The tougher postwar screen image of James Stewart is given a good workout in the fact-based Carbine Williams. In 1952, the world at large knew Marsh Williams as the developer of the US Army's M-1 carbine rifle. The film builds up to this event by detailing Williams' previous existence as a bootlegger and embittered prison inmate, sentenced to 30 years at hard labor for killing a revenue agent. After enduring the rigors of chain-gang life and solitary confinement, Williams (Stewart) gets his mind off his troubles by dreaming up a new type of automatic-gun piston. He is encouraged in this endeavor by prison warden H. T. Peoples (Wendell Corey), previously Williams' bitterest enemy. As Williams continues to develop his innovative weaponry notions, his wife Maggie (Jean Hagen) and Warden Peoples try to overcome penal bureaucracy to win a pardon for Williams. Some TV prints of Carbine Williams have been colorized by computer; despite this artistically offensive practice, the strong dramatic and human values of the story still shine.
by Hal Erickson synopsis