After accidentally killing the man who raped her and forced her into prostitution, a New Orleans woman flees to a Caribbean island. While she awaits her fiancé, the vicious local police chief sets his sights on her.
William A. Wellman
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This rarely seen film was the third one made by Claude Rains, and only his second talkie. It was made just after THE INVISIBLE MAN, which gave Rains one of moviedom's best introductory film roles. So CRIME WITHOUT PASSION was sort of hidden by it's predecessor. This is rather curious because it was an early independent film, and it's creators were Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur (the authors of TWENTIETH CENTURY and THE FRONT PAGE; Mr. MacArthur was also the husband of Helen Hayes). This was the first of two independent films made by them, the other being THE SCOUNDREL, a film about an amoral publisher played by Noel Coward. Both are interesting movies, though neither are above better - than - average. Being relatively cheaply made, their defects are too glaring (special effects are quite modest and...well cheap!).
If people remember CRIME WITHOUT PASSION it is because of an early scene where Rains' clever lawyer wins an acquittal by putting a grandfather clock on the stand (symbolically, of course - it doesn't begin speaking and answering questions). The acting is uneven. Rains is superb, but Margo was always a heavy breathing/heavy speaking actress. Probably, she was available from Broadway productions in nearby Manhattan (the film was shot in the Astoria Paramount Studios).
The role of the crooked "mouthpiece" probably was based on William Fallon, the leading criminal attorney in New York City in the 1920s and 1930s. Fallon frequently won acquittals of notorious gangsters, crooked politicians, and criminals. He was not afraid of going beyond the law - even getting into bribing juries. But he was a gifted attorney when he concentrated on his job (unfortunately he was also a heavy drinker, which destroyed his career and shortened his life). Unlike Rains, however, Fallon never killed anybody.
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