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Adela Rogers St. John's loving memoir about her father, famed criminal defense attorney Earl Rogers, is brought to life here in one of the best made for television films ever.
Earl Rogers is arguably the best criminal lawyer of his time or any other. His success is the yardstick that future generations of those who go into criminal law are measured. Treat Williams plays Rogers who between courtroom engagements is a man with some very human weaknesses after all. His daughter's novel A Free Soul is based on her father and Lionel Barrymore won a Best Actor Oscar for it.
The best scenes in the film are with Williams and young Olivia Burnette who plays his daughter Nora who was known by her middle name during her youth. The young lady idolizes her father and later on, no matter what happens he can never lose his special place with her.
Williams is the son of a minister who is played by Glenn Ford in what turned out to be his farewell performance. Ford is not some bible thumper, he's a decent and reasonable man, charged as he sees it with guiding man's soul towards a good destiny. Getting guilty people, and obviously, guilty people off is spreading evil into the world in his eyes.
The period in St. John's growing up shows her father's involvement with two notorious cases. They were real cases, a man killing his wife so he can be with his girlfriend and the killing of a well known gambler by someone who in fact was being cheated.
If God were the one judging us every day, we'd have no need of the talents of those like Earl Rogers. The guilty, and we're all guilty of something would be punished. The legal system in our Anglo-Saxon based countries and in others is man's attempt to make sure punishment is provided in the here and now and to keep a decent order in society. The phrase is after all, law AND order. Ford's inability to understand what Williams's function in society leads to conflict between them, creating a breach that never healed in this world.
Rogers was a notorious alcoholic and much after the action of this film, he died in 1922, is the result of his excesses. His daughter chose the career path of journalism and became as much a success in her field as he in his. For a glimpse of her childhood and of her brilliant, loving, and terribly flawed father, Final Verdict is absolutely recommended.
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