19 August 2009 | dougdoepke
Sweethearts of Sigma Chi
If you can accept that a women's prison is basically a sorority house waiting to be organized, you might enjoy this programmer. Betty Andrews (Hudson) is in the wrong place at the wrong time and goes to prison as a result. She's an innocent victim of mistaken identity, and had the screenplay extended this tough-minded premise into the prison itself, something memorable, like Caged (1950), might have resulted. Instead, the prison population turns out to be young, shapely (except for Tubby), and well-scrubbed. Even the "boss con" Duchess (Lang) looks ready for a night on the town. Of course, the casual cruelty of the uncaring system toughens Betty in a flash, transforming her into a potential social menace, that is, until crusading reformer Mary Ellis (Inescourt) arrives.
Now, I'm on Ellis's side. Prisons should be as humane as possible, not only for the good of the inmates, but for society as well. But this is Hollywood at its phoniest, where every pitfall is overcome by a near miraculous turn of the script. Look at how easily Brent (Ford) is able to locate the overdue Betty or how compliant the commissioner is or how quickly even Duchess turns around. The message here is a laudable one, namely, that kindness works. However, it's spread on in such simple-minded fashion that it becomes little more than propaganda for a good cause. Perhaps the screenplay reflects New Deal optimism of the time, and worked for those reform-minded audiences. Now, however, the movie's main interest is to fans of a lively young Glenn Ford before he learned the power of low-key.