Invisible Stripes


1h 22m 1939
Invisible Stripes

Brief Synopsis

On his release from prison, a crook tries to stop his brother from following in his footsteps.

Film Details

Genre
Drama
Adventure
Crime
Release Date
Dec 30, 1939
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
Distribution Company
Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
Country
United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the novel Invisible Stripes by Lewis E. Lawes (New York, 1938).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 22m
Sound
Mono (RCA Victor System)
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
9 reels

Synopsis

After being paroled from Sing Sing, Cliff Taylor returns home determined to go straight, despite the warnings from his cynical prison mate, Chuck Martin, that he will never shed his "invisible stripes." Chuck's prophesy seems to be coming true when Sue, Cliff's former sweetheart, rejects him because he is an ex-convict. Cliff's next disillusioning experience occurs when his younger brother Tim, embittered after struggling for years to save enough money to marry his fiancée Peggy, threatens to turn to crime. While Chuck returns to a lucrative life of crime, Cliff is fired from his job as a mechanic because of his record. Fired from his next job after he is heckled by the other men, Cliff is reduced to taking a job as a stockboy and finds acceptance in his work until he is arrested on suspicion of robbery after the store at which he is working is robbed. Although Cliff is exonerated of all charges, his experience hardens Tim, and to save his brother from the fate that he has suffered, Cliff joins Chuck's gang. After robbing enough banks to buy a garage for Tim, Cliff returns home to attend his brother's wedding. But when the gang is caught during their next robbery, Chuck takes refuge in Tim's garage, thus implicating Tim in the crime. After arranging to have all charges dropped against Tim in return for his identification of the robbers, Cliff goes to the aid of Chuck, who was wounded during the getaway. As Cliff helps Chuck to escape, he is gunned down by the gang members, but dies with the knowledge that he has spared his brother from a life of invisible stripes.

Film Details

Genre
Drama
Adventure
Crime
Release Date
Dec 30, 1939
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
Distribution Company
Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
Country
United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the novel Invisible Stripes by Lewis E. Lawes (New York, 1938).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 22m
Sound
Mono (RCA Victor System)
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
9 reels

Articles

Invisible Stripes


In 1932 Warner Bros. acquired the film rights to a popular book by Lewis E. Lawes, who had been the warden of Sing Sing Prison since 1920. The result was the 1932 film 20,000 Years in Sing Sing, directed by Michael Curtiz. The movie, starring Spencer Tracy, was partially filmed at the actual prison. The Lawes book was filmed again by Warner Bros. as the John Garfield vehicle Castle on the Hudson (1940). The studio also tapped into elements of the book for the movie Invisible Stripes (1939), but rather than focusing on prison life itself, this film follows two convicts who are paroled on the same day, as they reenter society with two very different goals in mind.

The parolees are Cliff Taylor (George Raft) and Chuck Martin (Humphrey Bogart). While Martin is anxious to take up his criminal life where it left off, Taylor plans to go straight - a promise he makes to the Warden (Moroni Olsen). Cliff is welcomed home by his mother (Flora Robson) and his younger brother Tim (William Holden). He is rejected, however, by his girl Sue (Margot Stevenson), who tells him, 'I could never marry an ex-con.' Tim is anxious to make quick money so that he can settle with his girlfriend Peggy (Jane Bryan), but Cliff has to beat some sense into him to keep him away from crime. Due to his invisible prison stripes, Cliff has trouble finding a good job and is even placed under suspicion when his place of employment is robbed. To provide a better life for his brother, he falls back in with Martin and his gang.

Director Lloyd Bacon keeps things moving between action scenes, and scriptwriter Warren Duff manages to interject a bit of the type of social and political commentary more typically found in earlier, harder-edged Warner films. In one scene, Cliff is finally offered a good-paying job, but it is under the assumption that he will spy on his fellow workers and report "unrest" to the factory boss. (Cliff justifiably socks the boss on the chin). In another sequence, Tim buys a flower for Peggy; as she stands on the corner, a fellow in a tuxedo steps out of an expensive car and, assuming Peggy is herself a flower girl, gives her a coin. This launches Tim into a rage and a subsequent rant on the class system: "I'd like to take that white neck of his in my hands; I'd like to rip off that stiff shirt and cram dirt down his mouth." Sadly, Peggy does little to soothe Tim's outrage when moments later she asks him, "Where would we go if we had a yacht?"

By the time Invisible Stripes was made, George Raft was attempting to veer away from the coin-flipping criminal type he had essayed so well in Scarface (1932) and other 1930s films, so the role of the good-hearted ex-con must have held a great appeal for the actor. Raft had already brought his Hell's Kitchen upbringing to his earlier tough-guy portrayals; he also happened to have some familiarity with ex-cons from Sing Sing. According to biographer Lewis Yablonsky, Raft had befriended various mobsters and hoods in his youth, and retained these friendships well into his performing days. One friend since childhood was Owney Madden, who served ten-to-twenty in Sing Sing after setting up a rival mobster in a shooting. Raft visited him several times in the penitentiary in the 1920s. Of the other members of the cast, it is worth noting that Paul Kelly, who played Bogart's fellow gangster Kruger, had himself served two years in San Quentin for manslaughter.

Invisible Stripes was the second major film appearance by William Holden, following his much-lauded leading role in the boxing picture Golden Boy (1939). His home studio, Paramount Pictures, loaned the young actor out to Warner Bros. for the film. In his biography George Raft, Yablonsky quotes Holden on working with Raft:

In one scene, I square off with George in a fight because I resent his help. When we did the scene I must have still been bobbing and weaving from my fight scenes in Golden Boy because my head hit George's eye. I remember, when I saw the blood, thinking, 'Christ, it's George Raft. Now I'm really going to get it.' Well, he was as nice as could be even though his wound needed several stitches later at the hospital. He really was my big brother, in and out of the movie. In fact, if he had not helped me, I might have been thrown out of the picture. However it began, the director, Lloyd Bacon, was always yelling at me. I couldn't seem to get anything right - my lines or my movements. It was Hell. Then George stepped in with the director and told him to go easy on me. The director finally lightened up on me because of George's insistence.

In another interesting bit of casting, distinguished British actress Flora Robson appears as the mother of the Taylor boys. Robson, who had just co-starred in William Wyler's Wuthering Heights (1939), was saddled in this film by some fairly mediocre old-age makeup - the actress was actually seven years younger than Raft. Robson and Raft have some effective scenes together, in particular one set at a company mixer where the two dance a mild jitterbug. Jane Bryan, the female lead in Invisible Stripes, had been a Warner contract player since her 1936 debut but made only one more film before she married millionaire Justin Dart, the owner of Rexall Drugs, and retired from acting.

Don't miss a nice in-joke as Raft spots Bogart and his girlfriend leaving a movie theater: the picture playing is the Warner Bros. programmer You Can't Get Away with Murder (1939), which starred Bogart as - what else - a hood who is sentenced to Sing Sing prison!

Producer: Hal B. Wallis, Louis F. Edelman
Director: Lloyd Bacon
Screenplay: Warren Duff, based on the book by Warden Lewis E. Lawes
Cinematography: Ernest Haller
Film Editing: James Gibbon
Music: Heinz Roemheld
Art Direction: Max Parker
Costume Design: Milo Anderson
Makeup: Perc Westmore
Cast: George Raft (Cliff Taylor), Jane Bryan (Peggy), William Holden (Tim Taylor), Humphrey Bogart (Chuck Martin), Flora Robson (Mrs. Taylor), Moroni Olsen (Warden), Henry O¿Neill (Parole Officer Masters), Paul Kelly (Ed Kruger), Lee Patrick (Molly Daniels).
BW-82m. Closed captioning.

by John M. Miller
Invisible Stripes

Invisible Stripes

In 1932 Warner Bros. acquired the film rights to a popular book by Lewis E. Lawes, who had been the warden of Sing Sing Prison since 1920. The result was the 1932 film 20,000 Years in Sing Sing, directed by Michael Curtiz. The movie, starring Spencer Tracy, was partially filmed at the actual prison. The Lawes book was filmed again by Warner Bros. as the John Garfield vehicle Castle on the Hudson (1940). The studio also tapped into elements of the book for the movie Invisible Stripes (1939), but rather than focusing on prison life itself, this film follows two convicts who are paroled on the same day, as they reenter society with two very different goals in mind. The parolees are Cliff Taylor (George Raft) and Chuck Martin (Humphrey Bogart). While Martin is anxious to take up his criminal life where it left off, Taylor plans to go straight - a promise he makes to the Warden (Moroni Olsen). Cliff is welcomed home by his mother (Flora Robson) and his younger brother Tim (William Holden). He is rejected, however, by his girl Sue (Margot Stevenson), who tells him, 'I could never marry an ex-con.' Tim is anxious to make quick money so that he can settle with his girlfriend Peggy (Jane Bryan), but Cliff has to beat some sense into him to keep him away from crime. Due to his invisible prison stripes, Cliff has trouble finding a good job and is even placed under suspicion when his place of employment is robbed. To provide a better life for his brother, he falls back in with Martin and his gang. Director Lloyd Bacon keeps things moving between action scenes, and scriptwriter Warren Duff manages to interject a bit of the type of social and political commentary more typically found in earlier, harder-edged Warner films. In one scene, Cliff is finally offered a good-paying job, but it is under the assumption that he will spy on his fellow workers and report "unrest" to the factory boss. (Cliff justifiably socks the boss on the chin). In another sequence, Tim buys a flower for Peggy; as she stands on the corner, a fellow in a tuxedo steps out of an expensive car and, assuming Peggy is herself a flower girl, gives her a coin. This launches Tim into a rage and a subsequent rant on the class system: "I'd like to take that white neck of his in my hands; I'd like to rip off that stiff shirt and cram dirt down his mouth." Sadly, Peggy does little to soothe Tim's outrage when moments later she asks him, "Where would we go if we had a yacht?" By the time Invisible Stripes was made, George Raft was attempting to veer away from the coin-flipping criminal type he had essayed so well in Scarface (1932) and other 1930s films, so the role of the good-hearted ex-con must have held a great appeal for the actor. Raft had already brought his Hell's Kitchen upbringing to his earlier tough-guy portrayals; he also happened to have some familiarity with ex-cons from Sing Sing. According to biographer Lewis Yablonsky, Raft had befriended various mobsters and hoods in his youth, and retained these friendships well into his performing days. One friend since childhood was Owney Madden, who served ten-to-twenty in Sing Sing after setting up a rival mobster in a shooting. Raft visited him several times in the penitentiary in the 1920s. Of the other members of the cast, it is worth noting that Paul Kelly, who played Bogart's fellow gangster Kruger, had himself served two years in San Quentin for manslaughter. Invisible Stripes was the second major film appearance by William Holden, following his much-lauded leading role in the boxing picture Golden Boy (1939). His home studio, Paramount Pictures, loaned the young actor out to Warner Bros. for the film. In his biography George Raft, Yablonsky quotes Holden on working with Raft: In one scene, I square off with George in a fight because I resent his help. When we did the scene I must have still been bobbing and weaving from my fight scenes in Golden Boy because my head hit George's eye. I remember, when I saw the blood, thinking, 'Christ, it's George Raft. Now I'm really going to get it.' Well, he was as nice as could be even though his wound needed several stitches later at the hospital. He really was my big brother, in and out of the movie. In fact, if he had not helped me, I might have been thrown out of the picture. However it began, the director, Lloyd Bacon, was always yelling at me. I couldn't seem to get anything right - my lines or my movements. It was Hell. Then George stepped in with the director and told him to go easy on me. The director finally lightened up on me because of George's insistence. In another interesting bit of casting, distinguished British actress Flora Robson appears as the mother of the Taylor boys. Robson, who had just co-starred in William Wyler's Wuthering Heights (1939), was saddled in this film by some fairly mediocre old-age makeup - the actress was actually seven years younger than Raft. Robson and Raft have some effective scenes together, in particular one set at a company mixer where the two dance a mild jitterbug. Jane Bryan, the female lead in Invisible Stripes, had been a Warner contract player since her 1936 debut but made only one more film before she married millionaire Justin Dart, the owner of Rexall Drugs, and retired from acting. Don't miss a nice in-joke as Raft spots Bogart and his girlfriend leaving a movie theater: the picture playing is the Warner Bros. programmer You Can't Get Away with Murder (1939), which starred Bogart as - what else - a hood who is sentenced to Sing Sing prison! Producer: Hal B. Wallis, Louis F. Edelman Director: Lloyd Bacon Screenplay: Warren Duff, based on the book by Warden Lewis E. Lawes Cinematography: Ernest Haller Film Editing: James Gibbon Music: Heinz Roemheld Art Direction: Max Parker Costume Design: Milo Anderson Makeup: Perc Westmore Cast: George Raft (Cliff Taylor), Jane Bryan (Peggy), William Holden (Tim Taylor), Humphrey Bogart (Chuck Martin), Flora Robson (Mrs. Taylor), Moroni Olsen (Warden), Henry O¿Neill (Parole Officer Masters), Paul Kelly (Ed Kruger), Lee Patrick (Molly Daniels). BW-82m. Closed captioning. by John M. Miller

Marc Lawrence (1910-2005)


With his sharp glare, pockmarked cheeks, clipped speech pattern and menacing air, Marc Lawrence had certainly carved a reputation for himself as one of the screen's finest character actors for villainous roles. Lawrence, whose career was harmed by the Hollywood blacklist in the '50s, died of natural causes on November 27 at his home in Palm Springs. He was 95.

Born Max Goldsmith on February 17, 1910, in the Bronx, Lawrence had his heart set on a career in drama right out of high school. He enrolled at City College of New York to study theatre, and in 1930, he worked under famed stage actress Eva Le Gallienne. Anxious for a career in movies, Lawrence moved to Hollywood in 1932 and found work immediately as a contract player with Warner Bros. (an ideal studio for the actor since they specialized in crime dramas). He was cast as a heavy in his first film, If I Had a Million (1932). Although his first few parts were uncredited, Lawrence's roles grew more prominent: a sinister henchman in the Paul Muni vehicle in Dr. Socrates (1935); a conniving convict aiding Pat O'Brien in San Quentin (1937); a menacing thug stalking Dorothy Lamour in Johnny Apollo (1940); the shrewdly observant chauffeur in Alan Ladd's breakthrough hit This Gun For Hire (1942); and one of his most memorable roles as Ziggy, a fedora wearing mobster in the Bogart-Bacall noir classic Key Largo (1948).

Lawrence, when given the opportunity, could play against type: as the prosecuting attorney challenging Tyrone Power in Brigham Young (1940); a noble aristocrat in the Greer Garson-Walter Pidgeon period opus Blossoms in the Dust; and most impressively, as a deaf mute simpleton in the rustic drama The Shepherd of the Hills (both 1941). Better still was Lawrence's skill at comedy, where his deadpan toughness worked terrifically as a straight man against the likes of Joe E. Brown in Beware Spooks (1939); Abbott and Costello in Hit the Ice (1943); Penny Singleton in Life with Blondie (1945); and Bob Hope in My Favorite Spy (1951).

After that, Lawrence's career took a turn downward spin when he was labeled a communist sympathizer during the Hollywood witch hunts of the early '50s. He was exiled in Europe for a spell (1951-59), and when he came back, the film industry turned a blind eye to him, but television overcompensated for that. Here he played effective villains (what else?) in a series of crime caper programs: Peter Gunn, Johnny Staccato, The Untouchables, Richard Diamond, Private Detective; and eventually made a welcome return to the big screen as a returning exiled gangster in William Asher's underrated mob thriller Johnny Cool (1963).

It wasn't long before Lawrence found himself back in the fray playing in some big box-office hits over the next two decades: Diamonds Are Forever (1971), The Man with the Golden Gun (1974), Marathon Man (1976), Foul Play (1978); and The Big Easy (1987). Sure he was cast as a gangster, but nobody could play a rough and tumble mob boss with more style or conviction.

Interestingly, one of his finest performances in recent years was in television, as a severely ill old man unwilling to accept his fate in a fourth season episode of ER (1997-98). His last screen role was just two years ago, as a nimble minded VP in Looney Tunes: Back in Action (2003).

In 1991, Lawrence published a memoir about his venerable career, Long Time No See: Confessions of a Hollywood Gangster that received much critical acclaim. He has also developed a cult following due to his appearances in such offbeat items as From Dusk to Dawn and Pigs aka Daddy's Deadly Darling, the 1972 horror film he directed and starred in with his daughter Toni. He is survived by his wife, Alicia; two children from a previous marriage, Toni and Michael; and a stepdaughter Marina.

by Michael T. Toole

Marc Lawrence (1910-2005)

With his sharp glare, pockmarked cheeks, clipped speech pattern and menacing air, Marc Lawrence had certainly carved a reputation for himself as one of the screen's finest character actors for villainous roles. Lawrence, whose career was harmed by the Hollywood blacklist in the '50s, died of natural causes on November 27 at his home in Palm Springs. He was 95. Born Max Goldsmith on February 17, 1910, in the Bronx, Lawrence had his heart set on a career in drama right out of high school. He enrolled at City College of New York to study theatre, and in 1930, he worked under famed stage actress Eva Le Gallienne. Anxious for a career in movies, Lawrence moved to Hollywood in 1932 and found work immediately as a contract player with Warner Bros. (an ideal studio for the actor since they specialized in crime dramas). He was cast as a heavy in his first film, If I Had a Million (1932). Although his first few parts were uncredited, Lawrence's roles grew more prominent: a sinister henchman in the Paul Muni vehicle in Dr. Socrates (1935); a conniving convict aiding Pat O'Brien in San Quentin (1937); a menacing thug stalking Dorothy Lamour in Johnny Apollo (1940); the shrewdly observant chauffeur in Alan Ladd's breakthrough hit This Gun For Hire (1942); and one of his most memorable roles as Ziggy, a fedora wearing mobster in the Bogart-Bacall noir classic Key Largo (1948). Lawrence, when given the opportunity, could play against type: as the prosecuting attorney challenging Tyrone Power in Brigham Young (1940); a noble aristocrat in the Greer Garson-Walter Pidgeon period opus Blossoms in the Dust; and most impressively, as a deaf mute simpleton in the rustic drama The Shepherd of the Hills (both 1941). Better still was Lawrence's skill at comedy, where his deadpan toughness worked terrifically as a straight man against the likes of Joe E. Brown in Beware Spooks (1939); Abbott and Costello in Hit the Ice (1943); Penny Singleton in Life with Blondie (1945); and Bob Hope in My Favorite Spy (1951). After that, Lawrence's career took a turn downward spin when he was labeled a communist sympathizer during the Hollywood witch hunts of the early '50s. He was exiled in Europe for a spell (1951-59), and when he came back, the film industry turned a blind eye to him, but television overcompensated for that. Here he played effective villains (what else?) in a series of crime caper programs: Peter Gunn, Johnny Staccato, The Untouchables, Richard Diamond, Private Detective; and eventually made a welcome return to the big screen as a returning exiled gangster in William Asher's underrated mob thriller Johnny Cool (1963). It wasn't long before Lawrence found himself back in the fray playing in some big box-office hits over the next two decades: Diamonds Are Forever (1971), The Man with the Golden Gun (1974), Marathon Man (1976), Foul Play (1978); and The Big Easy (1987). Sure he was cast as a gangster, but nobody could play a rough and tumble mob boss with more style or conviction. Interestingly, one of his finest performances in recent years was in television, as a severely ill old man unwilling to accept his fate in a fourth season episode of ER (1997-98). His last screen role was just two years ago, as a nimble minded VP in Looney Tunes: Back in Action (2003). In 1991, Lawrence published a memoir about his venerable career, Long Time No See: Confessions of a Hollywood Gangster that received much critical acclaim. He has also developed a cult following due to his appearances in such offbeat items as From Dusk to Dawn and Pigs aka Daddy's Deadly Darling, the 1972 horror film he directed and starred in with his daughter Toni. He is survived by his wife, Alicia; two children from a previous marriage, Toni and Michael; and a stepdaughter Marina. by Michael T. Toole

Quotes

Trivia

Flora Robson was actually 6 years younger than George Raft, but played his mother.

Notes

According to a news item in Hollywood Reporter, Lewis E. Lawes's novel was originally bought as a vehicle for James Cagney and John Garfield. A pre-production news item in Hollywood Reporter notes that Humphrey Bogart replaced Cagney so that Cagney could take a vacation. Another news item in Hollywood Reporter adds that William Holden was borrowed from Paramount to appear in this film. Flora Robson, the English actress who played George Raft's mother in the film, was actually 6 years younger than Raft.

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States 1940

Released in United States 1940