I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang

  • Directors: Mervyn LeRoy
  • Producers: Hal B Wallis
  • Writers: Brown Holmes, Howard J Green
  • Genres: Crime, Drama, Film-Noir
  • Actors: Paul Muni, Glenda Farrell, Helen Vinson, Noel Francis

Sergeant James Allen (Paul Muni) returns to civilian life after World War I but has a hard time finding work. He accidentally becomes caught up in a robbery and is sentenced to ten years on a brutal Southern chain gang.

He escapes and makes his way to Chicago, where he becomes a success in the construction business. He becomes involved with the proprietor of his boardinghouse, Marie Woods (Glenda Farrell), who discovers his secret and blackmails him into an unhappy marriage. He then meets and falls in love with Helen (Helen Vinson). When he asks his wife for a divorce, she betrays him to the authorities. He is offered a pardon if he will turn himself in; Allen accepts, only to find that it was just a ruse. He escapes once again.

In the end, Allen visits Helen in the shadows on the street and tells her he is leaving forever. She asks, “Can’t you tell me where you’re going? Will you write? Do you need any money?” James repeats “no” as his answer as he backs away. Finally Helen says, “But you must, Jim. How do you live?” In the film’s final line and shot James replies chillingly, “I steal”, and disappears into the dark. The composition and lighting of the final scene, considered to be one of the best in film history, was reportedly accidental. The lights on the set supposedly either failed or were turned off earlier than intended. The studio liked what it saw and kept the ending.[2]

True Grit

  • Directors: Henry Hathaway
  • Producers: Hal B Wallis
  • Writers: Marguerite Roberts, Charles Portis
  • Genres: Adventure, Western, Drama
  • Actors: John Wayne, Glen Campbell, Kim Darby

After her father is killed, Mattie Ross (Kim Darby) arrives in Fort Smith, Arkansas looking for a marshal or deputy marshal who will help her search for Chaney. She soon learns about a deputy marshal called Reuben J. “Rooster” Cogburn, and upon hearing about Cogburn’s legendary grit, Ross decides that he may be the man to help her. Unable to meet with Cogburn straight away she goes to the Monarch boardinghouse, where she meets Texas Ranger Le Boeuf.

Le Boeuf has recently come from Mattie’s home in Dardanelle, Arkansas, in Yell County, and advises Mattie that he too is searching for Chaney who killed a Texas Senator on his porch some time past. Mattie refuses Le Boeuf’s assistance.

The following day she meets Cogburn and his roommates; a tiny Chinese man, Chen Lee (H.W. Gim), and the ginger-colored cat, General Sterling Price. Agreeing to a price of $100, Ross and Cogburn set out to capture and return Chaney, who has taken up with a known criminal “Lucky” Ned Pepper (Robert Duvall) (whom Rooster shot in the lip in a gunfight) and his gang. Ross goes to see a local horse dealer (Strother Martin), from whom her father had bought four ponies, uncollected at the time of his death.

Weeks later, Mattie and Cogburn are at Mattie’s home, and Mattie shows him her family plot. She tells Rooster that she wants him to be buried beside her in the family plot, which surprises him, but he accepts, so long as she doesn’t mind if he doesn’t “…try to move in too soon!”. He then rides away, jumping a four-rail fence as the film ends….

The Letter

  • Directors: William Wyler
  • Producers: Hal B Wallis
  • Writers: Howard Koch, Based on the play by W Somerset Maugham
  • Genres: Crime, Drama, Film-Noir, Mystery
  • Actors: Bette Davis, Herbert Marshall, James Stephenson

On a moonlit night in the opening scene, Leslie Crosbie (Bette Davis), the wife of a British rubber plantation manager in Malaya, shoots and kills a man whom her male servant recognizes as Geoff Hammond (David Newell). She tells the servant to send for her husband Robert (Herbert Marshall), who is working at one of the plantations. Her husband returns, having summoned his attorney and a British police inspector. Leslie tells them that Geoff Hammond “tried to make love to me” and she killed him to save her honor.

Leslie is placed under arrest and put in prison in Singapore as a matter of form to await trial for murder. Everyone believes she acted heroically, with the exception of her attorney, Howard Joyce (James Stephenson), who seems to be rather suspicious of her motives. Howard’s suspicions seem justified when his clerk Ong Chi Seng (Victor Sen Yung) shows him a copy of a letter Leslie wrote to Hammond the day she killed him, informing him she would be home alone that evening and pleading with him to visit her. Ong Chi Seng tells Howard that the letter is in the possession of Hammond’s widow (Gale Sondergaard), a Eurasian woman who lives in the Chinese quarter of town. Howard then confronts Leslie with the damning evidence and forces her to confess to Hammond’s cold-blooded killing; but Leslie cleverly manipulates the attorney into agreeing to buy back the letter.

In a dazed state after the pressure of the trial and her confrontation with Robert, Leslie wanders out into the moonlight and begins walking outside the gate almost as if she knows that someone is waiting for her. There she meets Mrs. Hammond and her henchman. Mrs Hammond kills her with a knife, after the henchman has overpowered her. As the two attemp to silently slip out, they are confronted by a policeman who question their whereabouts. The policeman tells the two to move along and both walk away from the scene. The clouds which hid the moons rays, darken the area where Leslie Crosbies body was killed. In the end, the clouds open and the moons rays shine at the area where her body lays but no one is there to see her body.


  • Directors: William Wyler
  • Producers: Executive Producer, Hal B Wallis, Producer, William Wyler
  • Writers: Clements Ripley, Abem Finkel, John Huston, Robert Buckner, Story, Owen Davis
  • Genres: Drama, Romance
  • Actors: Bette Davis, Henry Fonda, George Brent

Spoiled, strong-willed New Orleans belle Julie Marsden (Bette Davis) is engaged to banker Preston ‘Pres’ Dillard (Henry Fonda). In retaliation for Pres refusing to drop his work and accompany her while she shops for a dress, she orders a brazen red one for the most important ball of the year, one where white dresses for unmarried women are expected. All of Julie’s friends are shocked, but no one can convince her to give up her whim.

Pres escorts Julie to the Olympus Ball, where their entrance is met by the disdainful stares of all present. She finally realizes the magnitude of her social blunder and begs Pres to take her away, but by this time, he is implacable. He makes her dance with him. All the other couples gradually leave the floor, finally leaving them alone and isolated. When the orchestra conductor stops playing, Pres orders him to continue and they finish the dance.

Afterwards, Pres takes his leave of Julie, implicitly breaking their engagement. In a final bit of spite, Julie slaps him in the face by way of farewell. Aunt Belle Massey (Fay Bainter) urges her to go after Pres and beg his forgiveness, but she refuses, arrogantly confident that he will return to her. Instead, he goes north on business. Julie shuts herself up in her house and refuses to see visitors.

Then something happens that overshadows everything else. As Pres and Dr. Livingstone had feared, a deadly epidemic of yellow fever sweeps the city, as it had numerous times before. Pres comes down with it and, like all other victims, is to be quarantined on an island. Amy prepares to go along to care for him, risking her own life, but Julie stops her. She tells the Northerner that she doesn’t know how to deal with the slaves and Southerners on the island. She begs to go in her place, as an act of redemption. Amy agrees.

42nd Street

  • Directors: Lloyd Bacon, Busby Berkeley
  • Producers: Darryl F Zanuck, Hal B Wallis
  • Writers: Bradford Ropes, Rian James, James Seymour, Whitney Bolton
  • Genres: Musical, Romance, Drama
  • Actors: Warner Baxter, Ruby Keeler, Dick Powell

It is 1932, the height of the Depression, and Broadway producers Jones (Robert McWade) and Barry (Ned Sparks) put on Pretty Lady, a musical staring beautiful Dorothy (“Dot”) Brock (Bebe Daniels). Dorothy’s sugar daddy, industrialist Abner Dillon (Guy Kibbee), is the show’s “angel” (financial backer). But while Dorothy is busy keeping Dillon both hooked and at arm’s length, she still secretly meets her old vaudeville partner and lover, out of work Pat Denning (George Brent).

To ensure success Julian Marsh (Warner Baxter), harsh and demanding but also the best, is hired to direct. But Marsh is ill, broke, friendless, and bitter as a result of the 1929 Stock Market Crash. “Did you ever try to cash a reputation in a bank?”, he asks. Gambling with health and life, Marsh must make his last show a major hit if he is to have enough money to retire on. “This time I’m going to sock it away so hard you’ll have to blast to get it out.”

Cast selection and rehearsals begin amidst fierce competition, with not a few “casting couch” innuendos flying around. Innocent newcomer Peggy Sawyer (Ruby Keeler) is duped until two chorines, Lorraine Fleming (Una Merkel) and Ann ”Anytime Annie” Lowell (Ginger Rogers), take her in tow. Lorraine has an “in” with dance director Andy Lee (George E. Stone), while the show’s juvenile lead Billy Lawler (Dick Powell) takes a liking to Peggy and puts in a good word for her with Marsh.

With 200 jobs and his own future riding on the outcome, Marsh rehearses Sawyer mercilessly until an hour before curtain time. Dorothy, soon to be married to Pat, wishes Peggy luck, and the show is on. Nearly twenty minutes are devoted to three Busby Berkeley production numbers: Shuffle Off to Buffalo, I’m Young and Healthy, and the tour de force title song 42nd Street. The show is a success, and in the final scene Marsh turns wearily away from the brightly lit theatre entrance and slumps down on a fire escape in the dark, to quietly savor his triumph.[1]

The Roaring Twenties

  • Directors: Raoul Walsh
  • Producers: Hal B Wallis
  • Writers: Mark Hellinger, Jerry Wald, Richard Macaulay, Robert Rossen
  • Genres: Crime, Drama, Film-Noir, Thriller
  • Actors: James Cagney, Priscilla Lane, Humphrey Bogart, Gladys George

After the World War I armistice, Lloyd Hart (Jeffrey Lynn) goes back to practice law, former saloon keeper George Hally (Humphrey Bogart) turns to bootlegging, and out-of-work Eddie Bartlett (James Cagney) becomes a cab driver. Eddie builds a fleet of cabs through delivery of bootleg liquor and hires Lloyd as his lawyer. George becomes Eddie’s partner and the rackets flourish until love and rivalry interfere. Gladys George plays a night club hostess clearly based on Texas Guinan.


  • Directors: Peter Glenville
  • Producers: Hal B Wallis
  • Writers: Edward Anhalt, Jean Anouilh
  • Genres: Biography, Drama, History
  • Actors: Richard Burton, Peter O Toole, John Gielgud, Donald Wolfit, Martita Hunt, Pamela Brown, Paolo Stoppa

The story line monitors the transformation of Thomas Becket, portrayed, following the play, as a Saxon protege and facilitator to the carousing King Henry, into a man who continually invokes the “honor of God”. Henry appoints Becket as Archbishop of Canterbury in order to have a close confidant in this position that he could completely control. Instead, Becket becomes a major thorn in his side in a jurisdictional dispute. Much of the plot concerns Henry, the “perennial adolescent” as described by the Bishop of London, who finds his duties as king and his stale arranged marriage to be oppressive. Early in the film, we see him escaping them through drunken forays onto the hunting grounds and local brothels. He is increasingly dependent on Becket, a Saxon commoner, who arranges these debaucheries when he is not busy running Henry’s court. This foments great resentment on the part of Henry’s Norman noblemen, who distrust and envy this Saxon upstart, as well as the queen and queen mother, who see Becket as an unnatural and unseemly influence upon the royal personage.

Henry finds himself in continuous conflict with the elderly Archbishop of Canterbury, who opposes the taxation of Church property in order to support Henry’s military campaigns in France (“Bishop, I must hire the Swiss Guards to fight for me – and no one has ever paid them off with good wishes and prayer!”). During one of his campaigns in coastal France, he receives word that the old bishop has “gone to God’s bosom”. In a burst of inspiration, Henry exercises his prerogative to pick the next Archbishop and informs an astonished Becket that he is the royal choice.

The film concludes with Henry, fresh from his whipping, publicly proclaiming Thomas Becket a saint and that the ones who had killed him will be justly punished.

Sergeant York

  • Directors: Howard Hawks
  • Producers: Howard Hawks, Jesse L Lasky, Hal B Wallis
  • Writers: Harry Chandlee, Abem Finkel, John Huston, Howard Koch
  • Genres: Biography, Drama, History, War
  • Actors: Gary Cooper, Walter Brennan

Alvin York (Gary Cooper), a poor Tennessee hillbilly, is an exceptional marksman, but a ne’er-do-well prone to drinking and fighting, which doesn’t make things any easier for his patient mother (Margaret Wycherly). He undergoes a religious awakening and turns his life around, assisted by Pastor Rosier Pile (Walter Brennan).

When York is drafted into the army for World War I, he tries to avoid induction as a conscientious objector due to his religious beliefs. His status as a true conscientious objector is rejected since his church has no official standing and he reluctantly reports for army basic training. During basic training, his superiors find out that he is a phenomenal marksman and promote him to corporal.

York still wants nothing to do with the army and killing. A sympathetic commanding officer lectures York about text from a U.S. history book. He gives York temporary leave to go home and think about fighting to save lives. York wants to read the U.S. history book and the officer gives it to him. He tells York that after his leave if he still doesn’t want to fight he will discharge him from the army. York reads the book, decides he will serve his country and reports back for duty. York decides to leave it in God’s hands, but still doubts he can kill someone because of his interpretation of the bible.

York later explains that he did what he did to hasten the end of the war and minimize the killing.

The Petrified Forest

  • Directors: Archie Mayo
  • Producers: Hal B Wallis
  • Writers: Robert E Sherwood, Charles Kenyon, Delmer Daves
  • Genres: Crime, Drama, Romance
  • Actors: Leslie Howard, Bette Davis, Humphrey Bogart, Genevieve Tobin, Dick Foran

This 1930s drama is set in the Petrified Forest area in northern Arizona. Hitchhiker Alan Squier, who sees himself as a failed writer, wanders into a roadside diner. The diner is run by Jason Maple (Porter Hall), his daughter Gabby, and her grandfather (Charley Grapewin), “an old man who was missed by Billy the Kid.”

Gabby’s mother was a French war bride who fell in love with Gabby’s father when he was a young, handsome, uniformed American serviceman. They married and moved to the remote Petrified Forest desert in Arizona. Gabby’s mother found her husband a “dull defeated man” and moved back to France when Gabby was a young child. She now sends Gabby poetry. Gabby dreams about visiting Bourges to study art. Gabby shows Alan her paintings and reads him a favorite Villon poem. Alan finds Gabby’s eagerness and optimism touching and refreshing.

Duke Mantee, “world famous killer” and his gang appear, and hold everyone hostage. When Gabby is out of the room, Alan signs over an insurance policy on his life to Gabby. He asks Duke to shoot him. “It couldn’t make any difference to you, Duke. After all, if they catch you, they can hang you only once…” And to another character, he explains: “Living, I’m worth nothing to her. Dead — I can buy her the tallest cathedrals, and golden vineyards, and dancing in the streets.”

The Adventures of Robin Hood

  • Directors: Michael Curtiz, William Keighley
  • Producers: Hal B Wallis
  • Writers: Norman Reilly Raine, Seton I Miller
  • Genres: Action, Adventure, Romance
  • Actors: Errol Flynn, Olivia de Havilland, Basil Rathbone, Claude Rains, Patric Knowles, Eugene Pallette, Alan Hale

When Richard the Lionheart, the King of England, is taken captive by Leopold of Austria while returning from the Crusades, his brother John (Claude Rains) takes power and proceeds to oppress the Saxon commoners. Prince John raises their taxes, supposedly to raise Richard’s ransom, but in reality to secure his own position on the throne.

One man stands in his way, the Saxon Robin, Earl of Locksley (Errol Flynn). He acquires a loyal follower when he saves Much (Herbert Mundin) from being arrested by Sir Guy of Gisbourne (Basil Rathbone) for poaching one of the king’s deer. Robin goes alone to see Prince John at Gisbourne’s castle and announces to John’s assembled supporters and a contemptuous Maid Marian (Olivia de Havilland) that he will do all in his power to oppose John and restore Richard to his rightful place. He then escapes, in spite of the efforts of John’s men.

His lands and title now forfeit, Robin takes refuge in Sherwood Forest with his friend Will Scarlet (Patric Knowles). There they meet and recruit Little John (Alan Hale, Sr.). Other men join their growing band. Later, Robin provokes Friar Tuck (Eugene Pallette) into a swordfight, but then persuades the friar into joining him to provide spiritual guidance to the outlaws. Soon, Prince John and his Norman cronies find themselves harassed beyond all bearing.

Richard is restored to the throne; he exiles his brother, pardons the outlaws, returns Robin’s earldom and orders him to marry Lady Marian. Robin declares, “May I obey all your commands with equal pleasure, sire!”