John Cromwell – Caged (1950)


Caged, considered the best woman’s prison film ever made, represents a union between realistic socially conscious drama and the more stylized world of film noir. Marie, (Eleanor Parker), is sentenced to prison for helping her husband in a small robbery. The prison is run by the sadistic matron Evelyn (Hope Emerson) who is secure in her position due to corrupt political influence. The film shows Marie’s slow disillusionment with society and her eventual decision to become a prostitute in order to gain parole after observing her friend and fellow inmate Kitty (Betty Garde) lose her sanity and murder their oppressor Evelyn. With this uncompromisingly pessimistic statement on human nature, John Cromwell reaches his peak as a director. Under his expert direction, Eleanor Parker gives the best performance of her career and creates a convincing metamorphosis from a innocent young girl to a hardened criminal. Her performance is nuanced, low-keyed and emotionally charged. Equally impressive is Cromwell’s visual realization of the claustrophobia of prison life, aided by the high-contrast photography of Carl Guthrie. This excellent, grim drama is uncompromising in its refusal to sentimentalize the plight of Marie as a victim or to absolve her of her role in her fate, nor does it absolve society as it shows the results of desperation and brutalization on human dignity. — Linda Rasmussen Continue reading

John Cromwell – Jalna (1935)


In this adaptation of author de la Roche’s chronicle of the passionate lives of the strange Whiteoaks of Jalna, their beautiful family estate located in souther Ontario. The story begins as a young Whiteoak, a novelist travels to New York where he encounters a charming woman, marries her, and takes her back to Jalna. There she encounters many difficulties as she attempts to adjust to life with his odd family. It does not help that several soap-operatic events transpired while he was gone when his brother married the illegitimate daughter of a despised neighbor. One day a “sexy dame” suddenly shows up on the family porch. Soon she and the novelist are trysting away, but before he can consummate their affair he is killed during a terrible fall. The new widow then realizes that it is a different brother that she loves. They soon marry. ~ Sandra Brennan, All Movie Guide Continue reading

John Cromwell – Abe Lincoln in Illinois (1940)



Among the most masterful matchups of actor and role in screen history is this stirring film of Robert E. Sherwood’s beloved play taking a thoroughly human look at the early years of our 16th President, with all his frailties and strength of character. Best Actor Oscar nominee* Raymond Massey (who originated the role on stage) wonderfully plays the future Great Emancipator in a chronicle of his backwoods childhood through his first romance with Ann Rutledge (Mary Howard) to his phenomenal rise to President Elect, besting the great orator Stephen Douglas (Gene Lockhart). Ruth Gordon also does memorable work as driven, ambitious Mary Todd Lincoln, whose vision of Abe’s leadership destiny will not be denied by anyone – including her often reticent husband. There’s also no denying the enduring emotional power of this simple, magnificent movie. From Warner Brothers! Continue reading