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A crusading reporter plans his own arrest and conviction for first degree murder, trying to show that the death sentence should be outlawed when based on circumstantial evidence alone, but his plan goes awry.
James Curtayne has retired from law but he returns to defend John O'Hara on a murder charge. Curtayne's drinking and rustiness result in O'Hara's being found guilty, but Curtayne makes further efforts to prove him innocent. Written by
Ed Stephan <firstname.lastname@example.org>
According to John Sturges's inputs for the book of Emmanuel Laborie "Sturges: a filmmaker's story", John Sturges said he was frightened directing Spencer Tracy who was a living legend. At the beginning, he was just stuck on the story-board and choosing good camera angles and did not dare to interfere in Tracy's way of acting. Until the day, Tracy rehearsed a scene, while Sturges was looking at it through the eye-piece of the camera, suddenly took off his jacket and hung it on the camera lens blocking up the director's view. Then Tracy took Sturges aside and told "John, can you stop only worrying about your camera and take care about the actors because the camera is only a hungry machine and it will not be satisfied if you feed it with junk food". See more »
An excellent performance by Spencer Tracy in "The People Against O'Hara" lifts this all too familiar plot line to a different level. Tracy is an alcoholic who, for the sake of his health and sobriety, becomes a civil attorney, only to be drawn back into criminal work when neighborhood friends need him to defend their son. The son is played by a pre-Gunsmoke, blond James Arness, and it was a pleasure to see him do something besides the one-note Matt Dillon. Diana Lynn does an excellent job as Tracy's protective daughter, and a pathetically young Richard Anderson is her patient fiancé.
Tracy's performance drives the film, which is really just an excuse for a character study, and who better to essay it. He beautifully shows the man's torment and loss of abilities. The ending is tense and suspenseful.
There is a fine cast, including the above, Pat O'Brien John Hodiak, Eduardo Cianelli, and William Campbell (who in real life was for a time married to Judith Exner, the woman who went public with her affair with JFK).
I think Spencer Tracy is always worth watching, and this film is no exception.
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