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
|Music by||Mahlon Merrick|
|Cinematography||J. Roy Hunt|
|Edited by||Howard A. Smith|
|Distributed by||Paramount Pictures|
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.
- Macdonald Carey as Larry Wilder
- Gail Russell as Sunny Garcia
- Johnny Sands as Joe Ferguson
- Lee Patrick as Jan Dawson
- John Hoyt as Ed Ferguson
- Lalo Rios as Paul Rodriguez
- Walter Reed as Jim Wilson
- Herbert Anderson as Jonas Creel
- Argentina Brunetti as Mrs Rodriguez
- William Edmunds as Angie Jensen
- Gloria Winters as Mildred Jensen
- Martha Hyer as Caroline Tyler
- Frank Fenton as Mr Prentiss
- Paul Harvey as Chief of Police Blake
- Tab Hunter as Frank O'Brien
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."
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."
- The Lawless at the American Film Institute Catalog
- The Lawless at the Internet Movie Database
- The Lawless at AllMovie
- The Lawless at the TCM Movie Database
- The Lawless information site and DVD review at DVD Beaver (includes images)
- on YouTube ("Race & Hollywood: Latino Images in Film") on Turner Classic Movies