The story of William Palmer, one of the most notorious poisoners in Victorian England - or was he?

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Cast

Episode credited cast:
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John Parsons Cook
Romney Brent ...
Professor
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Mrs. Palmer
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Walter Palmer
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Dr. Billy Palmer
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Dr. Knight
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Annie Brookes
...
Himself - Host
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The story of William Palmer, one of the most notorious poisoners in Victorian England - or was he?

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24 October 1957 (USA)  »

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1.33 : 1
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An adaptation of Robert Graves's then-recent non-fiction book, "They Hanged My Saintly Billy", a biography of William Palmer. Graves's book had caused a minor sensation on publication by insisting that Palmer, hanged for murder in the mid-19th century following a hugely notorious poisoning case, was, in fact, innocent. This view is still not generally held to be likely. See more »

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User Reviews

 
A Great ,Never Repeated,Night before the English Bar
20 June 2007 | by (Salisbury,Pennsylvania) – See all my reviews

If this still exists,bring it back!

A splendid night for Jack Lemmon, who was as wonderfully feckless -and hapless-as he was in "Mr.Roberts" and "Fire Down Below".Now the Brits will definitely complain(if they ever get a chance to view this show) that Jack is not Brit enough,nor old enough ,to be Palmer; but he is seconded by a wonderful cast,notably Gladys Cooper as his randy mother and Margaret O'Brian as his suicidal child bride,that should hold all but the most acidulous of viewers.

While the director was very careful to never show us what really happened,none of us,any more than the elder Mrs.Palmer could believe that our boy did anything like poison thirteen people.

The catch in the story is that while Billy has(if believed) what is an ironclad alibi for the time of the crime,the twenty-something witness is having an affair with Billy's indomitnatable seventy-five year old mother.That is how he happened to be roaming around the Palmer premise at the quite late hour when he saw Billy's carriage pulling in.

Under cross-examination he is driven to tell one wilder lie after another to explain why he was able to witness anything. And with each of his answers the hapless witness further undoes the absolutely excellent forensic defense that nobody at all was intentionally poisoned.(Palmer actually did call sixteen of the better scientists of their day to prove that Cooke,the main victim, died of natural causes.)

As it stood,the defense had to put Mrs. Palmer(also the mother of a clergyman and a college professor) to back up the alibi and explain she had a taste for men forty years her juniors. Billy elects not to do so and he is (this being the eighteen-fifties)publicly hanged.

I still remember these forty years a tremendous final shot of Gladys Cooper frantically pacing her library with the mob screaming outside.There is a sudden hush--and she gazes (without a tear or a whimper) curiously and silently at us.


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