TaglineIt was legal murder until a reporter and his girl dared to get the inside story!
Chain Gang is a 1950 American drama film directed by Lew Landers, written by Howard J. Green and starring Douglas Kennedy as a newspaper reporter who goes undercover to expose political corruption and the exploitation of chain gang labour.
Chain Gang was produced by Sam Katzman at Columbia Pictures and filmed in black and white by Ira H. Morgan. It was reissued on DVD in 2012 as part of the Sony Choice Collection.
After a state senator's bill to abolish chain gangs is rejected by the Senate, newspaper reporter Cliff Roberts (Kennedy) persuades his boss Pop O'Donnel (Harry Cheshire) at the liberal Capitol City Evening Standard to arrange for him to go undercover in a chain gang prison. Equipped with false employment records and a tiny microfilm camera disguised as a cigarette lighter, he tells everyone—including girlfriend Rita McKelvey (Marjorie Lord), a reporter for a rival newspaper—that he is going on a fishing trip, but actually heads for Cloverdale Prison Farm in the deep south, scene of recent incidents which left three inmates dead.
The prison's Captain Duncan (Emory Parnell) supplies labour in the form of chain gangs, which are ostensibly for state construction projects but in reality are being exploited by Rita's stepfather, local entrepreneur John McKelvey (Thurston Hall), for his construction projects. Working as a guard, Roberts secretly photographs prison conditions, arriving in time to witness the recapturing of an escaped inmate who is sent for an overnight stay in the sweatbox as punishment. Roberts is supplied with a bullwhip and is required to use it when a convict - Snead (William Phillips) - is caught covering up for another inmate who can't work well enough at the construction site. Under Captain Duncan's orders, Roberts reluctantly flogs Snead at the whipping post. Later he visits Snead in solitary confinement to apologise for the whipping and gains the inmate's trust.
Roberts' secret photographs are published in the newspaper, much to McKelvey's consternation. A foreman on the construction project (who knows Roberts as Jack Granger) sees his photograph in McKelvey house. His cover blown, Roberts uses the confusion of fellow prisoner Snead's escape to make a run for it. The two men try to outrun the guards and their dogs across wilderness and through woodland. Roberts is shot and left for dead by Captain Duncan, who later pins the blame on Snead. Roberts eventually makes it to safety and is reunited with Rita. Snead is killed while on the run and McKelvey is charged with the exploitation of convict labor for personal gain.
Douglas Kennedy as Cliff Roberts
Marjorie Lord as Rita McKelvey
Emory Parnell as Capt. Duncan
William 'Bill' Phillips as Roy Snead
Thurston Hall as John McKelvey
Harry Cheshire as Henry 'Pop' O'Donnell
Fred Aldrich as Convict
Stanley Blystone as Convict on Chain Gang
Paul E. Burns as Dr. Evans
Benny Burt as Convict in Bunk
Jack Chefe as Convict
James Conaty as Pop's Influential Friend
George Eldredge as Guard Adams
William Fawcett as Zeke
Eddie Foster as Convict Operating Crane
John Hart as Chain Gang Member
Don C. Harvey as Guard Langley
Charles Horvath as Convict in Skirmish
Billy Lechner as Eddie Jones
Herbert Rawlinson as Senator Harden
George Robotham as Guard Reagan
John Rogers as Joe - Lunch Counterman
Larry Steers as Senate Committee Hearing Attendee
Bert L. Stevens as Newspaper Office Worker
Brick Sullivan as Guard
William Tannen as Harry Cleaver
Dorothy Vaughan as Mrs. Briggs
Rusty Wescoatt as Guard Yates
Frank Wilcox as Lloyd Killgallen
Filming started 16 May 1950.
The film was praised for its acting, direction, action sequences and technical qualities, but Green's improbable storyline and dialogue came in for criticism.