The Lawless

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The Lawless
Lawless poster 1950.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Joseph Losey
Produced by William H. Pine
William C. Thomas
Screenplay by Daniel Mainwaring
Based on the novel The Voice of Stephen Wilder
by Daniel Mainwaring
Starring Macdonald Carey
Gail Russell
Johnny Sands
Music by Mahlon Merrick
Cinematography J. Roy Hunt
Edited by Howard A. Smith
Pine-Thomas Productions
Paramount Pictures
Distributed by Paramount Pictures
Release date
  • June 1, 1950 (1950-06-01) (United States)
Running time
83 minutes
Country United States
Language English

The Lawless is a 1950 American film noir directed by Joseph Losey and features Macdonald Carey, Gail Russell and Johnny Sands.[1]

A newspaper editor in California becomes concerned about the plight of the state's fruit pickers, mostly immigrants from Mexico. Film critic Thom Andersen identified The Lawless as one example of film gris, a more cynical variety of film noir with leftist themes. The film was also released as The Dividing Line.


California fruit picker Paul Rodriguez hopes to someday have a farm of his own. When his friend Lopo Chavez has a car accident, he is insulted with a racial slur by Joe Ferguson, a passenger in the other car.

Joe's father disapproves of this bigotry. Lopo visits his friend Sunny Garcia, whose family publishes a Spanish-language paper called La Luz.

At a dance, Sunny is introduced to Larry Wilder, editor of "The Union", who once was a big-city newspaper reporter. A racially heated fight breaks out at the dance. Paul accidentally strikes Peters, a policeman. Joe is also arrested. A reporter who works for Larry depicts the incident to a Stockton paper as a full-scale race riot. Reporter Jan Dawson arrives to pursue the story.

Peters roughs up Paul in the back seat of the police car. His partner tries to intervene but crashes the car and dies. Paul flees. A dragnet for him begins. It intensifies when a teen farm girl, Mildred, startled at seeing Paul, falls and is knocked unconscious, after which she blames Paul for what happened.

Larry tries to defend Paul in a newspaper article, inciting more anger. Lopo is attacked and a lynch mob for Paul is organized. The newspaper office is destroyed. Larry considers leaving town for good, but he is in love with Sunny, so they decide to merge their newspapers and continue to fight for what's right.



The film was known as Outrage. Gail Russell had been on suspension by Paramount but got off it to make this film.[2]

The film was an attempt by Pine-Thomas Productions to make a more "significant" kind of film. Shooting took 18 days.[3]


Critical response

Film critic Bosley Crowther praised the film. He wrote, "Within the inevitable limits of the low-budget action film, which happens to be the type of product that these modest gentlemen produce, they have made an exciting picture on a good, solid, social theme—the cruelty of a community when inflamed by prejudice. And although their drama, The Lawless, is no Fury or Intruder in the Dust, it is a startling account of mob violence in a northern California town. With merited optimism, it was presented at the Astor yesterday."[4]

The staff at Variety magazine also gave the film a positive review. They wrote, "Racial tolerance gets a working over in The Lawless, but the producers don’t soapbox the message, using it, instead, as a peg on which to produce a hard-hitting drama, equipped with action and fast pace ... Performances all stack up as topnotch, with several being standout."[5]


  1. ^ The Lawless at the American Film Institute Catalog.
  2. ^ 'Outrage' Deal Ends Russell Suspension; Brian Roper Signed Schallert, Edwin. Los Angeles Times15 Oct 1949: 11.
  3. ^ "Pine Thomas to Lens more 'significant' pix if 'Lawless' clicks". Variety. 10 May 1950. p. 14.
  4. ^ Crowther, Bosley. The New York Times, film review, June 23, 1950. Accessed: August 16, 2013.
  5. ^ Variety. Staff film review, 1950. Accessed: August 16, 2013.

External links

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