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The story in "The False Madonna" is very, very difficult to believe. My advice is just to suspend your sense of disbelief and watch it, as it is well worth watching.
When the story begins, four flim-flam artists are leaving town just ahead of the authorities. Aboard their train, something really bizarre occurs--there is a dying woman and the conductor is looking for a doctor. Well, Ed was once a doctor and since no one else is available, he tells them he's Dr. Marcy. Unfortunately, he cannot help the dying woman...and as she lies there dying, she tells him her story. It seems that she was married into a very wealthy family but she disappeared 14 years earlier--abandoning her husband and son. She was on the way to see the son when she became mortally ill. Being a crook and all around jerk-face, Ed decides to take the dead woman's trinkets and the information he gleaned from her and create a fake mother. He gets Tina (Kay Francis) to imitate the woman when the train arrives. The plan is to fleece the family and run, but the plan runs afoul of Tina's conscience. Although a crook, there are limits to her villainy and stealing from a sweet and blind teenager is just too much. What's worse is that the kid is dying and she doesn't want to be the one to kill him! What's next?
There's a lot going for this story despite a very difficult to believe story. The cinematography is great (especially in the garden scene) and the story works very well...though the speech by Ed at the end of the film and his turnaround makes zero sense. Good but far from perfect and a bit dated.
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