Ex-Army officer Jameson takes a job a prison guard at San Quentin. Joe, the brother of his new girlfriend May, is sentenced to the prison for robbery. When Jameson tries to separate lawbreakers from hardened criminals, badguy Hansen tries to stir up trouble by telling Joe about Jameson\'s interest in his sister.
Pat O\'Brien ... Captain Stephen \'Steve\' Jameson
Humphrey Bogart ... Joe \'Red\' Kennedy
Ann Sheridan ... May Kennedy, aka Mae De Villiers
Barton MacLane ... Lieutenant Druggin
Joe Sawyer ... Carl G. \'Sailor Boy\' Hanson (as Joseph Sawyer)
James Robbins ... Convict Mickey Callahan
Veda Ann Borg ... Helen
Joe King ... Warden Taylor (as Joseph King)
Gordon Oliver ... Army Captain
Emmett Vogan ... Army Lieutenant
Garry Owen ... Dopey Rogers
Marc Lawrence ... Venetti
Max Wagner ... Prison Runner
This is one of those odd situations where the actors were some big names and decent in their performances, and the story wasn\'t bad....yet there wasn\'t much appeal to it, either. Only the action scene in the last 10-15 minutes provided any spark to this film which was too flat, for the most part.
The story was about a new guy in charge of the San Quentin prison yard who was going to be humane and make things work. Pat O\'Brien plays that guy, \"Capt. Steve Jameson.\" The previous man in charge is a nasty, corrupt bird named \"Lt. Druggin,\" who Barton MacLane plays effectively well.
In the meantime we have the featured crook, \"Red Kennedy,\" played by Humphrey Bogart, who almost always played villains in his 1930 films, and we have his sister \"May\" played by Ann Sheridan. O\'Brien has the hots for her and promises to be fair to her brother. \"Red,\" however, is too paranoid and stupid to appreciate what\'s done for him and that\'s when we get to the interesting finale to the film.
Overall, not bad but not worth watching a second time. At 70 minutes, at least it didn\'t overstay its welcome.
They\'ve got a new captain of the guards coming to San Quentin in Pat O\'Brien. Barton MacLane who held the job previously is demoted and is in a foul mood.
A couple of new prisoners are arriving as well. Joe Sawyer as a hardened criminal and Humphrey Bogart who O\'Brien believes is salvageable. O\'Brien also meets up with Bogey\'s sister, Ann Sheridan and they get to kanoodling.
Each for their own motives, Sawyer and MacLane play Iago to Bogey\'s inner Othello and Bogey and Sawyer crash out of San Quentin.
Back in the day Warner Brothers was the great working class studio, with many a film of social significance. San Quentin is one of these, but it\'s hardly the best one. I\'m at a loss to see why O\'Brien thinks Bogart is so salvageable other than his involvement with his sister.
Joe Sawyer has one of his best film parts in San Quentin. He\'s a hardened criminal and that\'s all there is to it. He played a similar role vis a vis Bogart in Black Legion which is a much better film.
Also Garry Owen has a nice turn as a stir crazy convict who O\'Brien has to face down and disarm.
Dedicated fans of Humphrey Bogart will like this film, others can take it or leave it.
\"San Quentin\" as the name implies is a trim little prison movie (it runs a scant 70 minutes) from Director Lloyd Bacon and Warner Brothers.
Ex Army Captain Steve Jameson (Pat O\'Brien) takes a job as Captain of the Yard of San Quentin prison replacing acting Captain Druggin (Barton MacLane) whose handling of the prisoners was questioned by Warden Taylor (Joseph King).
Before taking up his duties, Jameson meets singer May Kennedy (Ann Sheridan) in a nightclub and the two become attracted to each other. May\'s brother \"Red\" Kennedy (Humphrey Bogart) is on the lam and comes to her for money but is arrested at the club in front of Jameson. Guess which prison Red will be sent to.
Jameson takes up his duties and vows to instill discipline and respect in the prisoners. Meanwhile Red turns up at the prison in the company of hard timer Sailor Boy Hansen (Joe Sawyer). Hansen plots an escape and asks Red to go along.
Meanwhile Jameson begins to make progress in Red\'s rehabilitation to the point of where Red is refusing to go along with Hansen\'s escape plan. However the envious Druggin learns from the prison fink (Ernie Adams) of the planned escape. He arranges Hansen\'s assignment to the road gang along with Red. One night the fink lets it slip that Jameson is \"taking advantage\" of Red\'s sister May. Red becomes enraged and decides to go along with Hansen and....................
An oddity in the casting has Bogey playing Ann Sheridan\'s younger 25 year old brother. In fact Bogey was some 15 years older than Sheridan, although to both of their credits, they manage to pull it off. Pat O\'Brien was born to play authority figures and does his usual excellent job here. Bogey for once, gets to play a character far removed from his usual one dimensional gangster portrayals, and proves his range as an actor.
Others in the cast include Garry Owen as Dopey the preacher, Veda Ann Borg as Helen, Hansen\'s moll and James Robbins, Marc Lawrence, William Pawley and Al Hill as various convicts.
Another of Warners long list of 30s gangster/prison classics.
Warner Brothers got a lot of mileage out of films offering social commentary and reflecting on the ills of society in the 1930\'s and \'40\'s. \"San Quentin\" is their take on the drudgery of the prison system and how one man hopes to bring self respect to that class of inmates that wants to go straight.
I don\'t know how accurate the set up for the film might be. Army Officer Steve Jamieson (Pat O\'Brien) is on leave from the Army for a special assignment as Yard Captain at San Quentin State Prison. He\'s replacing the interim boss Lt. Druggin (Barton MacLane), who\'s manner is the typical caricature one envisions of a tough prison guard. Druggin stews over his demotion as Jamieson tries to balance toughness with compassion, giving the prisoners a break when it\'s deserved.
The thorn in Jamieson\'s side will be Joe \"Red\" Kennedy (Humphrey Bogart), a petty criminal who winds up in the big house after his last job. Complicating matters is Joe\'s sister Mae (Ann Sheridan), who\'s budding romance with Jamieson winds up distorting the perception of the other inmates, who feel Joe is receiving special treatment. Taking advantage of the situation is convict Sailor Boy Hanson (Joe Sawyer), arriving at San Quentin with Joe at the same time. When Hanson plans his breakout, he wants Joe by his side, having earned Hanson\'s respect when the two got into a tussle some time earlier.
The blustery Druggin sees an opportunity to take Jamieson down a peg when he\'s tipped off about the breakout by another convict. Assigning Hanson to an outside yard detail allows Sailor Boy to plan an escape with the help of his girl friend (Veda Ann Borg). Things go badly though, as Hanson grabs Druggin hostage during the escape, and both lose their lives in unrelated mishaps. A passing train offers Joe a handy getaway, and he high tails it back to Mae\'s place to seek refuge. Too late Joe realizes that maybe Jamieson was on the level; forcing his way back to San Quentin with a bullet in his gut, Bogey gets to crack wise one last time, but it comes out a bit corny - \"Tell the cons to play ball with him, he\'s swell.\"
The trio of Humphrey Bogart, Pat O\'Brien and Ann Sheridan would wind up making three films together. Their first was 1937\'s \"The Great O\'Malley\", followed by \"San Quentin\", winding up together again in the following year\'s \"Angels With Dirty Faces\", where they would take supporting roles to James Cagney and the Dead End Kids. The first two don\'t seem to be commercially available, so you\'ll have to catch them in a venue like Turner Classic Movies or seek them through private collectors. Though not their best efforts, the films are worth seeing for their portrayals of life in a bygone era, when life was simpler but just as complicated at the same time.