This has to be the most unrealistic and white washed prison biopics ever. It’s presented as the story of San Quentin Warden Clinton T. Duffy. According to this he will surely be elevated to sainthood and should have been the yearly winner of the Nobel Peace Prize. If he ever gets a headache it’s probably because his halo is on too tight. Overall Duffy spent fifty years at San Quentin. His father was a prison guard and he was a bookkeeper….and then:
The prion board is waiting another thirty days for a new Warden to come in. In the interim, Boyd (Jonathan Hale) of the board asks Duffy to take the job for thirty days. He hesitates but his wife Gladys (Maureen O’Sullivan) tells him to take it. He starts changing things right away. He gets rid of the stoolie system and starts getting rid of abusive guards. He wants to fire head guard Pierson (Horace McMahon) but he can’t do it without cause.
His project is reforming prisoner Edward “Romeo” Harper (Louis Hayward). Harper says D.A. John Winant, fixed it so a witness would disappear and Harper get convicted for something he didn’t do. Duffy gets Harper out of solitary and finds that he’s highly educated. The problem of Pierson is soon resolved when Pierson’s plan to get rid of Duffy by complaining to the board about the abolishment of the stoolie system backfires.
Harper is assigned to the hospital and joins Doc Sorin, Bill Lake and Frank Roberts as male nurses. Then Duffy decides to bring in a woman. She’s Anne Halsey (Joanne Dru). The movie continues to get even more unbelievable. Harper writes love letters for Frank to send to his wife of one night. Later as a joke Harper sends romantic letters to Anne but doesn’t sign his name.
One night Anne assigns Harper to give shots to two prisoners. She separates the needles so he doesn’t mix them up. Harper gets a bottle marked pure alcohol and downs it. Of course he mixes up the needles. Anne tells Harper to quickly call the doctor but he’s too drunk to dial the phone. When the dust settles Anne finds a letter Harper wrote to her while he was blasted that reveals how he really feels about her. Nothing better for romance that a prison infirmary. He earned his nickname of Romeo.
Anne takes the blame for the mix up and Duffy fires her. Harper comes out of his hangover and confesses and Anne gets her job back. Nice to know that a woman in a nurse’s uniform can walk around a prison of over five thousand men without a guard and not even get a whistle.
Now we get some drama. Ambitious D.A. John Winant (George MacReady) gets convicted for bribery and Duffy has a new guest. He puts him in a cell with Harper. From here on out things get even dumber. This movie really is an insult to the intelligence. Don’t even think about wasting time with it.