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CAPITAL PUNISHMENT
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PRESERVATION STATUS: Not restored. Much material exists at The UCLA Film Archives.

B.P.Schulberg Productions. Distributed by: Preferred Pictures. January 1, 1925. Silent; b&w. 35mm. 6 reels, 5,950 ft.

Directed by: James P. Hogan. Adaptation: John Goodrich. Story B.P. Schulberg. Photographed by: Joseph Goodrich.

Cast of Prolog: Eddie Phillips (The Boy), Alec B. Francis (The Chaplain), Edith Yorke (The Mother), Joseph Kilgour (The Governor), George Nichols (The Warden), John Prince (The Doctor).

Cast of the Main Story: Elliott Dexter (Gordon Harrington), George Hackathorne (Danny O'Connor), Clara Bow (Delia Tate), Margaret Livingston (Mona Caldwell), Robert Ellis (Harry Philips), Mary Carr (Mrs. O'Connor), Fred Warren (pawnbroker), Wade Boteler (Officer Dugan).

MELODRAMA:

After a vain attempt to save an innocent man from execution, welfare worker Gordon Harrington arranges with Dan O'Connor for Dan to be framed for a murder that will never occur, telling Dan that, at the appropriate moment, the hozx will be disclosed and capital punishment will thereby be discredited. Harrington arranges for his friend, Harry Phillips, to go on an extended sea voyage on his yacht and then makes it appear that O'Connor has murdered Phillips. O'Connor is convicted and sentenced to death. Phillips returns home unexpectedly from his cruise, and, in an argument, Harrington inadvertently kills him. Mona Caldwell, Harrington's fiancee, persuades him not to report the murder to the police, allowing O'Connor to go to his doom. O'Connor protests his innocence but Harrington disavows all knowledge of a frameup. O'Connor is about to be executed when Mona has a change of heart and tells the police that Harrington is the man who murdered Phillips. (Information from "The American Film Institute Cataloge of Feature Films".)

(Variety Film Reviews 1921-1925): "Looks like a break for Ben Schulberg in New York with CP at a time when Bernarr McFadden's daily tabloid, the 'Graphic', is out with daily type shrapnel for the abolition of capital punishment in this state. Anyway right off the reel, the general theme of the Schulberg picture, which is out-and-out screen propaganda against the death of convicted men in the electric chair, grabbed a tie-in the electric chair, grabbed a tie-up with the 'Graphic'.

It's a sordid picture at best, despite its try for comedy angles. Sordid through the fact that one boy is electrocuted in the prologue and another is about to be bumped off a la Edison by the state's official permission. This is not the first time that such a story has been screened. 'Capital Punishment' doesn't ring true and seems lost through depicting how easy a young man can be framed and sent to the chair.

It's the easiest thing in the world for a criminologist to bet $10,000 with a friend that he could have an innocent man convicted for murder by the friend agreeing to disappear and stay at least two weeks on the criminal expert's yacht. The expert then looked around and got a little Irishman, an erstwhile crook, who was trying to go straight, to go to jail and permit himself to be booked for the murder, the price being the $10,000 that the expert was to win off his friend.

The friend of the criminologist goes out on the boat, stays a while gets tired and desires to be back making love to the girl that is in love with the expert. This peculiar trangle smooths the way for the story to hit tragic channels later.

The expert has a fight with the friend and the result is the death of the latter, with the girl an eye-witness. As there's a man already charged with the murder the girl begs the expert to cover the real crime on him and then the plot thickens. The signed agreement is easily stolen from the boy's home.

There's an abundance of mawkish sentiment. It's just a picture, with a few efforts at 'thrills' commonplace at best. The cast works heroically, with such players as Clara Bow, George Hackathore, Elliot Dexter, Mary Carr and Joseph Kilgour.

The main dependence for boxoffice play will be through the title, the picture's propaganda, and where tie-ups with newspapers cane be made."


UCLA FILM ARCHIVE: Has a listing of this film: Once in choose the MELVYL Catalogue, then select an "AUTHOR" search on Clara Bow.

VIDEOBRARY: Sells a video of this feature.


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