Cagney was Warners' first choice for Tommy Connors, the 'tough bird' who eventually goes to the electric chair with a touch of cool resignation. Tracy, however, is suitably gritty in this taut but somewhat implausible moral drama which puts its protagonist through riots, solitary confinement and an escape before he realises that the warden (Byron) is a 'swell guy' deserving his trust. Connors' girl Bette Davis rather overdoes the acid tongue, but the quasi-documentary scenes of prison life are compelling. Based on a book by Sing Sing's liberal warden Lewis E Lawes who believed in rewarding good behaviour and facilitated location shooting inside the walls of the New York prison.
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