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Road Gang

(1936 b 61')

En: 4 Ed: 5

A journalist exposing a corrupt political boss is railroaded to a prison mine; but his fiancé and his editor get the attorney general to help him.

Jim Larrabee (Donald Woods) starts exposing the corruption of political boss J. W. Moett and gets a job with a Chicago newspaper. Jim tells his fiancé Barbara Winston (Kay Linaker); but her step-father George Winston (Henry O'Neill) gets Moett (Joe King) to offer Jim a job. Jim says he won't sell out, and George tells Barbara not to see him again. Jim asks Barbara to believe. Jim and his friend Bob Gordon (Carlyle Moore Jr.) are driving to Chicago when they are arrested for grand larceny. A murderer escapes from jail, kills the jailer, and makes them drive him fast. A cop is also shot, and they are re-captured. Barbara tells her step-father she will work for Jim, and he offers the lawyer Dudley (Edward Van Sloan), who recommends they plead guilty to the jail break and destroys Jim's note to his editor. Jim and Bob are convicted and sentenced to five years.

At the miserable prison camp a man who tried to escape is whipped and sent to the mines. The road gang marches to work. Bob is not given water, faints, and is kicked. When Jim complains, the guard socks him and strings him up all night. Bob wants to escape but learns that the fence has 11,000 volts except when the gates are open. In the morning Bob tries to run away; but as he climbs the fence, the switch is pulled, and he is electrocuted.

In July Barbara visits Jim and says she is working for a new trial and has left her step-father. Jim passes her his article exposing the prison; but they find it and take it. The warden calls George Winston and reads it to him. Jim is sent to the coal mine, where he is abused. Barbara meets with editor Harry Shields (Joseph Crehan), who takes her to the Attorney General (William B. Davidson) to show him a check from Moett to Dudley. The Attorney General gets a writ of habeus corpus for a new trial. The mine warden orders Jim left behind the other men; but Jim is warned, and the men refuse to come up without him. Tear gas is thrown into the mine; but the men find another way out. The Attorney General demands the prison records, but the warden denies knowing the safe's combination. Jim gets a safe cracker to open the safe. Moett is indicted, tried, and convicted. In the final scene on a plane to Chicago Jim and Barbara thank each other and kiss.

This story dramatizes the brutality of a punitive prison system, where innocent victims of powerful criminals suffer. In this case the Attorney General was not controlled by the corrupt politicians and could save the hero.

Copyright © 2000 by Sanderson Beck

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