Reprieve (1962)

105 mins | Biography | 15 June 1962

Director:

Dalton Trumbo

Writer:

Dalton Trumbo

Producer:

A. Ronald Lubin

Cinematographer:

Joseph Biroc

Editor:

George White

Production Designer:

Howard Richmond

Production Company:

Kaufman-Lubin Productions
Full page view
HISTORY

The 18 Apr 1960 DV announced the formation of Kaufman-Lubin Productions, by screenwriter Millard Kaufman and former Music Corporation of America (MCA) executive A. Ronald Lubin. Among their first projects would be Reprieve, based on the 1956 memoir Reprieve: the Testament of John Resko, for release by Allied Artists Pictures. Five months later, the 22 Sep 1960 DV reported that Resko, a convicted murderer who became a renowned artist, arrived at Allied Artists the previous day to offer technical advice to Millard Kaufman.
       On 27 Oct 1960, DV noted that Kaufman and Lubin were scouting locations at San Quentin State Prison in San Quentin, CA. The 21 Mar 1961 issue stated that the team also scouted Folsom State Prison in Folsom, CA, accompanied by production supervisor Edward Morey, Jr. A meeting was planned with Warden Robert A. Heinze and James Alexander of the California Board of State and Community Corrections, to obtain permission for the company to film inside the prison walls. Written permission was granted several weeks later, as reported in the 29 May 1961 DV.
       A news brief in the 12 Oct 1961 edition claimed that Lubin was hoping to cast actress Ruta Lee in the film. Six days later, the 18 Oct 1961 DV announced that Eddie Albert was assigned the role of “a pathological guard.” Vicki Trickett was also under consideration for the female lead.
       In that same issue, Kaufman and Lubin explained that it had taken a year to secure permission from the state to film inside the prison. ... More Less

The 18 Apr 1960 DV announced the formation of Kaufman-Lubin Productions, by screenwriter Millard Kaufman and former Music Corporation of America (MCA) executive A. Ronald Lubin. Among their first projects would be Reprieve, based on the 1956 memoir Reprieve: the Testament of John Resko, for release by Allied Artists Pictures. Five months later, the 22 Sep 1960 DV reported that Resko, a convicted murderer who became a renowned artist, arrived at Allied Artists the previous day to offer technical advice to Millard Kaufman.
       On 27 Oct 1960, DV noted that Kaufman and Lubin were scouting locations at San Quentin State Prison in San Quentin, CA. The 21 Mar 1961 issue stated that the team also scouted Folsom State Prison in Folsom, CA, accompanied by production supervisor Edward Morey, Jr. A meeting was planned with Warden Robert A. Heinze and James Alexander of the California Board of State and Community Corrections, to obtain permission for the company to film inside the prison walls. Written permission was granted several weeks later, as reported in the 29 May 1961 DV.
       A news brief in the 12 Oct 1961 edition claimed that Lubin was hoping to cast actress Ruta Lee in the film. Six days later, the 18 Oct 1961 DV announced that Eddie Albert was assigned the role of “a pathological guard.” Vicki Trickett was also under consideration for the female lead.
       In that same issue, Kaufman and Lubin explained that it had taken a year to secure permission from the state to film inside the prison. The plotline, which spanned the 1930s and 1940s, was intended to demonstrate improvements to living conditions at the facility. Several sequences were reportedly based on the producers’ visits to the prison, including actual conversations involving inmates and guards. One thousand prisoners were expected to appear as background actors, along with two guards who were given speaking roles. Instead of cash, prisoners were paid with cigarettes, which they used as barter. The warden instituted a “cigarette bank” because the prison economy “would be threatened” by the influx of more than 500,000 cigarettes at one time. Principal photography began 6 Nov 1961, according to a 10 Nov 1961 DV production chart. The 27 Dec 1961 LAT estimated two weeks of location filming inside the prison. Eighty guards participated in the production, the majority of whom played prisoners. Warden Heinze admitted eighteen “female clerks” into Cell Block 5 so they could meet the cast; inmates were evacuated for the women’s safety. Eight prisoners reportedly volunteered to perform a staged suicide, but a stunt man was assigned instead.
       Lubin told the 28 Nov 1961 DV that the role of a convicted burglar was revised for African-American entertainer Sammy Davis, Jr., who was cast to add a theme of “human bonds between races” to the screenplay. Davis was scheduled to perform for the Folsom inmates on 12 Nov 1961, as reported in the 25 Oct 1961 DV. He was quoted in the 13 Nov 1961 edition, declaring the need for “a nationwide prison entertainment committee,” and suggesting his fellow entertainers perform at other such facilities. Although Davis was not needed for location scenes, he made a special trip to Folsom between shows at the Coconut Grove in Los Angeles, CA. More than 2,000 prisoners attended.
       Other castings included Vincent Barbi (20 Oct 1961 DV) ; Karey Ann Keeler (14 Nov 1961 DV) ; Ed Gelb and Peter Besbas (22 Dec 1961 DV) ; and Lenny Kent (16 Nov 1961 DV). A news brief in the 31 Jan 1962 edition stated that actor Jack Kruschen had his billing upgraded from “featured” to “guest star.” The film marked the first dramatic role for teenaged singer Dodie Stevens, according to the 24 Sep 1962 LAT, although she had appeared in Hound-Dog Man (1959, see entry) and the 1961 Japanese production, Alakazam the Great. The 22 Nov 1961 Var noted that magazine photographer William Read Woodfield was on special assignment to the production. Filming was completed by late Dec 1961, as reported in the 26 Dec 1961 DV. The 21 Feb 1962 Var estimated the final budget at $1.2 million.
       The 6 Feb 1962 edition identified Lennie Adelson and Leonard Rosenman as the composers of the title song, Johnny’s Blues. It was performed by Clarence “Big” Miller, according to the 15 Feb 1962 DV. Rosenman began recording his score that day, as noted in the 14 Feb 1962 issue, with a thirty-five piece orchestra featuring Shelley Manne, Joe Mondragon, Al Hendrickson, Joe Maine, Plas Johnson, Chuck Gentry, Harry Klee, Abe Most, Jack Sheldon, Uan Rasey, Al Porcino, Frank Rossolino, Dick Nash, Dick Leith, and Vince De Rosa.
       The 28 Mar 1962 DV reported a preview screening in the Los Angeles, CA, area, attended by several cast members, and celebrities such as Shirley MacLaine, Groucho Marx, Eva Marie Saint, Howard Keel, and Angela Lansbury. Another screening followed on 16 May 1962 in Washington, DC, according to the 18 May 19625 DV, for members of the U.S. Congress. Among the attendees were Estes Kefauver, Hubert Humphrey, Edward Long, Jacob K. Javits, and Maurine Neuberger. Hosting were Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) president Eric Johnston and Father George F. McKinney, a prison chaplain who knew John Resko while he was awaiting execution. The film was scheduled for release on 17 Jun 1962, as noted in the 10 May 1962 DV. However, an article in the 20 Jun 1962 Var indicated an opening in Philadelphia, PA, several days earlier.
       Although Reprieve garnered a lukewarm review in the 30 Mar 1962 DV, it was named an “outstanding merit film” by the Southern California Motion Picture Council.
       On 10 Jul 1962, DV announced that Allied Artists western sales manager Harold Wirthwein was in San Francisco, CA, that day for a conference on the picture’s release. Two months later, the 13 Sep 1962 DV reported that Wirthwein was back in San Francisco to plan a “saturation booking” for the film, retitled Convicts 4. The 12 Sep 1962 Var revealed that earnings from the initial release were disappointing, hence the new title, possibly inspired by Sergeants 3 (1962, see entry), which also starred Sammy Davis, Jr. The film opened 26 Sep 1962 in Los Angeles and 3 Oct 1962 in New York City. Reviews in the 27 Sep 1962 LAT and 4 Oct 1962 NYT were consistent in their lack of enthusiasm, although box office reports in the 10 Oct 1962 Var implied a positive audience response in New York City. Convicts 4 continued its New York run into the following year, as stated in the 30 Jan 1963 Var.
More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
18 Apr 1960
p. 1.
Daily Variety
22 Sep 1960
p. 11.
Daily Variety
27 Oct 1960
p. 2.
Daily Variety
21 Mar 1961
p. 8.
Daily Variety
29 May 1961
p. 7.
Daily Variety
12 Oct 1961
p. 2.
Daily Variety
18 Oct 1961
p. 1, 15.
Daily Variety
20 Oct 1961
p. 7.
Daily Variety
25 Oct 1961
p. 11.
Daily Variety
10 Nov 1961
p. 6.
Daily Variety
13 Nov 1961
p. 2.
Daily Variety
14 Nov 1961
p. 4.
Daily Variety
16 Nov 1961
p. 2.
Daily Variety
28 Nov 1961
p. 14.
Daily Variety
22 Dec 1961
p. 3.
Daily Variety
26 Dec 1961
p. 2.
Daily Variety
31 Jan 1962
p. 2.
Daily Variety
6 Feb 1962
p. 3.
Daily Variety
14 Feb 1962
p. 8.
Daily Variety
15 Feb 1962
p. 7.
Daily Variety
28 Mar 1962
p. 2.
Daily Variety
30 Mar 1962
p. 3.
Daily Variety
10 May 1962
p. 4.
Daily Variety
18 May 1962
p. 2.
Daily Variety
25 May 1962
p. 11.
Daily Variety
10 Jul 1962
p. 2.
Daily Variety
13 Sep 1962
p. 3.
Daily Variety
26 Sep 1962
p. 2.
Daily Variety
30 Jan 1963
p. 4.
Los Angeles Times
7 Jul 1960
Section C, p. 9.
Los Angeles Times
28 Jul 1961
Section A, p. 9.
Los Angeles Times
27 Dec 1961
p. 16.
Los Angeles Times
21 Sep 1962
Section C, p. 10.
Los Angeles Times
24 Sep 1962
Section C, p. 13.
Los Angeles Times
27 Sep 1962
Section C, p. 9.
Los Angeles Times
28 Sep 1962
Section D, p. 18.
New York Times
4 Oct 1962
p. 44.
Variety
22 Nov 1961
p. 20.
Variety
21 Feb 1962
p. 4.
Variety
20 Jun 1962
p. 19.
Variety
12 Sep 1962
p. 18.
Variety
10 Oct 1962
p. 12.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
Asst dir
Asst dir
PRODUCER
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
ART DIRECTOR
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
SET DECORATOR
Set dec
COSTUMES
MUSIC
Mus comp & cond
SOUND
Music ed
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
MAKEUP
Hairstyles
PRODUCTION MISC
Asst to prod
Prod supv
Set construction
Tech adv
Prop master
Constr supv
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the book Reprieve
the Testament of John Resko by John Resko (Garden City, New York, 1956).
AUTHOR
DETAILS
Alternate Title:
Convicts 4
Release Date:
15 June 1962
Premiere Information:
Philadelphia opening: 15 June 1962
Los Angeles opening: 26 September 1962
New York opening: 3 October 1962
Production Date:
6 November--late December 1961
Copyright Claimant:
Kaufman-Lubin Productions
Copyright Date:
4 April 1962
Copyright Number:
LP21654
Duration(in mins):
105
Country:
United States
Language:
English
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

During the Great Depression, John Resko kills a storekeeper for trying to prevent him from taking a toy for his infant child. As he awaits execution at Sing Sing, his sentence is commuted to life imprisonment, and he is transferred to Dannemora Prison. Surly and belligerent, he is in constant trouble with both the authorities and his fellow inmates, notably Iggy, a comical near-psychotic, and Wino, the black "Halloween Bandit." Resko's state of mind is hardly improved by the news that his wife has left him and that his father died while saving a child's life in an effort to atone for his son's crime. Following two unsuccessful escape attempts and several long stretches in solitary confinement, Resko's ability to paint is discovered by the prison's new and more compassionate principal keeper. At first reluctant to participate in the prison's art class, Resko gradually finds himself becoming more and more absorbed in his drawings; and almost without his realizing it, a gradual rehabilitation takes place. His work is eventually discovered and introduced to the outside world by noted art critic Carl Carmer. Then, in 1949, after 18 years in prison, Resko is paroled. As he leaves Dannemora, his grownup daughter and his first grandchild are waiting for ... +


During the Great Depression, John Resko kills a storekeeper for trying to prevent him from taking a toy for his infant child. As he awaits execution at Sing Sing, his sentence is commuted to life imprisonment, and he is transferred to Dannemora Prison. Surly and belligerent, he is in constant trouble with both the authorities and his fellow inmates, notably Iggy, a comical near-psychotic, and Wino, the black "Halloween Bandit." Resko's state of mind is hardly improved by the news that his wife has left him and that his father died while saving a child's life in an effort to atone for his son's crime. Following two unsuccessful escape attempts and several long stretches in solitary confinement, Resko's ability to paint is discovered by the prison's new and more compassionate principal keeper. At first reluctant to participate in the prison's art class, Resko gradually finds himself becoming more and more absorbed in his drawings; and almost without his realizing it, a gradual rehabilitation takes place. His work is eventually discovered and introduced to the outside world by noted art critic Carl Carmer. Then, in 1949, after 18 years in prison, Resko is paroled. As he leaves Dannemora, his grownup daughter and his first grandchild are waiting for him. +

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

TOP SEARCHES

CASABLANCA

During World War II, Casablanca, Morocco is a waiting point for throngs of desperate refugees fleeing Nazi-occupied Europe. Exit visas, which are necessary to leave the country, are at ... >>

CITIZEN KANE

Seventy-year-old newspaper tycoon Charles Foster Kane dies in his palatial Florida home, Xanadu, after uttering the single word “Rosebud.” While watching a newsreel summarizing the years during which Kane ... >>

REAR WINDOW

Laid up with a broken leg during the height of summer, renowned New York magazine photographer L. B. “Jeff” Jeffries enters his last week of home confinement, bored and ... >>

RAGING BULL

In 1941, at a boxing match in Cleveland, Ohio, pandemonium breaks out when Jake La Motta, an up-and-coming young boxer, loses a decision to Jimmy Reeves, suffering his first ... >>

CITY LIGHTS

At an outdoor dedication ceremony, a tramp is discovered sleeping in the arms of a statue as it is being unveiled before a crowd. He is chased into ... >>

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.