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In 1902 London, unhappily married Philip Marshall meets young Mary Gray, who is unemployed and depressed. Their deepening friendship, though physically innocent, is discovered by Philip's wife who threatens him with exposure and scandal, driving him to kill her. Thereafter, fortune seems to smile on Philip Marshall; but does fate have a surprise in store? Written by
Rod Crawford <email@example.com>
The one great "crime passionale" of British murder cases is the 1910 murder of Cora "Belle Elmore" Crippen, wife of the American born "Dr." Hawley Harvey "Peter" Crippen. The couple had been married from the early 1890s, and moved from the United States to England, settling in London. Crippen was the possessor of a degree from a small medical college in the midwest, but he really was on shaky ground as a physician under British standards (or the standards of a major American city for that matter). In fact, he was a seller of patent medicines, and practiced some opthalmology and dentistry under questionable auspices. But he was a good businessman, and made a comfortable living. Cora had pretensions of being an opera singer, and trained her voice. She did have some performances at various music halls, but her career was mediocre at best. She also treated the long suffering, mild Crippen as dirt, making him clean up her lover's shoes when they slept over at their home. Crippen hired a secretary, Ethel Le Neve, and they fell in love. In January 1910 Belle disappeared. Her friends became concerned, and Crippen told them she had left him. Later he told them that she died in Los Angelas. But when Le Neve was seen wearing her jewelry they became suspicious. Contacting Scotland Yard about their suspicions, the Yard sent Inspector Walter Dew to see what was going on. At first Crippen seemed plausible, but then he and Le Neve fled. The remains of Belle were found in the basement. She had been poisoned. Crippen and Le Neve (disguised as his son) fled by ocean liner to Canada, followed by Dew, who arrested them off Quebec. They were taken back to England, where both were tried. The Doctor partly tied up his defense by insisting on protecting Le Neve. As a result he was found guilty and she was acquitted. The Doctor was hanged in November 1910.
A movie was made, with Donald Pleasance as Crippen, and there have been films based on the story such as WE ARE NOT ALONE with Paul Muni. But this film with Charles Laughton is considered the best. Laughton captures the basic decency of the central figure, who made a bad marriage to a shrew, and fell for a decent woman too late. There are differences in the story. Rosalind Ivan (playing the "Belle" character) is not poisoned (like Flora Robson in the Muni film) but dies in an apparent accident falling downstairs. Laughton has a son who one suspects will marry the Le Neve figure after the film ends. And Laughton never even gets to see Canada, but gives himself up in England to save a neighbor suspected of killing her husband (a blackmailer Laughton has killed - another plot innovation not involved in the actual crime). But the film moves well, and one constantly feels for Laughton's character. Finally the fine Stanley Ridges gives a typically good performance as the counterpart of Inspector Walter Dew, who ended up sympathizing with the man whom he captured.
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