Jan. 23, 2011
20. Caged (1950)
Starring Eleanor Parker, Agnes Moorehead, Ellen Corby, Hope Emerson, Betty Garde, Jan Sterling, Lee Patrick, Olive Deering, Jane Darwell, Gertrude Michael, Sheila Stevens
Directed by John Cromwell
Plot: “A naive nineteen year old widow becomes coarsened and cynical when she is sent to a woman’s prison and is exposed to hardened criminals and sadistic guards.” (from IMDb)
Despite looking older than nineteen, Eleanor Parker does a great job showing the slow break-down and hardening of her character. This is a grim, sad—and at times, deeply disturbing—film, but it is also a very solid one.The array of marvelous character actresses each play their parts flawlessly. I particularly enjoyed Jan Sterling as 'Smoochie'. The last film I had seen her in was Johnny Belinda, and she is quite different here—even adopting an accent. As the ‘villian’ of sorts, Hope Emerson perfectly nails the role of the cruel and crooked warden, who despite her evil nature is also rather humorous (in a black way). Such stellar performances, the realistic atmosphere, and very quotable dialogue kept me riveted to the screen. In my opinion, these are the factors that elevate this movie beyond a mere ‘camp’ status. ***SPOILERS*** It is hard to imagine that such things could happen as are depicted in the film. Were prisons really that bad that? Could someone like Marie be so falsely convicted? Were wardens actually that cruel? Since this film is based on actual undercover research in a women’s prison of the day, I think it is very probable. I can only imagine that if this film strikes me as sad and tragic today, how much stronger its impact must’ve been when it was first released.