Cast & Crew
First time criminal offender, housewife Helene Jensen, and forger Brenda Martin check into a maximum security prison, which houses both men and women, separated only by cement walls and numerous guards. Helene, convicted of manslaughter for killing a child in a car accident, shrinks in terror at her harsh surroundings, while Brenda, who has broken parole, reunites with several of her prison friends. Convicted thief Glen Burton, part of a men's paint detail working near the women's wing, attempts to find his prisoner wife Joan, but, after a brief scuffle, is taken to Warden Brock by police captain Tierney. Brock refuses to allow Glen to see Joan and sentences him to twenty days in solitary. Prison physician Dr. "Doc" Clark is displeased with Brock's treatment, but refrains from making any comments. Matron Sturgess then summons Doc to the women's wing to examine Helene, who remains tense and fearful. After administering a mild sedative to Helene, Doc advises the women's prison director, Amelia Van Zant, to forego the usual month-long isolation of new prisoners with the sensitive Helene, but Amelia disregards his suggestion. When Helene is placed in a darkened solitary cell, she grows terrified of the loud, unexpected prison noises and becomes hysterical. Amelia orders Helene placed in a straitjacket and a padded cell, where her shrieks go unheard. The following morning, an alarmed Sturgess finds Helene unconscious and summons Doc who, despite Amelia's protests, orders Helene placed in the infirmary. After Helene revives, Doc calms her by promising to smuggle in letters from her husband. Two weeks later, a recovered Helene is placed with the other prisoners and Brenda takes her under her wing. When Helene's husband Don visits after the requisite waiting period, he offers her encouragement by telling her that he has hired another lawyer for an appeal, but Helene inadvertently cuts short their visit and is taken away when she touches the screen between them. Outraged, Don insists upon seeing Amelia, but she remains coolly evasive. Doc learns that Amelia has ordered Helene placed in solitary and objects strenuously, to no avail. Meanwhile, Joan grows concerned upon learning from a recently paroled inmate that Glen intends to see her somehow. Soon after, while the women toil in the prison laundry facility, Joan discovers Glen hiding in a small storage room. He reveals where the money he stole is hidden and asks Joan to contact a friend of his to use the money to get him out of prison. Brenda accidentally stumbles upon Glen and Joan and a little later, intentionally burns herself on one of the steam machines to prevent matron Enright from discovering the couple in the storage room. A few days later, Doc's attempt to get Helene out of solitary fails when Amelia interferes, claiming she is only following prison regulations. One day while working in the laundry, Joan faints and later she confides in Brenda that she is pregnant. Doc reports Joan's pregnancy to Brock and Amelia, and the warden immediately summons Glen. Doc advises that they parole Joan immediately, but Brock rejects the suggestion. When Glen arrives, Brock demands to know how he visited his wife, but Glen declares that only when Joan is paroled will he confess. Frustrated, Brock demands that Amelia find out the truth from Joan in one week or he will fire her. Amelia cancels all prisoner visiting and letter writing privileges and over the next few days harasses Joan in an attempt to force her to talk. As the week nears its end, Amelia gets frantic and one evening, after ordering the guards out of the interrogation room, beats Joan, whose screams arouse the other prisoners. Doc takes Joan to the infirmary and furiously informs Amelia that Joan may not survive. The next morning the women prisoners refuse to eat or work in protest of Amelia's treatment of Joan. Doc reports to the warden that Joan is hanging on, but that should she die he intends to accuse both Brock and Amelia of murder. That night several women prisoners stage a rebellion, using knives as weapons. At the same time, having heard of Joan's condition, Glen sneaks back into the women's wing to see her. Using her talent for mimicry, one of the prisoners, Dottie, imitates Sturgess, allowing the women to get into Amelia's office and take her prisoner. Meanwhile, Glen gets to the infirmary to speak with Joan before she dies. Outside the infirmary, Doc learns of the uprising and tells Brenda of Joan's death, which outrages the women. Doc cautions the prisoners that if they harm Amelia they will ruin their parole chances and the opportunity to change the prison system. Having discovered Glen's absence from the men's block, Brock orders a search. Armed guards fire gas canisters into the women's wing, breaking up their revolt and hampering the bereft Glen, who, armed, stalks Amelia. Amelia escapes from the women in the confusion of the gas, but Glen follows, cornering her in the padded cell. At the last moment, Doc prevents Glen from shooting Amelia, who, under the terror and pressure, mentally collapses. The following day Brock confidently tells Doc he believes the worst is over, but Doc assures him that once the full truth is known, his days as prison warden will be numbered. Soon after, Helene is paroled and reunited with Don.
Don C. Harvey
Jean G. Harvey
Mary Lou Devore
Eddie Foy Iii
Katherine Kay Marlowe
Carter Dehaven Jr.
Lester H. White
Cleo Moore, Janis Carter and Ida Lupino Are Among the Stars of Bad Girls of Film Noir, Vol. 2
Made at the height of the noir years, 1946's Night Editor is formatted to be the first of a series of "Night Editor" movies, all consisting of stories told over a card table by the night crew in a newspaper office. No sequels were made using this radio-show format, but the device was successfully adapted for Jules Dassin's classic noir The Naked City. The flashback tale of a guilty detective is solid noir material, but the framing story reduces it to a wholesome life lesson for a young reporter: extramarital affairs are poison.
Married Detective Tony Cochrane (William Gargan) is parked with his society girlfriend Jill Merrill (Janis Carter) when they witness the murder of a young woman. Jill prevents Tony from apprehending the killer, as the scandal will destroy his marriage, and possibly his career. Tony stands by helplessly while his friends on the force mistakenly arrest an innocent man for the crime. The detective identifies a bank executive as the guilty party but cannot interest the DA, who happens to be a personal friend of the accused. Tony then discovers that Jill is conniving to keep Tony's hands tied in the matter. With the innocent man about to be executed, Tony will have to do act swiftly to prevent a terrible miscarriage of justice ... for which he bears full responsibility.
Night Editor is a familiar tale of a policeman compromised by a wicked woman, in this case the beautiful and irredeemable Jill. Icy blonde Janis Carter is yet another fine noir actress granted few opportunities to show what she can do. She almost exclusively played duplicitous women, as in Framed, I Love Trouble and The Woman on Pier 13. Jill Merrill is a skilled manipulator of men. When we see her holding an ice pick near the finale, we know Tony's in big trouble.
Director Henry Levin generates some interest for Tony Cochrane's dilemma but beefy William Gargan plays the straying, dull-witted cop as easy prey and not particularly sympathetic. Burnett Guffey creates attractive images but the low-end Columbia production has a claustrophobic feel. Yet Night Editor remains an exemplary slice of noir: Janis Carter's dead-on classic femme fatale earns the movie a solid B+.
One Girl's Confession (1953) introduces DVD both to the obscure auteur Hugo Haas and his most notable leading lady, Cleo Moore. Czech emigré Haas was an accomplished writer, director and actor who won character parts in Hollywood films before beginning a strange cycle of sordid dramas about tarnished women and older men, usually played by himself. Although Haas' micro-budgeted films gained little initial attention beyond critical jabs at Ms. Moore's limited acting ability, they're due for rediscovery -- even the worst has a worthy plot twist or two.
Waitress Mary Adams (Cleo Moore) steals $25,000 from her employer, who cheated her father into an early grave. Although she refuses to give back the money, she serves only three years of her sentence and takes up a new waitressing job for immigrant gambler Dragomie Damitrof (Hugo Haas), who soon becomes a good friend. Mary wants to recover her buried loot to help Johnny, a local fisherman (Glenn Langan) but isn't sure who she should trust. Then Dragomie gambles away everything he owns, including his café. Mary sends her employer to dig up her money; when he returns he says he couldn't find it. When Mary sees Dragomie driving a new car and giving parties in a swank apartment, her only desire is revenge.
One Girl's Confession comes on as an exploitation quickie promising a "hot" performance by the sexy Moore, who has a habit of showing off her profile in tight sweaters. Noir fans will certainly remember Moore as a sultry dame interrogated by Robert Ryan in Nicholas Ray's classic On Dangerous Ground. The unhappy blonde is accustomed to being propositioned: "Men are all alike, their faces are just different so you can tell them apart." After a history of betrayal by men of all ages, Mary is a somewhat incompatible mix of disillusionment and naïveté. Although not the most expressive actress, Cleo Moore brings cold beauty and a warm smile to the role, and allows her performance to be shaped by director Haas in a sub-Sternbergian fashion.
Despite some gaping lapses in logic, the show shapes up as a morality tale in miniature, where even the moral is of no great consequence. Cleo Moore apparently lured enough lonely men into theaters, to merit her return in a series of Columbia films, including several more by Hugo Haas.
Cleo Moore is part of the ensemble cast of Women's Prison, which could be the template for 101 trashy babes-behind-bars epics to follow. In 1955 the concept was still associated with the classy Warners drama Caged. The mostly female cast is comprised of well-regarded star names, most of whom were probably freelancing after being cut loose by the crumbling studio system. In keeping with the antiseptic fifties, this brightly lit prison is clean and staffed with mostly sympathetic matrons. There's nothing wrong with the system, as the burden of villainy is carried by two bad-apple wardens.
Convicted for manslaughter by automobile, the already traumatized Helene Jensen (Phyllis Thaxter) becomes hysterical when subjected to the harsh solitary confinement given all new inmates at the women's prison. Only the intercession of kindly Doctor Crane (Howard Duff) prevents the sadistic women's warden Amelia van Zandt (Ida Lupino) from punishing Helene further. The more experienced inmates offer Helene protection: Brenda (Jan Sterling of Ace in the Hole), Mae (Cleo Moore) and Joan (Audrey Totter of Tension). Joan's husband Glen (Warren Stevens) is incarcerated just across a wall in the same facility, and is continually looking for excuses to cross to the other side to see her. Van Zandt continues to abuse the prisoners, and Dr. Crane can't get the do-nothing supervising warden Brock (Barry Kelley) to do anything about it. Glen's discovery of a way to sneak to the women's side results in Joan getting pregnant, which pushes van Zandt over the edge. When the inmates learn that Joan has been severely beaten, a cell block riot breaks out.
Women's Prison is also not a true noir but merely a spicy potboiler about caged women, where the only real steam comes from the pressing machines in the laundry room. The main characters are given fairly good dialogue, with saucy Jan Sterling afforded the best lines. Former MGM wartime sweetheart Phyllis Thaxter is reduced to screaming fits by the warden's perverted methods. Dr. Crane tells van Zandt to her face that she's a sexually frustrated psychopath, a scene that carries considerable camp value considering that Ms. Lupino was Mrs. Duff at the time. In contrast to later exploitation efforts, Women's Prison has no lesbian angle and no shower scenes; we instead get celebrity impersonations, and gospel songs from a group of black inmates led by Juanita Moore.
The impressively produced Over-Exposed (1956) wrings the most out of a tiny budget and benefits from a script that gives star Cleo Moore a real character to play. Although burdened with typical 1950s-era values -- no decent woman prefers a career over marriage -- the movie shapes up as satisfying entertainment.
Nightclub girl Lily Krenshka (Cleo Moore) is caught in a police raid but avoids being run out of town when the elderly photographer Max West (Raymond Greenleaf) takes her in. Lily helps Max kick his drinking habit and uses her B-Girl wiles to help him sell more photos; soon the studio is on its feet again and Lily has learned the photography trade. Under the new name Lila Crane, she goes to the big city and meets reporter Russell Bassett (Richard Crenna), who helps her make a sale or two. Taking a job as a photo girl in a restaurant, Lila works an angle between a columnist and a gangster to land a lucrative photo girl position at the fanciest eatery in town. Turning on the charm, she meets people who help make her a famous name with commercial clients and even a guest spot on a TV show. Lila turns down Russell's offer of an "honest" position as both his news photographer and his wife -- but gets in a tight spot with the criminal element that helped kick-start her career.
Over-Exposed is a great showcase for the underappreciated Cleo Moore, as her tramp-turned slick businesswoman shows her off in several modes -- the hard girl on the street, the perky model, the successful artist. Lila Crane uses the tricks she learned to hustle drinks to cajole smiles out of customers and cooperation from rich matrons. Her experience also comes in handy when negotiating with the powerful and the unscrupulous. Unlike Mildred Pierce, Lila is only after material success. If she were a man, her ambitions would be celebrated. The film makes an interesting statement about the economic liberation of women, at least until the conventional ending.
Although the film lacks impressive visuals and directorial touches, its leading lady is always attractively photographed. Much maligned as a Marilyn Monroe wanna-be, Ms. Moore is deserving of her cult status.
Sony's Bad Girls of Film Noir Volume 2 is another assemblage of pristine-quality transfers. The two newest B&W films are encoded in enhanced widescreen. Trailers have been located for every title save Night Editor. An additional extra is a 1954 Ford Television Theater show entitled Remember to Live. Cleo Moore plays to type as a cheap neighborhood vamp who distracts returning Korean War vet Dane Clark from the wholesome girl he really belongs with, Barbara Hale.
For more information about Bad Girls of Film Noir, Vol. 2, visit Sony Pictures. To order Bad Girls of Film Noir, Vol. 2, go to TCM Shopping.
by Glenn Erickson
Cleo Moore, Janis Carter and Ida Lupino Are Among the Stars of Bad Girls of Film Noir, Vol. 2
For a brief time in the late 1940s and early 1950s, Lupino had branched out into directing mainly low-budget independent films and in the 1950s was the only working female director in Hollywood. By 1955, as William Donati wrote in his book Ida Lupino: A biography , "[w]ith the demise of her company [The Filmmakers which financed her independent films], Ida was forced to find acting jobs. Producer Bryan Foy starred her as a sadistic warden [sic] in Women's Prison . [Howard] Duff [Lupino's real life husband] tagged along, sixth-billed as a prison doctor. Actress Audrey Totter played a pregnant inmate mistreated by the gorgeous but brutal warden. Totter observed that Ida enjoyed playing the vicious warden, cleverly insisting on stylish dresses, earrings and jewelry. "It was Ida's idea," says Totter. The prisoners were forbidden to dress like women; only the warden could look elegantly feminine. "This makes my character crueler," smiled Ida."
"Despite the somber atmosphere, [Totter] found Ida great fun. Ida was curious about who had delivered her child [Totter had recently given birth and Women's Prison was to be her last film before retiring to raise her family with her UCLA professor husband].
"The head of UCLA's medical department," answered Totter.
"Do you know him personally?" asked Ida.
"Yes", she said. "I'm friends with all the doctors over there."
"How odd,' remarked Ida, "one day, there you are at a cocktail party, with your arms up having a drink, and a little later on, you're meeting this obstetrician in an entirely different position." Ida acted out the scene, which Totter found wildly amusing."
For Lupino and her husband, things were less amusing. Having married in 1952, the Duffs were famous in Hollywood for their tumultuous marriage, seeming to break-up and get back together every other month. At one time, wrote Donati, "They planned a divorce. Ida engaged Greg Bautzer as her attorney and instructed him to go ahead with the property settlement. "What's there to argue about?" asked Duff. "About all I have is a cat and a car." Friends felt a divorce was inevitable, but the cycle continued. Duff returned to Lupino. "Their marriage would continue on and off until they finally divorced in 1983 following a long separation.
When it was released in February 1955, Women's Prison did not make much of a splash at the box office. As the New York Times reviewer wrote, "Producer Bryan Foy and scenarists apparently must have been in and out of enough movie prisons to qualify as Hollywood-style penologists. They also seem to have most of the plots of these somber little numbers down pat, too. And, Women's Prison which was unveiled at the Palace [Theater] yesterday, is hardly an exception to the rule. Any viewer who couldn't guess the basic story lines of this standard item in, say, ten seconds, is a hermit. Of course, there are vague variations on the normal, tidy gaol tale. In this case the women's prison of the title is a coeducational institution. The men are separated from the ladies but the ladies aren't particularly happy about it. Ida Lupino, obviously a tense, unloved type is the superintendent who is not beyond being sadistic in venting her hates on the inmates. There's also the recognizable gallery of "fish"-Phyllis Thaxter a high-strung matron who comes near to breaking down mentally under Miss Lupino's callous treatment; Jan Sterling, no newcomer to this "pen," who befriends Miss Thaxter and-this is a switch-Audrey Totter, whose husband, also a convict, sneaks in to see her with some explosive results....Oh, yes. There's the standard procedure riot when the girls take over the prison. The producers, it should be added, have given their production serious and professional treatment. It's scarcely a riot or a revelation, though."
Producer: Bryan Foy
Director: Lewis Seiler
Screenplay: Jack DeWitt, Crane Wilbur
Cinematography: Lester White
Art Direction: Cary Odell
Music: Mischa Bakaleinikoff
Film Editing: Henry Batista
Cast: Ida Lupino (Amelia van Zandt), Jan Sterling (Brenda Martin), Cleo Moore (Mae), Audrey Totter (Joan Burton), Phyllis Thaxter (Helene Jensen), Howard Duff (Dr. Crane), Warren Stevens (Glen Burton), Mae Clarke (Matron Saunders).
by Lorraine LoBianco
Ida Lupino: A biography by William Donati
The New York Times: Film Tells Familiar Tale; 'Women's Prison' in Bow at Palace Theater February 3, 1955
The Internet Movie Database
Released in United States Winter February 1955
Released in United States Winter February 1955