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|Directed by||Hall Bartlett|
|Produced by||Hall Bartlett|
|Written by||Hall Bartlett|
|Based on||Prisoners are People|
by Kenyon J. Scudder
|Music by||Alex North (song "Unchained Melody")|
|Cinematography||Virgil E. Miller|
|Edited by||Cotton Warburton|
|Distributed by||Warner Bros. Pictures|
Unchained is a 1955 prison film directed by Hall Bartlett and starring Elroy Hirsch, Barbara Hale, Chester Morris, Todd Duncan, and Johnny Johnston. Based on the non-fiction book Prisoners are People by Kenyon J. Scudder, it is most remembered for its theme song, "Unchained Melody".
Steve Davitt is in a medium security prison and is struggling with two options: finishing his sentence, or seeing his wife and family by escaping the prison. After receiving what he believes to be an unjust recommendation from the Adult Authority Board, he attempts his escape but is surprised by a trustee-inmate whom he has befriended. A fist-fight ensues. Steve Davitt wins the fight, heads for the fence to escape. After he starts climbing the fence, he hesitates twice, looks back and sees his trustee-friend on the ground and decides against going over the barbed wire fence after all. The scene ends with Steve Davitt turning around and heading back to the medium security prison.
- Elroy Hirsch as Steve Davitt
- Barbara Hale as Mary Davitt
- Chester Morris as Kenyon Scudder
- Peggy Knudsen as Elaine
- Jerry Paris as Joe Ravens
- John Qualen as Leonard Haskins
The film was based on the career of Kenyon J. Scudder, former supervisor at Chino prison in California, as detailed in Scudder's book.
Former football player Elroy "Crazylegs" Hirsch played the lead character, while other inmates were played by Chester Morris and Jerry Paris (later of The Dick Van Dyke Show), among others. Others in the cast included Peggy Knudsen and Barbara Hale, who appeared as women visiting the prisoners. Jazz musician Dexter Gordon has a small, uncredited role in the film, that of a saxophone player in the prison jazz band.
The theme song "Unchained Melody" was written by Alex North and performed by Todd Duncan. This song has since become a standard and one of the most recorded songs of the 20th century, most notably by the Righteous Brothers. Over 1,500 recordings of "Unchained Melody" have been made by more than 670 artists, in multiple languages. In 1955, three versions of the song charted in the Top 10 in the United States, and four versions appeared in the Top 20 in the United Kingdom simultaneously, an unbeaten record for any song. The song continued to chart in the 21st century.
- Oscar nomination: Best Music, Original Song: "Unchained Melody" - Music by Alex North; Lyrics by Hy Zaret
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