Highway 301


1h 23m 1950
Highway 301

Brief Synopsis

A brutal bank robber fights internal divisions within his gang.

Film Details

Also Known As
The Big Stickup, The One Million Dollar Bank Robbery, The Tri-State Gang, The Two Million Dollar Robbery
Genre
Drama
Crime
Release Date
Jan 1950
Premiere Information
New York opening: week of 8 Dec 1950
Production Company
Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
Distribution Company
Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
Country
United States
Location
Los Angeles--Union Station, California, United States

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 23m
Sound
Mono (RCA Sound System)
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
7,453ft

Synopsis

In Winston-Salem, North Carolina, the members of a gang known to the police as the Tri-State Gang because they have robbed banks in North Carolina, Virginia and Maryland, are spotted switching cars during a getaway. The farmer who saw them is able to identify the make of the second car and the first few letters of the license plate. The police have been unable to identify any of the gang members, who are George Legenza, William B. Phillips, Robert Mais, Herbie Brooks and Noyes. All have long police records, but received only light sentences. Now, the police hope the license plate will eventually lead them to the criminals, and a special group, headed by an investigator named Truscott, is put together to pursue them. That evening, the robbers celebrate with their wives and girl friends. Madeline Walton, Legenza's girl, is tired of life with a criminal, but when she begs Legenza to get out of the business, he brutally silences her. Phillips is newly married to Lee Fontaine, a French-Canadian woman who knows nothing of his real profession. The disgruntled Madeline drops broad hints to the truth, further angering Legenza. Realizing that she is in danger, Madeline tries to run away, but Legenza follows her and kills her. Lee blames herself for Madeline's death and begs Phillips to leave the gang. He promises that after they pull one more big job, he will return to Canada with her. Legenza, who has been tipped off to a shipment of two million dollars at the Richmond mint, kills one of the guards during the robbery, and the police set up roadblocks on the surrounding roads. The gang quickly discovers that the money, which was being returned to the mint for burning, has been cut into pieces, and after the gangsters pass the roadblock by hiding in a shipment of eggs, Legenza kills the tipster. When they return to the waiting women, Lee is extremely upset, causing Legenza to suspect that she might be a danger to the gang. Outside the apartment, a routine police check identifies the gang's car from the partial license number. They wait in the street for the gangsters to appear, and during the ensuing shootout, Phillips is killed. Legenza returns to the apartment, where Mais, his girl friend, Mary Simms, and Lee have remained. On Phillips' body, the police find several pictures of Lee. They investigate Phillips' acquaintances, and one of the policemen involved in the shootout identifies Legenza's photograph. Meanwhile, the remaining gangsters go into hiding. Realizing that Phillips' death leaves her vulnerable, Lee tries several times to escape, but is always stopped by Legenza. Finally, when he goes out to get something to eat, leaving Mais to guard her, Lee manages to escape from the apartment, but is spotted by the returning Legenza, who pursues and shoots her. The following day, Mary learns from a radio broadcast that Lee is not dead, but is in a coma. Legenza decides to finish the murder and sends Mary ahead to assess the situation. In the hospital, Mary pretends to be a reporter and, after she learns Lee's room number, telephones Legenza with the information. Her questions raise Truscott's suspicions, and she is arrested after her story breaks down under interrogation. There is a shootout when Mais and Legenza arrive at the hospital, and Mais is killed, but Legenza escapes. Later, the getaway car crashes, and again Legenza crawls away, but is killed by a train when he collapses on the tracks. The police conclude that the whole situation could have been avoided if the criminals had not been treated so leniently at the beginning of their careers.

Film Details

Also Known As
The Big Stickup, The One Million Dollar Bank Robbery, The Tri-State Gang, The Two Million Dollar Robbery
Genre
Drama
Crime
Release Date
Jan 1950
Premiere Information
New York opening: week of 8 Dec 1950
Production Company
Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
Distribution Company
Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
Country
United States
Location
Los Angeles--Union Station, California, United States

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 23m
Sound
Mono (RCA Sound System)
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
7,453ft

Articles

Highway 301 -


Musical and light comedy specialist Andrew L. Stone turned to crime for Highway 301, the violent story of the real-life armed robbers known as The Tri-State Gang. Warner Bros wanted a follow-up to the James Cagney gangster hit White Heat that would showcase new star Steve Cochran, who was Jack Warner's idea of a guy women can't resist. Aiming for documentary realism, Stone filmed a prologue in which three state Governors address the camera. Yet the bulk of the picture is straight drama filmed on studio sets, with Los Angeles locations standing in for Virginia and Maryland. Cochran's tough outfit includes a young Richard Egan and Robert Webber in his first screen appearance. Along for the crime spree are Virginia Grey's seasoned gun moll and Gaby Andre's relative innocent. Cue magazine noted that the film teaches the lesson that crooks should stay away from girls, as that's what trips them up. The less-amused Bosley Crowther condemned the show's two robbery scenes and seven killings, one of them a brutal execution of a terrified woman, as "a straight exercise in low sadism." Cochran's criminal maniac is finally cornered when he invades a hospital to rub out a witness. Director Stone and his editor wife Virginia soon went independent for a series of highly realistic crime and suspense stories with sensational titles like The Night Holds Terror (1955) and The Decks Ran Red (1958). For their seagoing thriller The Last Voyage (1960) the Stones took realism to an extreme and partially sank an actual ocean liner. The filmmakers' judgment on credibility was usually correct. The studio rejected the early title "The Million Dollar Robbery" because they felt such a high figure was unbelievable. Then the famous Boston Brinks holdup occurred, which netted its thieves almost three million in cash and bonds!

By Glenn Erickson
Highway 301 -

Highway 301 -

Musical and light comedy specialist Andrew L. Stone turned to crime for Highway 301, the violent story of the real-life armed robbers known as The Tri-State Gang. Warner Bros wanted a follow-up to the James Cagney gangster hit White Heat that would showcase new star Steve Cochran, who was Jack Warner's idea of a guy women can't resist. Aiming for documentary realism, Stone filmed a prologue in which three state Governors address the camera. Yet the bulk of the picture is straight drama filmed on studio sets, with Los Angeles locations standing in for Virginia and Maryland. Cochran's tough outfit includes a young Richard Egan and Robert Webber in his first screen appearance. Along for the crime spree are Virginia Grey's seasoned gun moll and Gaby Andre's relative innocent. Cue magazine noted that the film teaches the lesson that crooks should stay away from girls, as that's what trips them up. The less-amused Bosley Crowther condemned the show's two robbery scenes and seven killings, one of them a brutal execution of a terrified woman, as "a straight exercise in low sadism." Cochran's criminal maniac is finally cornered when he invades a hospital to rub out a witness. Director Stone and his editor wife Virginia soon went independent for a series of highly realistic crime and suspense stories with sensational titles like The Night Holds Terror (1955) and The Decks Ran Red (1958). For their seagoing thriller The Last Voyage (1960) the Stones took realism to an extreme and partially sank an actual ocean liner. The filmmakers' judgment on credibility was usually correct. The studio rejected the early title "The Million Dollar Robbery" because they felt such a high figure was unbelievable. Then the famous Boston Brinks holdup occurred, which netted its thieves almost three million in cash and bonds! By Glenn Erickson

Quotes

Trivia

Notes

The film's working titles were The Tri-State Gang, Road Block, The One Million Dollar Bank Robbery, The Two Million Dollar Bank Robbery, and The Big Stickup. Andrew Stone's onscreen credit reads "Written and directed by." This film marked Gaby Andre's American film debut. The film is introduced by the governors of Maryland, William P. Lane; Virginia, John S. Battle; and North Carolina, W. Carr Scott, who attest to the factual basis of the film and emphasize that crime does not pay. The film uses a semi-documentary style. No credits appear until the end of the film and, as the Variety review notes, "Casting uses faces that are not too well established for most of the characters, sharpening documentary effect." Some scenes were shot on location at Union Station in Los Angeles.