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Duffy of San Quentin

Duffy of San Quentin(1954)

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Duffy of San Quentin (1954)

Hollywood tough guy Paul Kelly did not need to do much research in order to play real life prison warden Clinton T. Duffy in Warner Bros.' Duffy of San Quentin (1954) - having been an inmate of San Quentin State Prison for two years. A child actor for Vitagraph in his native Brooklyn, Kelly transitioned easily to adult parts onscreen and onstage and was making gains in Hollywood until his affair with a married woman derailed a promising career. Charged with manslaughter in the aggravated (and ultimately fatal) assault of his lover's husband, Kelly spent twenty-five months of a ten year sentence behind bars. Produced and directed by Walter Doniger under the working title The San Quentin Story, Duffy of San Quentin is a fictionalized spin on the real life gains of reform warden Duffy, a prison secretary who was given temporary custodianship of San Quentin in 1940 but improved conditions so demonstrably that he was invited to stay on - and did, for eleven years. Duffy of San Quentin provided the aging Kelly with a rare starring role (though Louis Hayward would command top billing as a troubled convict), one he would reprise in Doniger's The Steel Cage (1954) that same year. Duffy of San Quentin also provided work for jobbing Georgia-born actor DeForest Kelley, later Star Trek's Dr. "Bones" McCoy.

By Richard Harland Smith

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