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A Fugitive from Justice

A Fugitive from Justice(1940)

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teaser A Fugitive from Justice (1940)

This second string Warner Brothers crime comedy got less attention from critics and moviegoers in the summer of 1940 than it did from the Production Code Administration, which demanded several cuts to what it seemed censorable material. Based on newspaper coverage of the criminal career of "Murder, Inc." founder Louis "Lepke" Buchalter (then in federal custody and fated to be the only major mob boss to pay for his sins in the electric chair), A Fugitive from Justice finds underworld lawyer Lee Leslie (Donald Douglas) taking it on the lam from his own shady clients, who would rather see him dead than testify against them. Coming to Leslie's rescue is intrepid insurance agent Dan Miller (Roger Pryor), who must contend not only with murderous thugs but also with the FBI, after gang boss "Julie" Alexander (Morgan Conway, later star of RKO's Dick Tracy) sticks Leslie with the blame for the killing of a cop. Plot points that the PCA found offensive included the threat of violence against police (a longstanding no-no prohibited by the Hollywood Production Code) and an excessively violent shootout but the agency pressed harder still to squelch such incidentals as a visible men's room sign and a bit of business in which a character lets the air out of a car tire. PCA memoranda also objected to Eddie Foy, Jr.'s gag line about wearing pink underwear, concerned that the crack might be perceived as a confession of homosexuality.

By Richard Harland Smith

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