Cast & Crew
Having just enlisted in the Navy, Tom Adams, a ship's pilot, makes his excursion to meet a vessel. At sea, Tom sees two Japanese climb into a rowboat from the English ship the H.M.S. Hanseatic and goes to investigate. After ordering the men into his speedboat, Tom is approached by members of the Coast Guard, who refuse to believe his story and charge him with aiding the Japanese. When the two men testify that Tom was their accomplice and the government prosecutor asserts that the Hanseatic was sunk long before Tom's arrest, Tom is found guilty and sentenced to five years in prison. Determined to exonerate Tom, his fiancée, Nancy Johnson, visits him at the Blackport prison, but he exhorts her to go home and forget him. Outside the prison gates, Nancy meets attorney Michael Malloy, who is soliciting business from the prisoners' desperate relatives. Upon learning that Malloy is the brother of Senator Malloy, the head of the parole board, Nancy asks him to present Tom's case to his brother. To be near Tom, Nancy moves to Blackport and rents a room in Mrs. Barton's boardinghouse. Mrs. Barton's tenants are the wives of prisoners, including Winnie, who confides her plans to break her husband George out of jail; Gwen, a flirtatious Southerner whose husband Chester is a bank robber; and the tough-talking Billie LaRue. Mrs. Barton, whose husband Joseph has been sentenced to life for attempting a prison escape, has little tolerance for Nancy's impatience at securing Tom's release and orders her to leave the next morning. Later, however, she relents and allows Nancy to stay. When Mr. Peters, an employee of the electric company, arrives to read the meter, he is manipulated by the coquettish Gwen into agreeing to support her so that she can quit her laundry job. The next day, Nancy, a schoolteacher, looks for employment, but when she is denied a job at the local school, she applies at the laundry and is hired to fill Gwen's position. On visiting day, Nancy informs Tom that she has moved to Blackport, and he orders her to return home. Refusing to accept Tom's edict, Nancy returns to the prison the next week and stares into an empty cublicle when Tom refuses to see her. Nancy then asks the prison chaplain to intercede, and he agrees to talk to Tom, who has become embittered and disillusioned by his weeks of imprisonment. When the chaplain tells him about the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Tom asks for a chance to defend his country and petitions the board to be paroled into military service. The other prisoners patriotically join Tom's cause, but when their petition is denied, Tom angrily strikes a guard and is sentenced to solitary confinement. Winnie, meanwhile, has secured a blueprint of the prison and outlines a plan to hide the convicts in jute bales, which would then be loaded onto a boat for delivery. When Nancy overhears Billie say that Winnie expects Tom to pilot the boat, she objects, declaring that Malloy is pleading Tom's case and he will soon be free. Billie counters that Malloy is a drunken fraud, and when Nancy finds him at the bar, she realizes that Billie's accusation is true. After scheduling the break for Friday night, the wives decide to conceal their plans from Nancy. Gwen, meanwhile, has extracted the hiding place of the bank loot from Chester and packs her bags to collect the money and flee Blackport. Soon after, Peters arrives at the house, panicked that his employer has discovered the missing funds he embezzled to give to Gwen, and learns that she has deserted him. On Friday morning, after the wives leave for their jobs at the laundry, Mrs. Baron is notified that Joseph is sick. She rushes to the hospital, and there learns that he has been stabbed by his fellow inmates for threatening to inform the warden about the prison break. With his dying breath, Joseph admonishes his wife to warn the warden. Meanwhile, at the laundry, Nancy sees a newspaper headline reporting the sinking of the "fake" Hanseatic and realizes that the news substantiates Tom's story. When Mrs. Barton appears at the laundry to confront the wives about the prison break, Nancy senses that Tom is in danger. Hurrying to the bar, Nancy shows Malloy the headline and rallies him to fight for Tom's freedom. Barging into his brother's office, Malloy makes an impassioned speech about the injustice done to Tom, a true patriot, and the senator agrees to phone the warden on Tom's behalf. When Tom is summoned to the warden's office, the others prisoners panic, touching off a riot. As the wives wait at the shore, watching for their husbands, they hear the prison sirens and realize that the escape has failed. Free at last, Tom phones Nancy, and the senator, impressed by his brother's newfound conviction, reconciles with him. Some time later, Tom, now in uniform, races to embrace Nancy.
W. L. River
B. P. Schulberg
M. W. Stoloff
The film opens with the following prologue: "July 1941-five months before Pearl Harbor, but already the coming events were casting their shadows before." News items in Hollywood Reporter furnish the following information about the production of this picture: In September 1939, Samuel Goldwyn Productions, Inc. acquired the rights to an original story titled "City Without Men," written by Albert Bein and Aben Kandel. At that time, Jon Hall was set for the male lead, and Jean Arthur was being considered as his co-star. In June 1942, Goldwyn sold the story rights to Columbia for $43,000. At that time, the story was credited only to Budd Schulberg and Martin Berkeley. The studio then entered into negotiations with both Alan Marshal and Philip Terry to play the male lead. Claire Trevor was initially cast as "Billie La Rue," but was replaced at the end of August 1942 by Glenda Farrell. Although a August 29, 1942 Hollywood Reporter production chart places Larry Parks in the cast, he could not be identified on the viewed print. A production still from the film includes actress Jeff Donnell in the cast, but she was not in the released film. The waterfront scenes were filmed in San Pedro, CA. Sara Allgood and Linda Darnell were borrowed from Twentieth Century-Fox to appear in the production.