Story by Don Chaddock, Inside CDCR editor
Video archived by Eric Owens, CDCR staff photographer
Office of Public and Employee Communications
In the video archives at CDCR headquarters, exterior and interior shots of San Quentin were recently uncovered. While there is no date on the footage, some clues appear throughout such as the cars in the background, the style of dress of those in the film and the lack of a bridge over the bay. The parking lot below the prison is also absent.
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It took some sleuthing, but the footage appears to have been shot for the 1937 film “San Quentin,” starring Humphrey Bogart, Pat O’Brien and Ann Sheridan.
Some portions of the movie were filmed on location.
The name “Kony” appears on the clapboard of many of the exterior shots of the prison. A search turned up a potential clue to what “Kony” meant. Hans F. Koenekamp was a special effects cinematographer who worked with such film icons as Charlie Chaplin, the Keystone Kops and Alfred Hitchcock. He also filmed the original 1925 “The Wizard of Oz.”
Later in the footage, other clapboards feature the names “Bacon” and “Hickox.” Lloyd Bacon was the director and Sidney Hickox was the cinematographer on the film “San Quentin.”
Who was Hans F. Koenekamp?
Koenekamp was born in 1891 and came to Hollywood in 1911. After Warner Brothers purchased First National Studios in 1935, he stayed on with the new owners for 30 years, retiring in 1965.
Koenekamp was considered a pioneer in the industry who began his career in silent films. He was nominated for an Academy Award for his special effects in the 1943 film “Air Force.”
In 1990, he received the American Society of Cinematographers Presidents Award. He passed away in 1992, according to various newspaper stories published at the time.
His son, Fred, followed in his footsteps and became a cameraman on films and TV shows, including “Patton,” “Islands in the Stream” and “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.” In 1975, he won an Academy Award for Best Cinematography for “The Towering Inferno.”
A Hollywood film and the corrections connection
Why would CDCR have these clips from a 1937 Warner Brothers movie in its archives? At the time, the department would have needed to approve any footage shot at the prison.
The Pittsburgh Press on March 18, 1937, reported on the department’s need to cut some shots from the movie.
“By the snip of censor’s shears, several convicts in San Quentin prison lost the chance to be movie stars today. Warner Brothers’ picture named after the prison was shot partly inside the institution on condition it be censored by the Prison Board and Warden (Duffy) before release,” the newspaper reported. “Five feet of film, which showed convicts’ faces, was eliminated.”
CDCR is sharing the raw footage, eight decades after it was originally filmed.