Judge Cooke, good husband and father, is known in court as Old Man Maximum. Cooke's daughter loves defender Dave Douglas, who hates Cooke's attitude toward defendants. Cooke's life shatters when he learns his wife has terminal brain cancer; as her pain worsens, he begins to consider mercy-killing, but that would place him in the position of a defendant. Written by
Rod Crawford <email@example.com>
"Nemo me impune lacessit," the Latin phrase quoted by Judge Wilder during the dinner party, means "No one attacks me unpunished." It is the motto of the Scottish Order of the Thistle, and is also used on certain Scottish and British royal coats of arms. See more »
Neither the city nor county where the courthouse is said to be located and the majority of the movie take place, are actual places in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. See more »
Frederic March finds his wife, Florence Eldridge, has a fatal illness
"An Act of Murder" is a gripping and deeply emotional story about a tough judge, Frederic March, who learns from the family doctor, Stanley Ridges, that his wife, Florence Eldridge, has a fatal, inoperable and painful illness of the brain. This is kept from Eldridge until she accidentally discovers it, and then she doesn't let March know that she knows. Meanwhile she is experiencing a lot of pain and disability.
Edmond O'Brien plays a lawyer who is going with March's daughter, Geraldine Brooks. That sub-plot eventually ties in with the main plot through a trial sequence in the last part of the movie.
The acting of everyone in this movie is phenomenal. Florence Eldridge is so good that she made me nervous. The director had to be good to get such a uniform excellence from his cast. He was Michael Gordon, whom I had never before noted. But now looking at his work, we can see that he directed a succession of very good films, indeed.
I'd seen this movie before, but its worth was lost on me the first time around. "An Act of Murder" appears in film noir lists. It is a social-noir or a morality story-noir or family-noir primarily, with crime coming into it. There are tough crime-laden noirs like "Raw Deal". There are very dark ones that involve morality like "Act of Violence" and "Reckless Moment", and these get into family life but the psychological darkness of one or two people really prevail in the drama and mark it. And there are other noirs that mostly involve family life like "Pitfall", "No Man of Her Own", and "A Stolen Life" that are, in some sense, more having to do with family or a moral issue in a family. "An Act of Murder" is more in the latter set.
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