House of Women (1962): Crane Wilbur’s Female-Driven Crime Melodrama, Starring Oscar Nominee Shirley Knight, Constance Ford, Barbara Nichols

Blast from the Past

Crane Wilbur directed House of Women, crime melodrama, starring Shirley Knight and mostly female cast.

House of Women
Ladies of the Mob


Walter Doniger, who was hired to direct the film, was fired and replaced by Wilbur 10 days into shooting.

Narrative Structure

Erica Hayden (Knight), a young expectant mother wrongly implicated in a crime, is and sent to prison for 5 years.

Erica must find a guardian for her daughter, or else she will become a ward of the state.

Meanwhile, Frank Cole, the warden, becomes infatuated with Erica and effectively blocks her chances for parole.

When another inmate’s child dies, the woman becomes deranged.

In the (not-too-realistic) happy ending, Erica prevents a tragedy, earning the right to be freed with her daughter, and Warden Cole’s unethical methods come to light.

Shirley Knight enjoyed the best phase of her career in 1962, a year in which she appeared opposite Paul Newman in Sweet Bird of Youth, for which she earned her second consecutive Best Supporting Actress nomination.


Shirley Knight as Erica Hayden
Andrew Duggan as Warden Frank Cole
Constance Ford as Sophie Brice
Barbara Nichols as Candy Kane
Margaret Hayes as Zoe Stoughton
Jeanne Cooper as Helen Jennings
Virginia Gregg as Mrs. Hunter
Patricia Huston as Doris
Jason Evers as Dr. F.M. Conrad
Jennifer Howard as Addie Gates
Caroline Richter as Clemens
Gayla Graves as Jackie
Colette Jackson as Aggie
Jacqueline Scott as Mrs. Stevens
Paul Lambert as Richard Dunn
Lyle Latell as Sam


Directed by Walter Doniger, Crane Wilbur
Written by Crane Wilbur
Produced by Bryan Foy
Cinematography Harold E. Stine
Edited by Leo H. Shreve
Music by Howard Jackson

Production company: Bryan Foy Productions

Distributed by Warner Bros

Release date: April 11, 1962

Running time: 85 min