Carbine Williams


1h 31m 1952
Carbine Williams

Brief Synopsis

True story of the convicted bootlegger who fought for his freedom by inventing a new rifle.

Film Details

Also Known As
Man with a Record, The Story of David Marshall Williams
Genre
Drama
Crime
Biography
Release Date
May 16, 1952
Premiere Information
Fayetteville, NC premiere: 24 Apr 1952; New York opening: 7 May 1952
Production Company
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp.
Distribution Company
Loew's Inc.
Country
United States
Screenplay Information
Inspired by the article "The Most Unforgettable Character I've Met" by Capt. H. T. Peoples in Reader's Digest (Mar 1951).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 31m
Sound
Mono (Western Electric Sound System)
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
8,361ft (9 reels)

Synopsis

While on a business trip to the Winchester Repeating Arms Company in New Haven, Connecticut, preeminent gun designer Marsh Williams is urgently summoned home to North Carolina by his wife Maggie. Once there, Marsh learns that his young son David has been the victim of vicious schoolyard gossip targeted at Marsh. To explain the situation to David, Marsh turns to his old friend Capt. H. T. "Cap" Peoples, the warden at Central Prison, North Carolina. Marsh drives David to the prison to meet Cap, and there Cap explains that Marsh was convicted of murder and recounts the story of his incarceration: As a boy, Marsh, a rugged individualist and one of eleven children, impetuously quits school to join the Navy. After several hitches, Marsh is discharged and returns home to marry Maggie, his boyhood sweetheart. When Marsh asks his strict father Claude for his share of the family farm, Claude sternly declares that Marsh must work for two years to prove that he deserves the land. Impatient, Marsh renounces his claim to the property and takes a menial job laying railroad tracks so that he can afford to marry Maggie. To supplement his meager income, Marsh builds a distillery with fellow moonshiners Redwick Karson and Sam Markley. When one of the local moonshiners is killed by revenue agent Jesse Rimmer, Marsh warns Rimmer to stay away from him. Marsh continues to expand his business, telling Maggie that his newfound prosperity is due to his hard work at the railroad, until one day a still explodes, severely scalding him. When Maggie learns that Marsh has been lying to her, she threatens to leave him unless he stops moonshining. Soon after, revenue agents come to the distillery to arrest Marsh, sparking a gunfight between the moonshiners and the agents. Marsh escapes into the woods, and later, Maggie finds him in their secret hiding place and informs him that Rimmer was killed in the shootout. When Maggie swears to stand by Marsh, he turns himself in and is arrested for murdering the agent, even though several other men participated in the fatal gunfight. Once the jury returns a deadlocked verdict, Claude demands a second trial for his son and the state offers a reduced charge of second degree murder. After accepting the state's offer, Marsh is sentenced to thirty years of hard labor. Bitter, Marsh refuses to communicate with his family. One day, in the prison yard, several prisoners stab an informer, and although Marsh refused to participate in the attack, he is sentenced to work on the chain gang with the others. After doing his time on the brutal chain gang, Marsh is transferred to the Caledonia Prison Farm, where he meets Capt. Peoples, the warden there. Although Maggie writes Marsh regularly, he discards her letters without reading them. Maggie complains to the warden about her husband's unresponsiveness, Cap summons Marsh to his office and orders him to respond to his wife's letters, but Marsh sullenly challenges his authority. While working in the fields one day, Marsh grabs Cap's gun to shoot a rattlesnake that is about to strike. When Marsh voluntarily relinquishes the weapon, he begins to win Cap's respect. Soon after, "Dutch" Kruger, one of Marsh's bunk mates, suffers a debilitating bout of malaria, and when Marsh stays behind to take care of him, Cap punishes him for being late to dinner and sentences him to solitary confinement until he recognizes the warden's authority. Marsh defiantly holds out for thirty days until the prison doctor authorizes his release. Afterward, Cap summons Marsh to his office and tells him that Maggie is waiting outside to see him. After Cap grants Marsh a twenty-four hour leave to spend with his wife, Marsh begins to respect the warden. On a picnic with her husband, Maggie reaffirms her love and then tells Marsh that she wants to have his child. When Marsh returns to prison on time, Cap honors his request to work at the blacksmith shop. After Marsh starts to sketch the design for a rifle he conceived of during his long days in solitary, Cap reluctantly allows him to continue his drawing. In secret, Marsh builds his gun in the prison workshop, and one day, Dutch and another inmate try to steal it to use in a prison break. Although Marsh successfully resists them, Cap is furious that Marsh actually built the weapon. When Marsh explains his revolutionary design for a new, light automatic rifle, however, Cap, impressed, allows him to continue work on the gun and writes Maggie that Marsh's determination has changed him. Marsh becomes a model prisoner, and six years later, finally perfects his rifle. When newspaper headlines trumpet the story of a convicted killer who builds guns in prison, Cap and Marsh are called before the prison board to defend themselves. After Cap defends Marsh's right to test his gun and offers to complete the convict's sentence if he tries to escape, the board, impressed, grants him permission. Once the gun is successfully tested, Joseph Winchester, the head of Winchester rifles, offers Marsh a contract. Several months later, with his father and Cap's support, Marsh is pardoned by the governor. His story finished, Cap returns to the present and concludes that Marsh's designs revolutionized the automatic rifle, a weapon that helped win the war for the U.S. With new respect, David then runs into his father's arms.

Cast

James Stewart

Marsh Williams

Jean Hagen

Maggie Williams

Wendell Corey

Capt. H. T. Peoples

Carl Benton Reid

Claude Williams

Paul Stewart

"Dutch" Kruger

Otto Hulett

Mobley

Rhys Williams

Redwick Karson

Herbert Heyes

Lionel Daniels

James Arness

Leon Williams

Porter Hall

Sam Markley

Fay Roope

District Attorney

Ralph Dumke

Andrew White

Leif Erickson

Feder

Henry Corden

Bill Stockton

Frank Richards

Truex

Howard Petrie

Sheriff

Stuart Randall

Tom Vennar

Dan Riss

Jesse Rimmer

Bobby Hyatt

David Williams

Willis B. Bouchey

Mitchell

Emil Meyer

Head guard

Lillian Culver

Mrs. Laura Williams

Harry Cheshire

Judge

Jonathan Hale

Judge

Robert Foulk

Torchy

Ralph Smiley

The ferrett

Louis Nicoletti

Giacosi

John Maxwell

Dr. McDonald

James Davis

Assistant

Norma Jean Cramer

Mary Ruth Williams

Marlene Lyden

Mary Eloise Williams

Harry Mackin

John Williams

Jordan Cronenweth

Will Williams

Robert Van Orden

Bob Williams

Truman Herron

Shelton Williams

Tony Epper

Wesley Williams

Jon Gardner

Mac Williams

Fred Kohler

Lathe worker

Bob Alden

Messenger

John Mckee

Worker

Duke York

Guard

David Mcmahon

Guard

Richard Reeves

Guard

Bert Lebaron

Guard

James Logan

Guard

Paul Kruger

Guard

Bob Wilke

Guard

Wade Crosby

Guard

Lee Phelps

Guard

Emmett Vogan

John Swanson

Roy Butler

Newton

Michael Dugan

Frank Gregory

Fiona O'shiel

Mrs. Rimmer

Watson Downs

Foreman

Ken Christy

Bailiff

Leonard Strong

Robak

James Cronan

Prisoner

Roy Engel

Prisoner

Robert W. Wood

Prisoner

Billy Dix

Prisoner

Robert Stephenson

Prisoner

Harry Hines

Prisoner

Doug Carter

Prisoner

Charles Horvath

Prisoner

Guy Wilkerson

Prisoner

James Harrison

Trusty

Jimmy Ames

Trusty

Dick Rich

Trusty

John Doucette

Mason, prisoner

Sam Flint

Board member

Nolan Leary

Board member

Marshall Bradford

Board member

George Pembroke

Board member

Marliee Phelps

Mrs. Gregory

James A. Robertson

Black assistant

Gene Roth

Section boss

William Vedder

Minister

Baynes Barron

Whipped convict

George Lloyd

Mess hall trusty

Margaret Brayton

Secretary

Rick Ryan

Assistant to Mr. Swanson

Erik J. Nielsen

Child at wedding

Bennie Washington

Black woman

Film Details

Also Known As
Man with a Record, The Story of David Marshall Williams
Genre
Drama
Crime
Biography
Release Date
May 16, 1952
Premiere Information
Fayetteville, NC premiere: 24 Apr 1952; New York opening: 7 May 1952
Production Company
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp.
Distribution Company
Loew's Inc.
Country
United States
Screenplay Information
Inspired by the article "The Most Unforgettable Character I've Met" by Capt. H. T. Peoples in Reader's Digest (Mar 1951).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 31m
Sound
Mono (Western Electric Sound System)
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
8,361ft (9 reels)

Articles

Carbine Williams


Generally regarded as one of Hollywood's most amiable and lovable actors, James Stewart began to choose more unconventional roles after he returned from service in World War II. In direct opposition to the characters he played in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939) and The Philadelphia Story (1940), Stewart actively sought parts that were the opposite of the carefree idealists he portrayed in pre-war films. Starting with It's a Wonderful Life (1946), Stewart's screen persona matured and grew increasingly dark, so much so that it was not too much of a stretch to call him an anti-hero in Alfred Hitchcock pictures like Rope (1948) and Rear Window (1954). It was also partly due to directors Anthony Mann and John Ford that Stewart was able to redirect his film career in the fifties. No longer the sweet-natured young hero, Stewart was more likely in the post-war years to play cynical, morally corrupt protagonists in westerns such as The Naked Spur (1953), The Man From Laramie (1955), and Two Rode Together (1961).

Stewart's initial foray into darker material was in the Anthony Mann-directed western Winchester '73 (1950), followed shortly by Carbine Williams in 1952. In addition to giving Stewart's screen image a harder edge, the studio deal that put Stewart into the role in the first place proved to be far more important for his career. When Stewart was lobbying with Universal Pictures to play the lead role in their upcoming Harvey (1950), Universal agreed as long as he signed on to do another picture under the Universal logo. That second picture turned out to be Winchester '73. But Universal was experiencing some financial troubles at the time and they were unable to pay Stewart's asking price of $200,000 for either film. Therefore, Lew Wasserman, Stewart's agent, negotiated a deal whereby the mega-star would be a partner in the making of Winchester '73, taking no salary but splitting the profits. This deal proved to be enormously profitable for Stewart and it allowed him greater creative control for future pictures. Thus, when he went to MGM to star in the life story of David Marshall Williams, it was not too difficult to accept him as an embittered prisoner, nor was it too much of a financial risk for Stewart or MGM. But more than just a portrayal of a convicted killer, Carbine Williams was the inspiring true story of Williams' efforts to invent the M1 rifle, a successor to the Winchester rifle and the weapon that revolutionized modern warfare. More than 8 million carbines were used by American troops in World War II, thanks to the tenacity and inventiveness of "Carbine" Williams.

Director: Richard Thorpe
Producer: Armand Deutsch
Screenplay: Art Cohn
Cinematography: William Mellor
Editor: Newell P. Kimlin
Art Direction: Cedric Gibbons, Eddie Imazu
Music: Conrad Salinger
Cast: James Stewart (Marsh Williams), Jean Hagen (Maggie Williams), Wendell Corey (Capt. H.T. Peoples), Carl Benton Reid (Claude Williams), Paul Stewart ('Dutch' Kruger).
BW-94m. Close captioning.

by Scott McGee
Carbine Williams

Carbine Williams

Generally regarded as one of Hollywood's most amiable and lovable actors, James Stewart began to choose more unconventional roles after he returned from service in World War II. In direct opposition to the characters he played in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939) and The Philadelphia Story (1940), Stewart actively sought parts that were the opposite of the carefree idealists he portrayed in pre-war films. Starting with It's a Wonderful Life (1946), Stewart's screen persona matured and grew increasingly dark, so much so that it was not too much of a stretch to call him an anti-hero in Alfred Hitchcock pictures like Rope (1948) and Rear Window (1954). It was also partly due to directors Anthony Mann and John Ford that Stewart was able to redirect his film career in the fifties. No longer the sweet-natured young hero, Stewart was more likely in the post-war years to play cynical, morally corrupt protagonists in westerns such as The Naked Spur (1953), The Man From Laramie (1955), and Two Rode Together (1961). Stewart's initial foray into darker material was in the Anthony Mann-directed western Winchester '73 (1950), followed shortly by Carbine Williams in 1952. In addition to giving Stewart's screen image a harder edge, the studio deal that put Stewart into the role in the first place proved to be far more important for his career. When Stewart was lobbying with Universal Pictures to play the lead role in their upcoming Harvey (1950), Universal agreed as long as he signed on to do another picture under the Universal logo. That second picture turned out to be Winchester '73. But Universal was experiencing some financial troubles at the time and they were unable to pay Stewart's asking price of $200,000 for either film. Therefore, Lew Wasserman, Stewart's agent, negotiated a deal whereby the mega-star would be a partner in the making of Winchester '73, taking no salary but splitting the profits. This deal proved to be enormously profitable for Stewart and it allowed him greater creative control for future pictures. Thus, when he went to MGM to star in the life story of David Marshall Williams, it was not too difficult to accept him as an embittered prisoner, nor was it too much of a financial risk for Stewart or MGM. But more than just a portrayal of a convicted killer, Carbine Williams was the inspiring true story of Williams' efforts to invent the M1 rifle, a successor to the Winchester rifle and the weapon that revolutionized modern warfare. More than 8 million carbines were used by American troops in World War II, thanks to the tenacity and inventiveness of "Carbine" Williams. Director: Richard Thorpe Producer: Armand Deutsch Screenplay: Art Cohn Cinematography: William Mellor Editor: Newell P. Kimlin Art Direction: Cedric Gibbons, Eddie Imazu Music: Conrad Salinger Cast: James Stewart (Marsh Williams), Jean Hagen (Maggie Williams), Wendell Corey (Capt. H.T. Peoples), Carl Benton Reid (Claude Williams), Paul Stewart ('Dutch' Kruger). BW-94m. Close captioning. by Scott McGee

Quotes

Trivia

Notes

The film's working titles were The Story of David Marshall Williams and Man with a Record. The film's opening title card reads: "Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer presents James Stewart as Carbine Williams." A written prologue reads: "The March, 1951 issue of Reader's Digest published an article in its series, "The Most Unforgettable Character I've Met." That character is David Marshall Williams-- and this is his story as he lived it." Although not credited onscreen, Capt. H. P. Peoples was the author of the Reader's Digest article. The film concludes with the following written acknowledgment: "Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer gratefully acknowledges the cooperation of the North Carolina prison authorities and wishes to state that the penal system existing in North Carolina today has been improved immeasurably over conditions depicted in the picture." According to Hollywood Reporter news items, Janet Leigh was initially set to co-star in the film as "Maggie Williams" and Miklos Rozsa was to do the film's score. A Hollywood Reporter news item includes Philo Herrick in the cast, but his appearance in the released film has not been confirmed.
       As in the film, David Marshall Williams (1900-1975) invented a new type of rifle mechanism which became the centerpiece of a lightweight rifle, called the "Carbine." The rifle was used extensively by the United States Army during World War II, and variations of his designs continue to be used by the Army to the present day. The original rifle, and others that followed it, utilized a short-stroke piston. Williams' invention was developed while he was serving a thirty-year prison sentence for murder in the Caledonia maximum security farm in North Carolina. According to modern sources, after the film had its premiere in Fayetteville, friends and neighbors gave Williams a new nickname, "Carbine." Modern sources also state that many supporters maintained that Williams was not responsible for the death of Deputy Al Pate. Wendell Corey and Jean Hagen recreated their roles for a Lux Radio Theatre presentation of Carbine Williams, with Ronald Reagan in the title role, on March 22, 1954.