Criminal Court (1946)
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The cast are all good and Tom Conway is very easy to relate to with his relaxed approach. It's a standard crime story that's easy to follow and keeps you watching to see how lawyer Tom Conway is going to swing things in his favour. Nothing special going on but still entertaining.
** 1/2 (out of 4)
Robert Wise directed this RKO noir about lawyer Steve Barnes (Tom Conway) who accidentally kills a gangster (Robert Armstrong) but he's thrown for a loop when his girlfriend (Martha O'Driscoll) is accused of the crime because she worked at his nightclub. The lawyer, who just happens to be running for D.A., tries to confess to the crime but no one believes him so he must find another way to prove her innocence. CRIMINAL COURT is a "B" movie that is so far-fetched that at times you really have to laugh wondering if the screenwriter wasn't just making things up as the filming went along. I say that because there are so many twists and turns in this film yet every single one of them are ones that you'll see coming from a mile away. It certainly doesn't help that all of them perfectly fit in place not because they're smart but because they're just so obvious. As far as a mystery goes, this thing is about as simple as they come but none of this completely kills the film thanks in large part to some fine direction by Wise and some fun performances. Conway is completely believable in his role as the hot shot lawyer who will stop at nothing to win a case. Montgomery only appears in half the film but he was a lot of fun as well. Both O'Driscoll and June Clayworth are good in their parts even though both of their characters are probably the weakest in the film. CRIMINIAL COURT certainly isn't going to win any awards but at just 63-minutes the thing moves along well enough that fans of the genre should enjoy it.
Wright is involved in a shooting and has bribed one of his dumb henchmen to identify an innocent man as the murderer. By producing a gun in court and causing a sensation Barnes proves the man is lying. Meanwhile photos have been taken of Vic's brother Frank (Steve Brodie) making a payment to an ex vice cop. Vic calls Steve to offer him money for his campaign (Steve is running for District Attorney) on condition that he doesn't show the pictures to the police. When Steve is summoned to Vic's office a scuffle breaks out and Vic is accidentally shot. Georgia calls into his office after her song and is then accused of murder.
The rest of the film deals with Steve and his efforts to get people to believe his confession. Georgia comes to him for help and he promises to represent her. His secretary, Jane, was in reality, in the pay of Vic and had been feeding him information about Steve. She saw the whole thing from a panel in the door and confesses to the big crime boss (Robert Warwick) that it was wholly accidental but is told to keep quiet. Steve then has to prove that he is the guilty one and enlists his secretary to leave no stone unturned to find the lone witness to the event (Steve still has no idea that Jane had been working for Vic). Jane is played by June Clayworth, who made her film debut as a talentless singer in a Lee Morse musical short "The Music Racket"(1930).
At only an hour this film really moves along and is recommended.
This is a very light noir without much suspense, mildly entertaining. I always enjoy Tom Conway, and I wasn't that familiar with O'Driscoll, so I found it enjoyable.
The film begins with Steve Barnes running for District Attorney (Tom Conway) on a true platform to clean up the government. He and a group of his colleagues have done a lot to investigate graft--and they've finally got the evidence to make heads roll. However, a local mobster (Robert Armstrong) is not about to let his organization be brought down without a fight. And, during a confrontation between the two men, the hood draws a gun Steve and tries to kill him. Barnes is able to get the gun away from him and when it falls, it goes off--killing the gangster! This is a bit difficult to believe, I know but stick with the film. Where it all goes next kept surprising me. Time and again, little twists came that took the film in directions I hadn't anticipated--which is rare, as B-movies are often very predictable. I would say more but just don't to spoil the film.
Other reviews have mentioned this, but Conway was George Sanders' brother. Both were incredibly erudite and spoke with a glorious accent--and brought a nice sophistication to even the simplest of roles. Exciting and worth your time--this is yet another one of Conway's B performances that elevated the material to a slightly better level.
Tom Conway stars as a criminal defense lawyer with a flamboyant courtroom style. In one particularly long courtroom scene early in the film Conway delivers a stunning performance. Anyone who has any doubts about Conway's acting abilities should view that one scene and they will change their mind. Little known Martha O'Driscoll is very beautiful in this, her nightclub scenes are well staged and her overall performance is first rate. Many fine performers such as Robert Armstrong and the great Addison Richards round out the cast.
If you want to see courtroom dramatics and cunning legal maneuvers in a mid-1940's film-noir setting, "Criminal Court" is recommended for you.
What started all this was Barnes planning to release to the press photos and motion picture film of Wright's brainless kid brother Frankie,Steve Brodie, paying off judges district attorneys and politicians to look the other way in not having him indited for, among other things, serving liquor to minors in his club as well as not having a genuine, his is faked, liquor license to boot! It was Georgia's misfortune to have dropped into her boss Vic Wright's office just as her lover Barnes checked out and be spotted, with smoking gun in hand, by kid brother Frankie! Barnes! Now determined to prove Georgia innocent Barnes tries to prove that he not Georgia was the one who gunned down Vic Wright! It never seemed to occur to Barnes that if he succeeded in getting Georgia off while getting himself convicted he may well up not only disbarred but put behind bars for life or even executed from killing Vic Wright! That's if his self-defense strategy in shooting Wright backfires and is not believed by the jury!
**SPOILERS*** In a typical feel good Hollywood style ending everything turns out to be all right for both Bearnes and Georgia in the end. It's Bernes private secretary Joan Mason, June Claynorth, who in fact was secretly working for Vic Wright who was an eye witness to his death by being in the other room and watching the whole scene through a peephole. It's Joan who finally, with a little persuasion on Barnes' part, came through for him in the film's final and almost laughable sequence. But that's after a number of the late Vic Wright's goons were apprehend by the police right inside the courtroom spectator galley as they were about to blast Joan to keep her from talking!