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Over the years I have enjoyed all the films that Tom Conway has performed in, such as the "Falcon" Series, "Voodoo Woman",'57 and many other "B" films. Also the fact that he was the brother of famous actor, George Sanders. In this film Conway plays Steve Barnes, who is a lawyer and also running for political office and gets involved with Robert Armstrong (Vic Wright),"Mighty Joe Young",'49, who is the owner of CLUB CIRCLE and has gangster connections. Steve's girlfriend, Martha O'Driscoll,(Georgia Gale),"Carnegie Hall",'47 gets involved with a murder and Steve comes to her aid. The court room proceedings will make you laugh and you can clearly see that this is a very CLASSIC B FILM from the 1940's but very enjoyable and entertaining!
Director Robert Wise, near the beginning of his career, made a decent lawyer film with a good ending. There's not much suspense, and the plot device owes much to the play, "Hat, Coat and Glove"; and it is no surprise that Tom Conway was in a film re-make of that play when it was made into a movie a second time. While this might not be great noir, it is certainly a "B movie" that is easy to watch.
Criminal Court (1946)
** 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.
Lawyer Tom Conway (Steve) is on a campaign to become elected DA at the
same time as battling court cases against the local criminal gang. He
finds himself having to defend his girlfriend Martha O'Driscoll on a
charge of murdering one of the top bad guys Robert Armstrong (Vic).
O'Driscoll is innocent but things don't look good for her. Conway has
one chance of saving her from being guilty - he has to find the one
witness to the crime that can save her.
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.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Although always in his brother's shadow - he even took over the Falcon
series that his brother (George Sanders) had originated - Tom Conway
improved every film that he appeared in. A lot more light hearted in
his acting than his brother, who often portrayed the world weary cynic.
In this early directorial effort of Robert Wise, he plays Steve Barnes,
a lawyer, who just finds out that his girlfriend Georgia has secured a
singing spot at the Club Circle, run by the notorious Vic Wright
(Robert Armstrong, looking great and always good to watch). Georgia is
played by Martha O'Driscoll, a beautiful, under-rated actress who
retired way too early. In this film she gets to sing 2 popular songs -
"I Couldn't Sleep a Wink Last Night" and "This is a Lovely Way to Spend
an Evening" and she puts them over really well.
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.
Tom Conway stars in Criminal Court, a 1946 B movie also starring Martha
O'Driscoll, and June Clayworth. Conway plays Steve Barnes, a lawyer
with a great reputation who is going to run for DA. When his girlfriend
(O'Driscoll, who in real life married big money and got out of Dodge)
is accused of the murder of the gangster whose club she worked in, he
defends her. It was an accidental shooting, and he actually did it.
There is an eye witness, if only he can find out who it is -- and there
is a lot of resistance to him finding out.
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.
This is a good noir-ish courtroom drama that is well acted and nicely
paced, directed by Robert Wise. It is a b- movie but is very solidly
made and it will hold your attention.
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.
"Criminal Court" proves that just because a film is a B-movie (with a
small budget and brief running time) that is can STILL be a heck of a
good film. Due to really good writing and acting, it works and is worth
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.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
***SPOILERS*** Interesting but a bit nutty courtroom drama with big
time defense attorney Steve Barnes, Tom Conway, trying to get his
client as well as girlfriend night club singer Georgia "On his Mind"
Gale, Martha O'Briscoll, off on a murder rap that he in fact committed.
Well not exactly murder but self-defense. That's when Georgia's mobbed
up boss Club Circle owner Vic Wright, Robert Armstrong, got into a
scuffle with Barnes and after he dropped his gun, that he was going to
shoot Barnes with, it went off accidentally hitting and killing him!
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!
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