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The Criminal Code Details


Howard Hawks' early sound prison melodrama, based on a play by Martin Flavin, already contains his stylistic signature of over-lapping dialogue -- a technique he would greatly expand upon in the next ten years. Walter Huston is district attorney Brady, who quickly convicts Robert Graham (Phillips Holmes) of murdering a man who was harassing his girlfriend. Brady is later made the warden of the prison where Robert is held. Brady tries to make friends with Robert, but Robert will have no dealings with the new warden. Nevertheless, Brady, who thinks Robert is a decent man who became embroiled in extraordinary circumstances, gives Robert a job as his chauffeur. As he drives with Brady's daughter Mary (Constance Cummings), the two fall in love. Meanwhile, things heat up back at the prison, where crazed killer Ned Galloway (Boris Karloff) kills the squealer Runch (Clark Marshall). Robert knows Ned killed Runch, but refuses to tell Brady. Brady reluctantly sends Robert to solitary confinement to get him to give up the murderer's name, but Robert holds out on him. ~ Paul Brenner, Rovi

  • Release date:January 3, 1931


Awarded by
Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Seton Miller Best Adapted Screenplay 1930 Nominee


Walter Huston
as Warden Brady
Constance Cummings
as Mary Brady
Mary Doran
as Gertrude Williams
DeWitt Jennings
as Capt. Gleason
Boris Karloff
as Ned Galloway
John Sheehan
as McManus
Tetsu Komai
as Convict
Nicholas Soussanin
as Dr. Rinewulf
Paul Porcasi
as Tony Spelvin
Arthur Hoyt
as Leonard Nettleford
Russell Hopton
as State's Attorney
John St. Polis
as Dr. Pinewulf
Lee Phelps
as Det. Doherty
Al Hill
as Gary
Ethel Wales
as Katie Ryan
Otto Hoffman
as Jim Fales
Andy Devine
as Convict, kitchen worker


Howard Hawks
Harry Cohn
Seton Miller
Martin Flavin
Play Author
Ted Tetzlaff
James Wong Howe