1948 – Caryl Chessman is convicted and sentenced to death

Convicted of 17 assorted counts of rape, robbery and kidnapping in 1948, Chessman was sentenced to death by the state of California. (Kidnapping at that time was punished by execution in California). But there were irregularities in his case and Chessman asserted his innocence from the very beginning. After his conviction, there were many appeals, and Chessman would wind up spending a then-record 11 years and ten months on Death Row, with no fewer than 8 stays of execution.

The eventual execution of Caryl Chessman was one of the most controversial in American history. He was finally executed in the gas chamber in 1960, but his death had become a cause célèbre for those who opposed the death penalty. It was largely as a result of Chessman’s case that California made the death penalty more restrictive in application, removing kidnapping as a charge attracting that penalty.

Referenced in:
Done Too Soon — Neil Diamond
The Ballad of Caryl Chessman — Ronnie Hawkins

1948 – “Key Largo” premieres

A classic film noir starring Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall, Key Largo was adapted from a successful Broadway play written by Maxwell Anderson. The play originally ran in 1939 and 1940 for 105 performances on Broadway. Several changes were made from the original to the screenplay, which was written by John Huston and Richard Brooks, and also directed by Huston.

The film was the fourth (and final) onscreen teaming of Bogart and Bacall. It netted Claire Trevor an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress and grossed over eight million dollars in its American run. It is now recognised as one of the greatest films of the film noir era, and a classic of American cinema.

Referenced in:

Key Largo — Bertie Higgins