Capital Punishment (film)

Capital Punishment is a surviving 1925 American silent melodrama film directed by James P. Hogan and starring Clara Bow, Margaret Livingston, Mary Carr, and Elliott Dexter. It was produced by B. P. Schulberg and is now in the public domain.[1][2] It was written and produced with the intent of challenging the viewing public question the use of capital punishment.[3]

Capital Punishment
Capital Punishment (poster, 1925).jpg
Directed byJames P. Hogan
Written byJohn F. Goodrich
Based ona story by B. P. Schulberg
Produced byB. P. Schulberg
CinematographyJoseph Goodrich
Distributed byPreferred Pictures
Release date
  • January 1, 1925 (1925-01-01)
Running time
6 reels
CountryUnited States
LanguageSilent (English intertitles)


As described in a review in a film magazine,[3] a prologue shows a youth, wrongly convicted of murder, is placed in an electric chair with the Governor (Kilgour) frantically attempting to call it off, ending with the throwing of a switch to show the electrocution taking place. In the main story, Gordon Harrington (Dexter) wagers Harry Phillips (Ellis) that he can have an innocent convicted of murder. He persuades Dan O'Connor (Hackathorne), a youth who has been in trouble with the police but has reformed, to be the subject of the experiment. Dan needs the money for his mother and also wants to marry Delia Tate (Bow). Phillips disappears and is reported murdered. Dan is arrested when he pawns articles bearing Phillips’ monogram, and is convicted based upon circumstantial evidence. In the meantime, Phillips and Harrington have fought over Mona Caldwell (Livingston), and when the latter is accidentally killed, Mona persuades Harrington to let Dan pay the penalty rather than risk execution himself. Dan, Della, and a friendly policeman (Boteler) attempt to locate Harrington, and at last the Prison Warden (Nichols) gets Harrington on the telephone. Dan, flabbergasted when Harrington denies knowledge of any experiment, becomes a terror stricken boy overwhelmed by the injustice and inevitableness of it all. Dan's death impends when Mona confesses to the Governor, and a repentant Harrington pounds the prison gates. The governor saves him in the nick of time, but Dan is a wreck of a human being and must be held and nursed back before he can forget what almost happened.



Prints of Capital Punishment are held at the Filmmuseum in Amsterdam and the UCLA Film and Television Archive.[4]


  1. ^ Progressive Silent Film List: Capital Punishment at
  2. ^ The AFI Catalog of Feature Films
  3. ^ a b Sewell, Charles S. (January 24, 1925). "Capital Punishment; George Hackathorne Scores in Highly Dramatic and Human Preferred Picture". The Moving Picture World. New York City: Chalmers Publishing Co. 72 (4): 368, 370. Retrieved July 25, 2021.
  4. ^ The Library of Congress / FIAF American Silent Feature Film Survival Catalog: Capital Punishment

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