (RCA Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


Paul Kelly, who stars as the warden of San Quentin State Prison, had spent 25 months there during the 1920s, as a prisoner. He was convicted of manslaughter for the beating death of actor Ray Raymond, the first husband of actress Dorothy Mackaye, who was having an affair with Kelly and would later marry him. She was charged as an accomplice in Raymond's death for withholding evidence and was also imprisoned for 10 months. See more »


Followed by The Steel Cage (1954) See more »

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User Reviews

An innovative warden
11 January 2017 | by bkoganbingSee all my reviews

Although it does drag in spots Duffy Of San Quentin is a fine account of the most famous person in his position during his time and possibly for all time. I'm actually in awe of the fact that he did not use any stool pigeons which law enforcement survives in.

This is not actually the story of the story of Clinton P. Duffy, it is in fact the account of one particular inmate whose time at San Quentin is told through Duffy's eyes. Louis Hayward is that inmate and as we learn is in the joint because of perjured testimony and defense witnesses who disappeared.

Hayward is a real hard case and who could blame him. Duffy is played by Paul Kelly and Kelly himself did a stretch for manslaughter so he had some true insights into convict mentality. Maureen O'Sullivan played the supportive Mrs. Duffy.

Duffy was a real innovator and in fact brought in a civilian nurse played by Joanne Dru. I'm not sure how that worked out sending Dru in with a few thousand of the hardest cases around.

The end has the prosecutor who sent Hayward up played with his usual relish by George MacReady. I won't say more except that one was a bit much to swallow.

I wish Paul Kelly had done a factual account of Clinton P. Duffy's life. That would have been a great film. Duffy Of San Quentin which followed certain prison picture parameters was good, but nothing outstanding.

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