Jerry Wald for Warner Brothers
directed by John Cromwell
starring Eleanor Parker, Agnes Moorehead, Hope Emerson, Betty Garde, Jan Sterling, Lee Patrick, Ellen Corby, Olive Deering, Jane Darwell, Gertrude Michael, Sheila MacRae (as Sheila Stevens), Don Beddoe, Taylor Holmes, George Baxter, Guy Beach, Davison Clark, Marjorie Crossland, Pauline Drake, Marlo Dwyer, Edith Evanson, Sandra Gould, Grace Hayes, Gertrude Hoffman, Charles Meredith, Joan Miller, Frances Morris, Naomi Robison, Yvonne Rob, Lynn Sherman, Queenie Smith, Eileen Stevens, Wanda Tynan, Ann Tyrrell, Harlan Warde, Ruth Warren, Billy Wayne, June Whipple, Peggy Wynne
screenplay by Virginia Kellogg, based on the story Women Without Men by Virginia Kellogg, Bernard C.Schoenfeld, music by Max Steiner
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Innocent Marie (Eleanor Parker) is thrown into the slammer and learns
that on top of everything else, she is pregnant too from her husband who
died in a robbery. At first it doesn't seem too bad since the prison's
warden Benton (Agnes Moorehead) seems sympathetic to her cause ... but not
so matron Harper (Hope Emerson), who uses the convicts in her wing only to
her own advantage and who likes to bully and even torture those who oppose
And when the warden tries to fire Harper because one of the girls
(Olive Deering) in her wing committed suicide, Harper uses her own
connection, and the situation for the girls only gets worse.
Marie goes through hell during her prison stay, she is refused parole
on sheer technicalities, her baby is given away to adoption after her
mother refuses to take care of it, a kitten she has found and has tried to
hide away from the matron has died, and she is sent to solitary
confinement. Eventually, the kid toughens up and first hooks up with the
prison's queen bee Kitty (Betty Garde), and when Kitty is overthrown
with the new bigshot Ellie (Lee Patrick).
In the meantime, warden Benton uses all her influence to have matron
Harper fired after all and even uses Harper's contacts against her, but
rather inexplicably, that storyline is dropped all of a sudden.
Ultimately, Marie gets out, but only because Ellie has used all of her
contacts on the outside, and Marie will become a part of her syndicate -
and the warden is sure she will come back.
Caged is the grandmother of all women in prison movies, which
has become a popular genre especially in the 1970's, when it was married
to sleaze. Caged however is a serious stab at the genre and one
that tries to bring a message across (mainly that prisons corrupt young
women). Thing is, at the same time, Caged is not a terribly good
film: The whole thing is just a tad too episodic to generate interest
throughout, especially when many of the episodes just lead nowhere,
Eleanor Parker's performance as the innocent girl is a tad too cheesy to
work, and her transformation into the tough-as-nails bitch is just not
convincing, especially since the script is short on character motivation,
and ever so often, Parker slips back into the innocent girl mode for no
apparent reason, plus the whole cast of characters is just a tad too come
across as convincing.
Still, the film is interesting to view as a genre-forming movie, just
don't expect it to be the best (let alone most entertaining) women in
prison flick ever.