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
Trial is one of the best films of the Fifties and a personal favorite of mine in the credits of a favorite actor of mine, Glenn Ford. Made at the end of what is loosely described as the 'McCarthy Era', Trial bravely tackles the evils of right and leftwing extremism and shows that people of good will can make a difference in defeating them. It's a subject I'm surprised Frank Capra didn't consider as a project.
Communist attorney Arthur Kennedy has latched on to a case involving the death of a teenage caucasian girl in which a young Mexican boy stands accused of her murder. In fact we see the events as they transpire at the beginning of the film. The boy, very winningly played by Rafael Campos has some very dubious culpability in the matter.
But in this California town, prejudice against Mexican-Americans runs pretty high. Rafael is arrested and the Communist party looks to jump in. For window dressing they latch on to law professor Glenn Ford who agrees to go to court with the young man, partly to prove the falsity of that old adage about those who can't, teach.
Ford does pretty good for a while, but Kennedy who's more interested in a martyr and the stirring up of race prejudice, gets the mother played by Katy Jurado to have Rafael take the stand. District Attorney John Hodiak in a devastating cross examination blows the defense wide open.
Arthur Kennedy's bravura performance as Communist attorney Barney Castle won him an Oscar nomination, but he lost out to Jack Lemmon for Mister Roberts. But my personal favorite in this film is the Judge played with strength and dignity by Juano Hernandez. Judge Hernandez shows as Shakespeare put it that the quality of mercy is indeed not strained.
I can't think of another film in that time that showed some of the problems that scar America's soul, but also show that the cure offered might indeed be worse.
Unseen is a state investigating committee against subversives where Ford's been subpoened to appear. That's not modeled after McCarthy, the reference is to a California State Senator named Jack Tenney who in that era attempted to be a state version of McCarthy. And like McCarthy generated a lot of heat, but very little light.
Glenn and the cast can be very proud of the work they did on this film.
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