My Six Convicts. 1952. USA. Directed by Hugo Fregonese. Screenplay by Michael Blankfort, from a book by Donald Powell Wilson. With Millard Mitchell, Gilbert Roland, John Beal, Marshall Tompson, Alf Kjellin. 35mm. 104 min.
Perhaps Fregonese’s most conventional film, and the only one for which he received any professional recognition (he was nominated for the Directors Guild of America Award for Outstanding Direction, and lost to John Ford). The director’s usual fascination with prison and imprisonment, literal and figurative, here gets a do-gooder makeover from producer Stanley Kramer, emerging as something rather cheerful and cozy. Idealistic young prison psychologist John Beal at first gets a hostile reception from guards and inmates alike; but once he makes friends with a scene-stealing Millard Mitchell (The Naked Spur), the prison’s slyest fixer, it’s all uphill. The film was shot mostly on location at San Quentin State Prison, to which Fregonese would return for Black Tuesday.