Advertisement

Innocence Lost (and Then Found): The Depiction of Wrongful Convictions in Prison Films

  • Kenneth DowlerEmail author
Chapter
  • 67 Downloads

Abstract

The narratives surrounding wrongful convictions produce compelling drama, which may include elements of mystery, outrage, and human suffering. This drama is even more pronounced when the story is set in a prison environment and the protagonist is an innocent person. In the prison film genre, the innocence of a protagonist is a feature that ensures that audiences can relate and sympathize with his or her predicament. As such, the focus of this chapter will be to examine prison films that feature lead characters that are wrongly incarcerated. Some of the films that will be discussed include: I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang (1932); Each Dawn I Die (1939); Hellgate (1952); Stir Crazy (1980); An Innocent Man (1989); In the Name of the Father (1993); The Shawshank Redemption (1994); Life (1999); The Hurricane (1999); and Conviction (2010). Both character traits, depictions of the prison environment, and common narratives will be explored and discussed in the chapter.

References

  1. Blake, Gene. 1958. “Barbara Graham Case Revisited.” Los Angeles Daily Mirror, November 28. Google Scholar
  2. Burns, Robert E. 2011. I Am a Fugitive from a Georgia Chain Gang! Athens: University of Georgia Press.Google Scholar
  3. Cairns, Kathleen A. 2013. Proof of Guilt: Barbara Graham and the Politics of Executing Women in America. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press.Google Scholar
  4. Cheatwood, Derral. 1998. “Prison Movies: Films About Adult, Male, Civilian Prisons: 1929–1995.” In Popular Culture, Crime, and Justice, edited by F. Bailey and D. Hale, 209–231. Belmont, CA: West/Wadsworth Publishing.Google Scholar
  5. Crowther, Bruce. 1989. Captured on Film: The Prison Movie. London: BT Batsford.Google Scholar
  6. Denby, David. 2000. “On the Battlefield.” The New Yorker, January 10, pp. 90–96.Google Scholar
  7. Doherty, Thomas. 1999. Pre-code Hollywood: Sex, Immorality, and Insurrection in American Cinema, 1930–1934. New York: Columbia University Press.Google Scholar
  8. Glazer, Yale. 1995. “The Chains May Be Heavy, but They Are Not Cruel and Unusual: Examining the Constitutionality of the Reintroduced Chain Gang.” Hofstra Law Review 2: 1195.Google Scholar
  9. Hamisch, Larry. 2008. “Barbara Graham Case Revisited.” Los Angeles Times, November 28. Accessed February 28, 2019. http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/thedailymirror/2008/11/barbara-graham.html.
  10. Lewis, Randolph. 1996. “Black and White on the Chain Gang: Representing Race and Punishment.” BORDERLINES-SWANSEA- 3: 225–248.Google Scholar
  11. Mason, Paul. 2003. “The Screen Machine: Cinematic Representations of Prison.” In Criminal Visions: Media Representations of Crime and Justice, edited by P. Mason, 278–297. London, UK: Willan.Google Scholar
  12. Nellis, Mike. 1982. “Notes on the American Prison Film.” In The Prison Film, 5–49. London: Radical Alternatives to Prison.Google Scholar
  13. Nellis, Mike. 1988. “British Prison Movies: The Case of ‘Now Barabbas’.” The Howard Journal of Criminal Justice 27, no. 1: 2–31.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. O’Shea, Kathleen A. 1999. Women and the Death Penalty in the United States, 1900–1998. Westport: Greenwood Publishing Group.Google Scholar
  15. Pallister, David. 1994. “In the Name of the Father.” Vertigo Magazine. Accessed February 28, 2019. https://www.closeupfilmcentre.com/vertigo_magazine/volume-1-issue-3-spring-1994/in-the-name-of-the-father/.
  16. Purdy, Jim, and Peter Roffman. 1981. The Hollywood Social Problem Film: Madness, Despair, and Politics from the Depression to the Fifties. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press.Google Scholar
  17. Rafter, Nicole Hahn. 2000. Shots in the Mirror: Crime Films and Society. New York: Oxford University Press, USA.Google Scholar
  18. Rodimtseva, Irina V. 2010. “On the Hollywood Chain Gang: The Screen Version of Robert E. Burns’ I Am a Fugitive from a Georgia Chain Gang! And Penal Reform of the 1930s–1940s.” Arizona Quarterly: A Journal of American Literature, Culture, and Theory 66, no. 3: 123–146.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Walker, Bill. 1961. The Case of Barbara Graham. New York, NY: Ballantine Books. Google Scholar
  20. Wilson, David, and Sean O’Sullivan. 2004. Images of Incarceration: Representations of Prison in Film and Television Drama. Winchester: Waterside Press.Google Scholar

Filmography

  1. An Innocent Man. Directed by Peter Yates. Performed by Tom Selleck and F. Murray Abraham. United States: Buena Vista Pictures, 1989. DVD.Google Scholar
  2. Conviction. Directed by Tony Goldwyn. Performed by Hilary Swank and Sam Rockwell. United States: 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, 2010. DVD.Google Scholar
  3. Double Jeopardy. Directed by Bruce Beresford. Performed by Ashley Judd and Tommy Lee Jones. United States: Paramount Pictures, 1999. DVD.Google Scholar
  4. Each Dawn I Die. Directed by William Keighley. Performed by James Cagney and George Raft. United States: Warner Bros., 1939. DVD.Google Scholar
  5. I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang. Directed by Mervyn LeRoy. Performed by Paul Muni. United States: Warner Bros., 1932. DVD.Google Scholar
  6. I Want to Live! Directed by Robert Wise. Performed by Susan Hayward. United States: United Artists, 1958. DVD.Google Scholar
  7. In the Name of the Father. Directed by Jim Sheridan. Performed by Daniel Day Lewis and Pete Postlethwaite. United States: Universal Pictures, 1993. DVD.Google Scholar
  8. Life. Directed by Ted Demme. Performed by Eddie Murphy and Martin Lawrence. United States: Universal Pictures Home Entertainment, 1999. DVD.Google Scholar
  9. Stir Crazy. Directed by Sidney Poitier. Performed by Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor. United States: Columbia Pictures Corporation, 1980. DVD.Google Scholar
  10. The Hurricane. Directed by Norman Jewison. Performed by Denzel Washington. United States: Universal Pictures, 1999. DVD.Google Scholar
  11. The Next Three Days. Directed by Paul Haggis. Performed by Russell Crowe and Elizabeth Banks. United States: Lionsgate Home Entertainment, 2010. DVD.Google Scholar
  12. The Shawshank Redemption. Directed by Frank Darabont. Performed by Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman. United States: Castle Rock Entertainment, 1994. DVD.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Wilfrid Laurier University-BrantfordBrantfordCanada

Personalised recommendations