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The story of a murder trial where a Mexican boy is accused of the death of a Caucasian girl. The two-faced attorney (Arthur Kennedy) who takes the boy's case is only interested in defending him so he can exploit his Communist-backed organization for their own underhanded purposes. He and his organization bring in an idealistic law professor (Glenn Ford) who agrees to represent the boy in court. Written by
Though the film was made in 1955, it takes place in 1947. However, in the scene where Abbe, Barney and David are driving through town after their first visit with Angel in prison, most of the cars visible in the background are 1950s or late 40s models, including brand new 1955 cars seen in an automobile dealership window. See more »
[Blake and Castle are discussing the fund-raising for Angel Chavez's defense fund]
Look, it's not only the way you are raising the money, it's the people that are raising it.The All Peoples Party. Barney, half of them are a bunch of Communists, you know that!
Bernard 'Barney' Castle:
I'd say sixty percent, and some of the others are cheating the Party out if its dues.
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They call you judge to your face but they call you other things behind your back!
****SPOILERS**** Powerhouse court drama that shows how a deceitful defender with a secret agenda is more then willing to send his innocent client to the gallows in order to further his cause.
Being accused of the murder of 15 year-old Mari Wiltse 16 year old Mexican-American Angel Chavez, Rafael Campos, is in desperate need of a top defense attorney to keep him from ending up on death row because of not having a proper defense. It seems obvious from the start that Angel is innocent of Mari death with the fact that she was suffering from rheumatic fever since childhood and her death was caused by it. The fact that Mari is white and Angel is Hispanic and he was making out on the beach with her at the time of Mari's death, which is considered statutory rape, is far more a strike against Angel then actually murdering Marie in the eyes of the people in town and who will eventually be on the jury.
Law professor David Blake, Glen Ford, needing court experience to keep his job at the local collage is looking to handle a court case and approaches the attorney who's handling Angels case Barney Castle, Arthur Kennedy. David to his total surprise is accepted by Castle to be the lawyer, with Castle doing all the leg work,defending Angel. Castle who to David's ignorance is a local Communist instigator and is using him to further his fellow commies agenda of fomenting hatred and violence between the races. When that goal is achieved Castle plans to exploit the racial hatred and violence to further his cause and attract new members; Mostly from the Mexican/American community
Working with David is Castle's assistant Abbe Nyle, Dorothy McGuire, who's a card-carrying Communist but is also wise to what Castle is trying to do. Abbe's loyalty to the movement, or Communist cause, has waned over the years to where she's now a commie in name, or party membership card, only. It's during the course of the trial that David and Abbe not only break away from Castles almost Svengali-like control but also fall in love with each other.
With David handling the Angel Chavez murder case he shows uncanny skills in the jury selecting process throwing off potential jurors who can prejudice the verdict. But David also get's Castle very angry in the possibility of him getting Angel off which is exactly what Castle doesn't want. Castle want's Angel to be convicted and executed and become a martyr to the cause. Castle is so conniving and skillful in doing that that he convinces Angel's mother Consuela, Katy Juredo, to go along with his maniacal and cold-blooded scheme.
Very intelligent court drama that's miles ahead of the many anti-Communist propaganda movies that were released back during the hight of the Cold War in the late 1940's and early 50's. "Trial" showed how many naive Americans were duped into becoming members of the Communist Party and work for it's ultimate success. Without even realizing that they were working against their, and their fellow Americans, best interests in doing so! In the end they would suffered greatly in losing their jobs and means of making a living as well as doing jail-time and in some cases even losing their lives, through the stress that they go through that in many cases lead to suicide, in doing it.
Being used by Castle to get funds for the Angel Chavez Defense Fund David finally realized what a fool he is by attending a large rally for Angel in New York City with him being the main speaker. David sees first hand how the Communists work in exploiting thousands to support their cause like Castle exploited David in his defense of Angel. David also learns later that the hundreds of thousands of dollars collected at the rally, as well as the rallies before and after, were funneled into the pockets of high Communist officials, like Barney Castle. That money is not used in defending the person that they, the duped contributors, were given to understand, by Castle, that it was intended for: Angel Chavez.
As the trial proceeds David just about convinced the jury of Angel's innocence but it's then that Castle steps in and dismisses David as Angel's attorney and shows his true colors "Red" by putting the young and confused teenager on the stand, against David's objections. It's then where the State District Attorney John J. Armstrong, John Hodiak, prosecuting the case tears him apart and cause Angel to implicate himself not in Mari murder but in him having sex with the 15 year-old girl! That in the eyes of jury was even worse then murder.
With the verdict a forgone conclusion and Angel now facing the death penalty David makes a last desperate attempt to save the young man's life by getting to show the judge Theodore Motley, Juano Hernandez, as well as everyone in the courtroom just what a slime-ball and phony the "Great Defender" of the downtrodden and working class Barney Castle really is. It's then that David gets Castle to lose his composure in David's plea for mercy in saving Angel from the rope. Castle, with a sure-fire guilty verdict slipping away from him, now completely loses it and exposes himself as the conniving and lowlife swine that he really is.
David's last and desperate "Hail Mary" attempt to save Angel's life worked in getting him found Innocent. Castle in now trying to make himself a martyr, a live not dead one like Angel, to salvage his already damaged reputation as a "Man of the People" quickly fell by the wayside. judge Motley's decision in not giving Castle the jail-time that he now so desperately wanted to become a martyr destroyed his entire scheme in salvaging the case that he secretly wanted David to lose.
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