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An Act of Murder (1948)

Approved | | Crime, Drama, Film-Noir | 18 December 1948 (Sweden)
A hard-line judge is tempted toward mercy-killing by his wife's terminal cancer.

Director:

Michael Gordon

Writers:

Ernst Lothar (novel), Michael Blankfort (screenplay) | 1 more credit »
Reviews
1 nomination. See more awards »

Photos

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Cast

Complete credited cast:
Fredric March ... Judge Calvin Cooke
Edmond O'Brien ... David Douglas
Florence Eldridge ... Catherine Cooke
Geraldine Brooks ... Ellie Cooke
Stanley Ridges ... Doctor Walter Morrison
John McIntire ... Judge Ogden
Frederic Tozere Frederic Tozere ... Charles Dayton
Will Wright ... Judge Jim Wilder
Virginia Brissac ... Mrs. Russell
Francis McDonald ... Mr. Russell
Mary Servoss ... Julia
Don Beddoe ... Pearson
Clarence Muse ... Mr. Pope
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Storyline

Judge Cooke, good husband and father, is known in court as Old Man Maximum. Cooke's daughter loves defender Dave Douglas, who hates Cooke's attitude toward defendants. Cooke's life shatters when he learns his wife has terminal brain cancer; as her pain worsens, he begins to consider mercy-killing, but that would place him in the position of a defendant. Written by Rod Crawford <puffinus@u.washington.edu>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

MERCY or MURDER? Can you condemn this man?

Genres:

Crime | Drama | Film-Noir

Certificate:

Approved | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

18 December 1948 (Sweden) See more »

Also Known As:

Live Today for Tomorrow See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

"Nemo me impune lacessit," the Latin phrase quoted by Judge Wilder during the dinner party, means "No one attacks me unpunished." It is the motto of the Scottish Order of the Thistle, and is also used on certain Scottish and British royal coats of arms. See more »

Goofs

While the setting was Pennsylvania, the outdoor highway scenes were obviously shot in California. See more »

Quotes

Doctor Walter Morrison: What is incurable today is curable next Wednesday.
See more »

Connections

Featured in Movies Are Adventure (1948) See more »

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User Reviews

 
Daring Morality Play
28 August 2014 | by adamshlSee all my reviews

The concept of tempering legality with compassion is a daring, slippery slope. It is today as it was in 1948 when this challenging film was released.

Fortunately, this drama has the great acting team Florence Eldridge and Fredric March in the lead roles, lending both power and sensitivity to their characterizations. While conceding that the law must by its nature be clear and committed, one can also empathize with the human challenges faced in the case of a terminally ill loved one who is in great pain and suffering.

Where does one draw the line in such cases, especially when a spouse accused of murder emphatically pleads guilty? It's a tough situation created here, and one that must either tread the path of legal justice or find extenuating circumstances to help relieve the inevitable sentence.

"An Act of Murder" manages to walk this tightrope with considerable balance, thanks to an outstanding cast and some petty talented writers. The film also may be considered a "lost work," despite the pairing of Mr. and Mrs. March in the lead roles.

It's also interesting to see only a single bona fide professional review in the IMDb, as though this subject may have been (and still may be) too tough to handle. The most complete review (by Bosley Crowther of the NY Times) expresses the critic's general reaction without declaring a firm stance on the controversial subject of euthanasia. And perhaps this is the best we can ever get, for the topic may be too challenging for us mortals to ever definitively solve.


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