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Four Walls


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With John Gilbert.MGM silent. 60 minutes (6 reels).

US release: 8/11/28.
Not available on VHS or DVD.

Cast: John Gilbert, Joan Crawford (as "Frieda"), Vera Gordon, Carmel Myers, Robert Emmet O'Connor, Louis Natheaux, Jack Byron.

Credits:  From a play by Dana Burnet and George Abbot. Continuity: Alice D.G. Miller. Director: William Nigh. Camera: James Howe. Titles: Joe Farnham. Editor: Harry Reynolds.


Plot Summary: Starring Joan Crawford and John Gilbert, this suspenseful, silent crime-drama follows the exploits of a gangster who does his time for manslaughter and emerges from prison determined to reform. Unfortunately, he soon finds it is easier said than done when his former colleagues pay him a call. Fortunately, his loyal gal gives him enough love and support to see that he succeeds. ~Sandra Brennan, All Movie Guide



American Film Institute page

IMDb page

Silent Era page

Wikipedia page



Critics' Reviews:


Variety (1928):

Another underworlder, well done....Gilbert, as Benny Horowitz, gangster, product of an East Side environment, plays with repression and conviction. Miss Crawford as his round-heeled frail is splendid...Nigh's direction deserves commendation for its reality, restraint and knowledge of his elements.


George Gerhard in the New York Evening World (1928):

Miss Crawford simply walks off with it. Not that Gilbert is very far behind her. He isn't. He gives a competent performance, just as he always does. But the story gives an infinitely better opportunity to Miss Crawford than to him....[The picture] will go a long way toward lifting Miss Crawford to a point nearer the top in Hollywood circles, a point toward which she has been rapidly climbing in the last year or two.


Photoplay (1928):

For getting down to earth with the practical sort of love-making that folks like, our hat is off to John Gilbert and Joan Crawford. John certainly takes that girl in hand, and boy, how she loves to be taken!


Mordaunt Hall in the New York Times (August 20, 1928)

Of all the gunmen who have made a smiling bow from the screen, none has been dressed in better taste than is John Gilbert as Benny Horowitz, gang leader and ex-convict in the film adaptation of the play, "Four Walls." Mr. Horowitz is so careful regarding the cut of his clothes, the selection of his necktie, the spotlessness of his linen and the combing of his hair that one would never imagine him to be a killer living on Manhattan's east side, but rather a broker with an apartment on Park Avenue. But whether or no Mr. Gilbert looks the part, he gives a capital performance of the man who during a prison term learns to dread the confines of a cell's four walls.


This narrative has not been especially well filmed, for there are stretches of close-ups and spoken titles which are quite tedious. The first chapter, however, and one or two others are quite effective.


Here there is that ubiquitous specimen of a detective who appears so often to be able to see without being seen. During one of the closing sequences this sleuth listens at a door and overhears the truth and is thus able to help out in the happy ending by telling the suspects that they have "come clean." As one is apt to give Benny and Frieda credit for some slight intelligence, it would seem that these two would have discussed the death of Monk in a voice so low that the sleuth would not have been able to hear. Some of the more alert denizens of the underworld might even have gone to the door to see whether the detective was really on his way downstairs.


All gunmen have their girls, and Benny is no exception. Frieda, played by Joan Crawford, knows of all the lives Benny has snuffed out. When Benny emerges from jail he hears that Monk, his lieutenant, has won favor in Frieda's eyes. Benny, whose old Jewish mother harks back to the days of his confirmation in the synagogue, is rather relieved. He relishes the idea of freedom and refuses to renew his leadership of the gang. Frieda, however, pursues Benny, and for some reason or other Benny finds himself at the headquarters of the gang, and when Monk falls to his death from the roof of a building, both Frieda and Benny are suspected. Bertha, the plain girl of the story, who is devoted to Benny, helps out Benny in his alibi and in the end it is presumed that Benny and Frieda steer clear of crime.


Miss Sawyer gives a creditable showing as Frieda. Carmel Myers is rastrained and believable as the unattractive Bertha. Vera Gordon is competent as Benny's mother.



Our Reviews:

If you've seen Four Walls and would like to share your review here, please e-mail me. Include, if you like, a picture of yourself to accompany your review, as well as a star-rating (with 5 stars the best) and any of your favorite lines from the film.



Movie Posters:


       Swedish poster.




Lobby Cards:


 US window card.




Misc. Images: 

Herald cover. 5 x 7 inches.        US herald centerfold.


US herald cover.      US herald centerfold.




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