EACH DAWN I DIE (1939)
Director: William Keighley
The most noir of all Jimmy Cagney’s 1930s prison films. (His character has been framed, naturally.) No frills, no theatrics. Tough.
BRUTE FORCE (1947)
Director: Jules Dassin
Prison, Hollywood-style. From the pressbook: “THE MEN ON THE INSIDE! THE WOMEN ON THE OUTSIDE! SCORCHING AS A BLOW-TORCH!”
THE STORY OF MOLLY X (1949)
Director: Crane Wilbur
Wilbur, an intriguing movie man (he starred opposite Pearl White in The Perils of Pauline), made a dozen prison films, and this one is the best. It was filmed on location in San Francisco and Tehachapi’s California Institution for Women.
RIOT IN CELL BLOCK 11 (1954)
Director: Don Siegel
Producer Walter Wanger wanted to “tell it like it is,” having served a prison jolt of his own for shooting his wife’s suspected lover. Director Siegel noted: “The prisoners just fight for better conditions. The warden is honest, he listens, but he is beaten by the system.”
WOMEN’S PRISON (1955)
Director: Lewis Seiler
Crane Wilbur wrote this picture—and didn’t skimp on sexuality. One prisoner gets knocked up, and the warden (Ida Lupino) can’t prop up the walls separating men and women behind bars.
Read more from Alta‘s Fall 2020 Noir Special Section.