Prison Without Bars


1h 18m 1939

Brief Synopsis

Suzanne, Renee, Nina and Marta all hate their prison and all the girls are trying to escape while Madame Appel just causes chaos throughout the whole film. The girls are used to being slapped and treated badly, so when Yvonne comes along and asks them to tell her their complaints, they don't believe her at first.

Film Details

Release Date
Mar 10, 1939
Premiere Information
London opening: 21 Sep 1938
Production Company
London Film Productions, Ltd.
Distribution Company
United Artists Corp.
Country
Great Britain and United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the unpublished German play Gesangnis ohne gitter by Gina Kaus (Berlin, 1936) and the French film Prison sans barreaux , adapted by Hans Wilhelm (Arnold Pressburger, Cipra, 1937).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 18m
Sound
Mono
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
8 reels

Synopsis

On a hill outside of Paris stands a girls' reformatory that is dominated by the tyrannical Madame Appel. One day, news arrives that another warden is to take over Appel's position. The girls receive the news with apathy, certain that the new warden will be just another hyena, but are pleasantly surprised when the young and idealistic Yvonne arrives. The girls find her sympathetic to their troubles and begin to tell their suggestions and complaints to her. With their cooperation, Yvonne makes revolutionary changes in the reformatory. Because of the antagonism of the other prison officials, Yvonne is obliged to hide the fact that she has long been engaged to the young prison doctor, George Marechal. The most interesting of the girls under sentence is young Suzanne, who is considered thoroughly incorrigible. Yvonne thinks differently and decides to give Suzanne a chance. Suzanne is made the doctor's assistant, and it is not long before they find themselves in love. The doctor, tired of waiting for Yvonne, decides to leave for a new post in India and instructs Suzanne to meet him there when she is released from the reformatory. Renee, another inmate, has seen the doctor kissing Suzanne in his office and uses this information to blackmail her. She forces Suzanne to steal cigarettes and alcohol from the offices, and late one night, she circulates these spoils among her prison friends. All the girls, except the terrified Suzanne, start a riot, wrecking the dormitory and arousing Yvonne and the other prison officials. In the questioning that follows the next day, Suzanne admits to stealing the alcohol but refuses to explain why for fear of hurting Yvonne. Renee, seeing that Suzanne's pardon will be rescinded, explains everything. Yvonne is shocked that she has lost her lover to the girl she has befriended but, convinced that Suzanne is not to blame, signs her pardon. Suzanne leaves the reformatory for a life of happiness with the man she loves, while Yvonne remains behind, realizing it is she who is the real prisoner.

Film Details

Release Date
Mar 10, 1939
Premiere Information
London opening: 21 Sep 1938
Production Company
London Film Productions, Ltd.
Distribution Company
United Artists Corp.
Country
Great Britain and United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the unpublished German play Gesangnis ohne gitter by Gina Kaus (Berlin, 1936) and the French film Prison sans barreaux , adapted by Hans Wilhelm (Arnold Pressburger, Cipra, 1937).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 18m
Sound
Mono
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
8 reels

Quotes

Trivia

Notes

Although the Variety review says that the film was based on a French play by E. [Egon] Eis, O. Eis, Gina Kaus and Hans Wilhelm, no information has been located on a French version of Kaus' German play. It is possible that the French version was never produced. According to an unidentified contemporary source, Alexander Korda purchased the remake and American distribution rights to the French film with the intention of withholding that film from the U.S. market so that he could remake an English version of the film starring the French actress Corinne Luchaire. Korda wanted to use the film to introduce Luchaire, who also appeared in the French version of the film, to an English speaking audience. According to an article in Time, in 1946, Luchaire was accused of having an affair with an Axis agent, and as a result, her French citizenry was revoked. The French film opened in Paris in March 1938. A news item in Hollywood Reporter notes that Brian Desmond Hurst replaced Maxwell Wray as director. Modern sources credit John Guthrie as assistant editor and Terence Young as production assistant.