Sunday, October 16, 2011
Castle on the Hudson (3 stars)
Castle on the Hudson, from 1940, is a gritty prison drama starring John Garfield, with Ann Sheridan and Pat O'Brien taking on supporting roles. It is a remake of the 1932 film, 20,000 Years in Sing Sing, which stars Spencer Tracy and Bette Davis.
John Garfield plays Tommy Gordon, who, as the film begins, is convicted of robbery and sentenced to fifteen years at Sing Sing Prison. Sure that his "bosses" will quickly spring him, Tommy arrives at the prison arrogant, feisty, and uncooperative. He refuses to wear his uniform, which is too big, and he also refuses to work. Prison warden Long (Pat O'Brien), whose ideas about running a prison are a bit off of mainstream, doesn't force Tommy to do anything; rather, he allows time alone to do its job of making Tommy a bit more cooperative.
Tommy's girlfriend, Kay (Ann Sheridan), visits Tommy at the prison, informing him that one of his old buddies is pressuring the "bosses" into springing him. In reality, though, the buddy isn't helping at all---he just wants Kay to think he is. Really, he's after Kay, so he wants Tommy out of the picture---the longer Tommy is in prison, the more time the buddy has to pursue Kay.
Meanwhile, a group of inmates is planning a break-out, and while Tommy originally planned to go along with them, a look at the calendar changes his mind. With the break-out scheduled for Saturday---Tommy's unlucky day---he is just too superstitious to join in, so although his cell door is unlocked, Tommy remains within and doesn't take part in the attempted break-out.
As it turns out, Tommy's fears are right-on; tipped off about the break-out attempt, the guards are ready and the rebellion is put down. When Warden Long realizes that Tommy's cell was unlocked, yet he didn't attempt to break-out, he begins to trust Tommy. Therefore, when the warden is informed that Kay is near death, he allows Tommy a furlough to go see her, making him promise that he will return to the prison that night. Tommy promises he will return, but will he? Will Tommy fulfill his word and return to prison after getting a taste of freedom?
Castle on the Hudson is a well-acted, interesting film. While I would give both this film and the original 3 stars, I actually prefer this one just a bit more, and that is because of John Garfield. Spencer Tracy was good in the role of Tommy; however, I think Garfield was fabulous at portraying these kinds of hardened, cocky, unlikeable characters. This isn't a favorite Garfield film by any means, but I definitely enjoyed it. Why not watch both this film and the original and see which one you prefer?