San Quentin (1937): Bacon’s Prison Drama, Starring Pat O’Brien, Humphrey Bogart and Ann Sheridan

San Quentin is a powerful prison drama, directed by Lloyd Bacon and starring Pat O’Brien, Humphrey Bogart and Ann Sheridan.

San Quentin
San Quentin FilmPoster.jpeg

It was shot on location at San Quentin State Prison.

Pat O’Brien plays ex-Army officer Steve Jameson, who becomes the chief guard at San Quentin State Prison. Jameson gets acquainted with Mae Kennedy (Ann Sheridan), a singer in a San-Francisco night club. Meanwhile, Red Kennedy, her brother (Humphrey Bogart), running from the police, is arrested at the nightclub when he visits her.

Red Kennedy arrives in San Quentin a few days later with another new inmate, “Sailor Boy” Hansen (Joe Sawyer). After a fight with Sailor in the courtyard on his first day, he meets Jameson, the new “Captain of the Yard.”

Mae begins a romantic relationship with Jameson, and soon finds out that he is the leading officer of the prison, in charge of the prisoners.

Selected with Red to work outside the prison in a “road gang” constructing a new road, Sailor makes a plan to break out. At first Red refuses to join him, but later he changes his mind.

Sailor’s girlfriend arrives in a car to the site where the inmates work and simulates a flat tire. Assigned by a guard to change the tire, Sailor takes the tools and two hidden guns from the tool box. After menacing the guard with the guns, they take him as a hostage and flee.

A wild car pursuit with the police follows, and Sailor’s car crashes, causing his death. Red survives the crash and escapes to Mae’s flat, but Jameson is already there.

After an argument, Red shoots Jameson and flees. Though shot by police patrol, he gathers strength to get back to jail, where he dies at its gates.

Pat O’Brien as Capt. Stephen Jameson
Humphrey Bogart as Joe ‘Red’ Kennedy
Ann Sheridan as Mae Kennedy
Barton MacLane as Lt. Druggin
Joe Sawyer as ‘Sailor Boy’ Hansen
Veda Ann Borg as Helen
Archie Robbins as Mickey Callahan
Joe King as Warden Taylor
Gordon Oliver as Captain
Garry Owen as Dopey
Marc Lawrence as Venetti
Emmett Vogan as Lieutenant
William Pawley as Convict
Al Hill as Convict
Max Wagner as Prison Runner

Directed by Lloyd Bacon
Produced by Jack L. Warner, Hal Wallis, Samuel Bischoff
Written by Robert Tasker, John Bright
Screenplay by Peter Milne, Humphrey Cobb, Charles Belden, Laird Doyle, Seton I. Miller, Tom Reed
Music by Leo Forbstein
Cinematography Sidney Hickox
Edited by William Holmes
Distributed by Warner Bros.

Release date: August 7, 1937

Running time: 70 minutes


TCM showed the movie on November 17, 2020.