Cast & Crew
Lewis D. Collins
Juvenile Court Judge Griffin sentences young boys William Kohlman, a repeat offender, and Fibber Regan, a pathological liar, to the Garfield State School, which is managed by Arnold Frayne, a sadistic superintendent. Frayne is opposed by Dr. Homer Blakely, the school physician, and Dr. Adele Webster, a psychiatrist, who are unhappy with his record and his most recent decision to send Pinkey Leonard to the "cooler." When a boy is killed trying to escape the school, newspapers print the story, prompting Governor Spaulding to dismiss Frayne and appoint Robert Deane, assistant warden of the state penitentiary, to his post. Deane proves to be a hard-boiled but effective superintendent, handling a prison riot in a proper manner, and punishing Mac Grady, a cruel guard, for forcing Fibber to eat soap. While Deane begins to earn the respect of the boys, Grady takes a job at the Juvenile Court, intent on taking revenge on Deane. He begins by sentencing tough boy Louie Miller, who is meant to go to an institution for incorrigibles, to Garfield, where he tries to involve Pinkey in an escape. Pinkey refuses to join him, and when he sees Fibber and Louie trying to flee, he decides to stop them. Pinkey is knocked out in the struggle, and when he regains consciousness, he accidentally stumbles into a patch of quicksand. Pinkey is rescued by Deane and other school officials and taken back to Garfield, where he is unfairly accused of attempting to escape. When the governor reads a newspaper story claiming that the school's honor system has failed, he calls Deane to his office and they listen to Fibber and Fibber's mother tell lies about the conditions at Garfield. After questioning Fibber, the governor learns that Grady was responsible for the escape, and has him arrested on charges of doctoring Louie's commitment papers. With the governor's faith in his work restored, Deane returns to his post at the school and apologizes to Pinkey for accusing him unjustly.
Lewis D. Collins
Working titles for this film were Orphans of the Law, Reform School and Prison Without Walls. A letter contained in the file for the film in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library indicates that in February 1938, the PCA urged producer Larry Darmour to eliminate the "showing of unnecessary brutality towards the young boys," and the depiction of the press as being under the control of political organization. The PCA also suggested that it "be clearly established that the Governor is not in league with the crooked politicians." The film was rejected by censors in Japan, Sweden and Australia.