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 <email@example.com>
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 »
Part noir and part courtroom drama, this film isn't a complete success but it has enough going for it to make it worth viewing. In the film Spencer Tracy plays an alcoholic lawyer who decides to help a couple poor friends out by defending their son (James Arness) who has been accused of murder. The lawyer knows the kid is innocent but he can't get enough information on the streets as to who the real killer is so he must put his own life on the line to try and clear his client. Sturges and Tracy would re-team four years later on the masterpiece BAD DAY AT BLACK ROCK and while this film is no where near that one, this here at least offers up some fine performances and a terrific ending. I think the weakest aspect of the film was the actual court case. I'm not sure what it was but it really seemed like Sturges was struggling with how to build up any type of suspense during these scenes. The courtroom stuff just didn't contain enough suspense or anything overly interesting to make it work very well. I thought the director did a much better job with the personal demons battling Tracy as he's trying to avoid drinking but as the pressure builds he keeps wanting back at the bottle. Sturges handled these scenes extremely well including a heartbreaking and rather shattering one between Tracy and his daughter (Diana Lynn) as both of them break down and let their emotions show. It comes as no shock but Tracy is terrific as usual. He did a really good job with the role and the scenes with him battling the alcoholism were very well handled and you could tell Tracy was giving it his all. He suffered from drinking his entire life so I'm sure he put some of his own feelings into the role and they show. Pat O'Brien gets a pretty good bit as the Detective working the case and John Hodiak is very good as the D.A.. Lynn shines in her scenes including the unforgettable moment mentioned earlier and we also Eduardo Ciannelli playing a gangster. I really wasn't too impressed with Arness here who gets several scenes where he's suppose to be playing scared and frustrated yet I didn't believe either emotion. If you look quick you'll see Charles Bronson sitting around a diner table. While the courtroom stuff doesn't work too well the director makes up for this in the final fifteen-minutes where we get a masterfully directed sting sequence. Basically Tracy, the D.A. and the cops try to lure the real killers out and this is done with Tracy leading the way yet we never get to see him. It's filmed from the cops point-of-view as they listen to Tracy over a radio and the way this is done builds up a terrific amount of suspense and easily makes the film worth sitting through for.
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