A Lion Is in the Streets (1953)

87-88 mins | Drama | 3 October 1953

Director:

Raoul Walsh

Writer:

Luther Davis

Producer:

William Cagney

Cinematographer:

Harry Stradling

Production Designer:

Wiard B. Ihnen

Production Company:

Cagney Productions, Inc.
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HISTORY

The film's beginning and ending title cards are superimposed over a shot of a lion at the foot of a statue of Abraham Lincoln. The film ends with a quotation from Lincoln, reading: "You can fool some of the people all the time--and all of the people some of the time--but you can't fool all of the people all of the time." Although George Amy is credited onscreen as film editor, production charts list Walter Hannemann and Robert Seiter as film editors. Jeanne Cagney, who portrayed "Jennie Brown" in the picture, was the sister of actor James Cagney and producer William Cagney. Although she did not appear in the final picture, Priscilla Gillette was originally signed for the female lead, according to an Apr 1952 Var news item. The following actors were added to the cast by Dec 1952 and Jan 1953 HR news items: Nadene Ashdown, Doreen Corcoran and Lee Norrix. A Dec 1952 HR news item also adds several silent film and vaudeville performers as extras in the courtroom scene: Hank Mann, Heine Conklin, Kit Guard, Bert Keyes, Ford Raymond, Frank O'Connor, Jimmie Dime, Nora Bush, Rose Plummer and Betty Bricker. The appearance of these actors in the final film has not been confirmed. Portions of the film were shot in the Florida Everglades, according to an Oct 1952 NYT article. The same article stated that brothers James and William Cagney paid $250,000 to Adria Locke Langley, the author of the novel, A Lion Is in the Streets , in 1945 and over the following eight years, several writers worked on the script, including Charles Bennett. The ... More Less

The film's beginning and ending title cards are superimposed over a shot of a lion at the foot of a statue of Abraham Lincoln. The film ends with a quotation from Lincoln, reading: "You can fool some of the people all the time--and all of the people some of the time--but you can't fool all of the people all of the time." Although George Amy is credited onscreen as film editor, production charts list Walter Hannemann and Robert Seiter as film editors. Jeanne Cagney, who portrayed "Jennie Brown" in the picture, was the sister of actor James Cagney and producer William Cagney. Although she did not appear in the final picture, Priscilla Gillette was originally signed for the female lead, according to an Apr 1952 Var news item. The following actors were added to the cast by Dec 1952 and Jan 1953 HR news items: Nadene Ashdown, Doreen Corcoran and Lee Norrix. A Dec 1952 HR news item also adds several silent film and vaudeville performers as extras in the courtroom scene: Hank Mann, Heine Conklin, Kit Guard, Bert Keyes, Ford Raymond, Frank O'Connor, Jimmie Dime, Nora Bush, Rose Plummer and Betty Bricker. The appearance of these actors in the final film has not been confirmed. Portions of the film were shot in the Florida Everglades, according to an Oct 1952 NYT article. The same article stated that brothers James and William Cagney paid $250,000 to Adria Locke Langley, the author of the novel, A Lion Is in the Streets , in 1945 and over the following eight years, several writers worked on the script, including Charles Bennett. The film marked the last release of Cagney Productions, Inc.
       According to HR and Var reviews, the novel was loosely based on the life of politician Huey Long (1893--1935), who rose from obscurity to become a governor of Louisiana and U.S. Senator, before his murder by an assassin. However, reviews note that the film departed from the novel. William Cagney, in the NYT article, denied that the film was about Long, but rather about "the simplicity with which a demagogue can pervert the democratic system." Both the NYT and Cue reviews commented that this theme was better served in the 1950 Columbia production, All the King's Men , which was directed by Robert Rossen and starred Broderick Crawford (see entry in AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1941-50 ). More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
12 Sep 1953.
---
Cue
26 Sep 1953.
---
Daily Variety
4 Sep 53
p. 3.
Film Daily
9 Sep 53
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
5 Dec 52
p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter
11 Dec 52
p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter
26 Dec 52
p. 2, 11.
Hollywood Reporter
29 Dec 52
p. 5.
Hollywood Reporter
30 Dec 52
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
2 Jan 53
p. 5.
Hollywood Reporter
4 Sep 53
p. 3.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
12 Sep 53
p. 1989.
New York Times
19 Oct 1952.
---
New York Times
24 Sep 53
p. 39.
Newsweek
5 Oct 1953.
---
Time
5 Oct 1953.
---
Variety
16 Apr 1952.
---
Variety
9 Sep 53
p. 6.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
A William Cagney Production
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
PRODUCER
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
ART DIRECTOR
Prod des
FILM EDITORS
Film ed
Film ed
SET DECORATOR
Set dec
COSTUMES
Ward
MUSIC
SOUND
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
MAKEUP
Makeup artist
PRODUCTION MISC
Casting
COLOR PERSONNEL
Technicolor col consultant
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel A Lion Is in the Streets by Adria Locke Langley (Philadelphia, 1945).
DETAILS
Release Date:
3 October 1953
Premiere Information:
New York opening: 23 September 1953
Production Date:
late November--late December 1952 at Goldwyn Studios
Copyright Claimant:
Cagney Productions, Inc.
Copyright Date:
26 September 1953
Copyright Number:
LP2958
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Recording
Color
Technicolor
Duration(in mins):
87-88
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
16599
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In a small Southern town, Hank Martin, a charming, self-educated, backwoods peddler, sees Verity Wade, the new, college-educated schoolteacher and is instantly smitten. He soon convinces her to marry him, and after their wedding, takes her to live in a tiny, broken-down shack on the estate of wealthy lawyer Jules Bolduc. With the help of friendly sharecroppers, Hank and Verity transform the shack into a comfortable cottage. Jules, who is a good friend of Hank, invites them to eat their wedding dinner at the big house, but when Hank finds that Jules's godfather, cotton gin owner Robert J. Castleberry, is also present, he accuses Castleberry of cheating the cotton farmers. Later, Verity accompanies Hank on a selling trip in swamp country, where she is nearly killed by the jealous Flamingo, a beautiful young woman who has been in love with Hank since she was a child. Flamingo leaves home to work in the city and pursues Hank, who, in spite of his love for Verity, engages in a long-standing affair with her when he is in town. Meanwhile, Hank organizes the cotton farmers and with them, publicly proves that Castleberry gin employees have been using false weights. However, when a Castleberry man pulls out a gun, Jeb Brown, one of Hank's friends, shoots him in self-defense and is arrested. When Jeb is denied bail and his trial delayed, Hank tries to confront Castleberry in his office, but by chance encounters Guy Polli, a gangster with political influence, who has been trying to buy out Castleberry. Recognizing Hank's political ambitions, Guy explains that the trial has been postponed to keep the facts concerning Castleberry's alleged short-weighing out of the newspapers ... +


In a small Southern town, Hank Martin, a charming, self-educated, backwoods peddler, sees Verity Wade, the new, college-educated schoolteacher and is instantly smitten. He soon convinces her to marry him, and after their wedding, takes her to live in a tiny, broken-down shack on the estate of wealthy lawyer Jules Bolduc. With the help of friendly sharecroppers, Hank and Verity transform the shack into a comfortable cottage. Jules, who is a good friend of Hank, invites them to eat their wedding dinner at the big house, but when Hank finds that Jules's godfather, cotton gin owner Robert J. Castleberry, is also present, he accuses Castleberry of cheating the cotton farmers. Later, Verity accompanies Hank on a selling trip in swamp country, where she is nearly killed by the jealous Flamingo, a beautiful young woman who has been in love with Hank since she was a child. Flamingo leaves home to work in the city and pursues Hank, who, in spite of his love for Verity, engages in a long-standing affair with her when he is in town. Meanwhile, Hank organizes the cotton farmers and with them, publicly proves that Castleberry gin employees have been using false weights. However, when a Castleberry man pulls out a gun, Jeb Brown, one of Hank's friends, shoots him in self-defense and is arrested. When Jeb is denied bail and his trial delayed, Hank tries to confront Castleberry in his office, but by chance encounters Guy Polli, a gangster with political influence, who has been trying to buy out Castleberry. Recognizing Hank's political ambitions, Guy explains that the trial has been postponed to keep the facts concerning Castleberry's alleged short-weighing out of the newspapers and offers to use his influence to get the trial scheduled. During the trial, Guy says, these facts would be discussed and the newspapers would be able to report the fraud without fear of a lawsuit. On the day of Jeb's trial, one of Castleberry's employees, Mr. Beach, has gunmen shoot Jeb through the jail window. Instead of canceling the trial, Hank convinces Jeb, who has only hours to live, to go to the courtroom. Although Jeb dies during the trial, Hank grandstands to get the facts about the short-weighing across to the press and convinces the jury to proclaim Jeb's innocence posthumously. The resulting publicity gains grassroots support for Hank as a gubernatorial candidate, while Castleberry is ruined and forced to sell out to Guy, who remains anonymous. The day before the election, a major rainstorm hits the state, threatening to prevent Hank's enthusiastic rural supporters from getting to the polls. With twelve hours left before polls open, Hank borrows Jules's car and drives to the city to visit Guy, who explains to him that Beach, not Castleberry, has been cheating the farmers and had Jeb killed. Guy offers Hank the votes in precincts he controls if Hank will sign an affidavit giving Beach an alibi for the time Jeb was shot and Hank agrees. On election day, the incumbent governor Snowden seems to be winning, but in the final count, Snowden and Hank are tied, and the state assembly prepares to decide the victor. In a radio program broadcast from his headquarters, Hank, expecting the assembly to back Snowden, urges his own supporters to mob the state capitol with guns and force the assembly to adhere to the people's will. Aghast when she foresees "the lynching of the whole state," Verity runs to Jules for help, although she is weak from the recent birth of Hank's child. Jules returns with her and announces to the people that Beach was arrested that morning for the murder of Jeb, but walked free because of an affidavit providing him an alibi that was signed by Hank. Jeb's distraught widow, Jennie, threatens to shoot Jules for lying, but Verity intervenes, saying that Hank's affidavit is false, as she was with Hank during the time he claims to have been with Beach. Although he tries to explain the political reality he has had to accept, Hank is forced to admit that he sold out and betrayed Jeb. Jennie shoots him in front of the crowd, and wounded, but unwilling to give up, Hank falls as he shouts promises to lead the people to glory. Before dying, Hank admits to the grieving Verity that "they found me out." +

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.