Outside the Law (1930)

76 mins | Melodrama | 18 September 1930

Director:

Tod Browning

Cinematographer:

Roy F. Overbaugh

Editor:

Milton Carruth

Production Designer:

W. R. Schmitt

Production Company:

Universal Pictures Corp.
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HISTORY

Outside the Law was a sound remake of a 1920 silent film (see entry) that producer-director Tod Browning made for Universal Pictures, starring Lon Chaney. Chaney, who had recently remade another of his silent films, The Unholy Three (1925, see entry), was too ill from throat cancer to reprise his role in Outside the Law, and died 26 Aug 1930.
       All character names from the 1920 version were changed. For example, “Cobra” was originally “’Black Mike’ Sylva,” and “Connie” was “Molly Madden.” Also, Chaney’s Black Mike had a Chinese alter ego named “Ah Wing,” and part of the story took place in San Francisco, CA’s Chinatown district; the Chinese subplot was dropped completely from the remake.
       Items in the 26 Apr 1930 and 7 Jun 1930 issues of Hollywood Filmograph reported that Wells Root wrote the adaptation for the new Outside the Law, but he is not listed in credits.
       Filming began 21 May 1930, according to a production directory in the 26 Jul 1930 Exhibitors Herald-World. The 7 Jun 1930 Motion Picture News noted that Arthur Byron, an actor in his late fifties, was signed to play opposite Mary Nolan, but Byron is not listed in final credits.
       Most trade magazines referred to Outside the Law as a “crook film,” “crook play,” or “crook melodrama.”
       In a 26 Jul 1930 Exhibitors Herald-World article in which Universal Pictures’ general manager, Carl Laemmle, Jr., complained that too many new films in the sound medium abused the use of “chattering dialog,” he stated that Outside the Law contained “less dialog ... More Less

Outside the Law was a sound remake of a 1920 silent film (see entry) that producer-director Tod Browning made for Universal Pictures, starring Lon Chaney. Chaney, who had recently remade another of his silent films, The Unholy Three (1925, see entry), was too ill from throat cancer to reprise his role in Outside the Law, and died 26 Aug 1930.
       All character names from the 1920 version were changed. For example, “Cobra” was originally “’Black Mike’ Sylva,” and “Connie” was “Molly Madden.” Also, Chaney’s Black Mike had a Chinese alter ego named “Ah Wing,” and part of the story took place in San Francisco, CA’s Chinatown district; the Chinese subplot was dropped completely from the remake.
       Items in the 26 Apr 1930 and 7 Jun 1930 issues of Hollywood Filmograph reported that Wells Root wrote the adaptation for the new Outside the Law, but he is not listed in credits.
       Filming began 21 May 1930, according to a production directory in the 26 Jul 1930 Exhibitors Herald-World. The 7 Jun 1930 Motion Picture News noted that Arthur Byron, an actor in his late fifties, was signed to play opposite Mary Nolan, but Byron is not listed in final credits.
       Most trade magazines referred to Outside the Law as a “crook film,” “crook play,” or “crook melodrama.”
       In a 26 Jul 1930 Exhibitors Herald-World article in which Universal Pictures’ general manager, Carl Laemmle, Jr., complained that too many new films in the sound medium abused the use of “chattering dialog,” he stated that Outside the Law contained “less dialog than in any talking picture we have made to date.” Laemmle noted the filmmakers captured the drama “in pantomime,” bolstered by spoken words. “The result is startling,” he said.
       The 3 Sep 1930 Var deemed Outside the Law “one of the worst examples of claptrap since sound came in.” The 23 Aug 1930 Motion Picture News called it “sluggish.” More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Exhibitors Herald-World
26 Jul 1930
p. 20.
Exhibitors Herald-World
26 Jul 1930
p. 34.
Film Daily
31 Aug 1930.
---
Hollywood Filmograph
26 Apr 1930
p. 20.
Hollywood Filmograph
7 Jun 1930
p. 27.
Motion Picture News
7 Jun 1930
p. 123.
Motion Picture News
23 Aug 1930
p. 55.
Variety
3 Sep 1930
p. 41.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
A Tod Browning Production
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTOR
PRODUCERS
Assoc prod
WRITERS
Story
Story
PHOTOGRAPHY
ART DIRECTOR
Art dir
FILM EDITORS
Film ed
Supv film ed
COSTUMES
MUSIC
Synchronization & score
SOUND
Rec supv
DETAILS
Release Date:
18 September 1930
Premiere Information:
New York opening: week of 29 August 1930
Production Date:
began 21 May 1930
Copyright Claimant:
Universal Pictures Corp.
Copyright Date:
2 August 1930
Copyright Number:
LP1517
Physical Properties:
Sound
Movietone
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
76
Length(in feet):
7,116
Length(in reels):
9
Country:
United States
Language:
English
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

Cobra Collins, a gang leader, demands a 50-50 cut in the return from a bank robbery planned by "Fingers" O'Dell. Connie, in league with Fingers, makes the acquaintance of Cobra to throw him off the trail, but Fingers carries out the robbery and, with Connie, hides in an apartment. They make friends with a 4-year-old child, only to learn that his father is a police captain living next door. Cobra discovers the location of their hideout and makes a call just before the police captain arrives; and in an exchange of gunfire, the policeman and both Cobra and Fingers are wounded critically. While Connie calls a doctor, Cobra searches frantically for his share of the money and dies trying to escape. When Connie and Fingers are brought to trial, they are given light sentences for having saved the life of the wounded ... +


Cobra Collins, a gang leader, demands a 50-50 cut in the return from a bank robbery planned by "Fingers" O'Dell. Connie, in league with Fingers, makes the acquaintance of Cobra to throw him off the trail, but Fingers carries out the robbery and, with Connie, hides in an apartment. They make friends with a 4-year-old child, only to learn that his father is a police captain living next door. Cobra discovers the location of their hideout and makes a call just before the police captain arrives; and in an exchange of gunfire, the policeman and both Cobra and Fingers are wounded critically. While Connie calls a doctor, Cobra searches frantically for his share of the money and dies trying to escape. When Connie and Fingers are brought to trial, they are given light sentences for having saved the life of the wounded officer. +

GENRE
Genre:
Sub-genre:
Crime


Subject
Subject (Major):

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.