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Road Gang

Road Gang(1936)

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teaser Road Gang (1936)

Warner Bros. promoted Dalton Trumbo from reader to screenwriter with this prison-camp expos. The attack on political corruption and unfair prison conditions were in line with Trumbo's political sympathies (the writer would become part of the Hollywood Ten), but the film's failure to identify the state whose corruption is being exposed tends to blunt the message. Nonetheless, the film provides a nice workout for the cast, with Donald Woods as an enterprising reporter whose articles on corruption raise the ire of politicians Joe King and Henry O'Neill (in an uncharacteristic villainous role). They get him arrested on trumped-up charges leading to five years of hard labor. When Woods tries to smuggle out a story on the prison through fiance Kay Linaker (who just happens to be O'Neill's daughter), it gets him assigned to an unsafe mine with little hope for survival. In addition to O'Neill, the film features other noted character actors like Joseph Crehan as Woods' crusading editor, Edward Van Sloan as a crooked lawyer, Olin Howland as a sympathetic prison doctor and Charles Middleton as the sadistic warden in charge of the mine. As Kate Phillips, leading lady Linaker would later co-write the screenplay for The Blob (1958).

By Frank Miller

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