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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>
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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