powered by AFI
The working title of this film was Cell 2455. According to a May 1955 review in Fortnight, William and Robert Campbell, who portrayed "Whit" at different ages, were brothers. Caryl Whittier Chessman (1921-1960) had been to reform school and county jail four times before March 1941, when he was sentenced to San Quentin prison for 16 years to life on counts of robbery, assault and attempted murder. As portrayed in the film, Chessman escaped from prison, but was captured a year later and paroled in 1947.
As in the film, Chessman was arrested and accused of being the "Red Light Bandit" in 1948. Chessman conducted his own defense, but was sentenced to death, as stipulated by California law if the victim of a kidnapping was physically harmed. Along with Cell 2455, Death Row, Chessman wrote three other books, two non-fiction books on his experience with the justice and prison systems and a fictionalized novel of his life, which brought his case to widespread public attention. Chessman was executed on May 2, 1960 in San Quentin's gas chamber. For additional information on the Chessman case, please see the entry below for the 1960 documentary Justice and Caryl Chessman. A television film, Kill Me If You Can, starring Alan Alda as Chessman and directed by Buzz Kulik, was broadcast by NBC in 1977. Cell 2455, Death Row marked the feature film debut of actor Kerwin Mathews (1926-2007).