You do the crime, you do the time, and then you’re supposed to carve out a normal life. It’s not always so simple, though, as we see in 1942's City of Silent Men. No nuanced psychological tale or film noir, this is basically a homefront wartime propaganda film reminding citizens that just because a guy once robbed a bank doesn’t mean he can’t be part of the effort to feed forces overseas fighting the Nazis.
Two drifters, Gil (Frank Albertson) and Frank (Barton Hepburn), order some food from a diner they can’t pay for. The ornery owner (Dick Curtis) has them arrested but before the judge can sentence them the mayor (William Gould) intervenes. Not only does he take the drifters into his own custody, he gives them a canning factory.
This mayor knows ex-cons like Gil and Frank have a hard time finding work and they can’t join the armed forces without letters of recommendation. So many ex-cons are forced back into a life of crime perpetuating a vicious cycle. One of the problems they face is prejudice, something illustrated quickly when the whole town turns out against them, first at a town hall meeting, then as a mob.
The performances are okay but not terribly great. The movie does get a bit interesting when a love triangle is introduced—as much as the town hates him, Gil effortlessly charms both the diner waitress, Jane (Jan Wiley), and the mayor’s daughter, Helen (June Lang).
In addition to angering everyone, especially Jane’s father and Helen’s brother, it ends with Jane plunging into despair when she assumes Gil prefers Helen. At first, Gil doesn’t seem especially interested in either one but oddly he kind of just seems to default to Helen when Jane throws in the towel. That’s a lesson for the ladies, too—you could be your own worst enemy. Don’t assume that ex-con who works at the canning factory is out of your reach.
City of Silent Men is available on Amazon Prime.
Twitter Sonnet #1358
The plastic cup cannot surpass the glass.
No matter made the stone from iceless punch.
It gathered rocks in crumbled metal mass.
The things a giant chews in lieu of lunch.
A thoughtful pipe requites a wish or two.
In rings of smoke the houses slowly build.
Between the yellow leaves were trunks of blue.
So green the forest fate was soundly sealed.
Reflective nets suggest a slower dream.
As crawling time emerged, the curtain fell.
Replacement suns reside inside the beam.
Important sounds await inside the bell.
The heavy banners made the stone a ball.
Processions trod the soaking paper hall.