Studio One in Hollywood (1948–1958)
6 user 1 critic

Sentence of Death 

A woman witnesses a murder during a store robbery but claims the accused man is not the killer. After he is convicted and weeks away from his execution date, she sees the real killer, but the police are reluctant to reopen the case.


Matt Harlib


Fletcher Markle (creator), Adrian Spies (written for television by) | 1 more credit »




Episode credited cast:
Gene Lyons ... Sgt. Paul Cochran
Betsy Palmer ... Ellen Morrison
Ralph Dunn ... Sgt. MacReynolds
James Dean ... Joe Palica
Virginia Vincent ... Mrs. Sawyer
Tony Bickley Tony Bickley ... Tommy Elliott
Fred J. Scollay ... Harry Sawyer (as Fred Scollay)
Henry Sharp Henry Sharp ... Mr. Eugene Krantz (as Henry Sharpe)
Eda Heinemann Eda Heinemann ... Sylvia Krantz (as Eda Heineman)
Charles Mendick Charles Mendick ... Lugash - District Attorney
Frank Biro Frank Biro ... The Man (as Barnet Biro)
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Betty Furness ... Self - Commercial Spokeswoman
June Graham June Graham ... Self - Substitute Commercial Spokeswoman


A woman witnesses a murder during a store robbery but claims the accused man is not the killer. After he is convicted and weeks away from his execution date, she sees the real killer, but the police are reluctant to reopen the case.

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis




Did You Know?


Broadcast as Westinghouse Studio One Summer Theatre. See more »


When Ellen Morrison recants that Joe Palica is not the murderer when sees the real killer in the bar; the police never ask her to look through the mug books as time goes by with Palica on death row. See more »


Featured in Studio One Documentary (2002) See more »


Introduction from "Le Coq d' Or"
Music by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov
See more »

User Reviews

Fantastic, feels like a regular movie
16 March 2020 | by HotToastyRagSee all my reviews

When television movies were new, they were called plays because they were performed live and any mistakes were visible to their millions of audience members. Actors only got breaks during commercials, and if a line was muffed, they had to carry on without looking in the camera, swearing, or bursting into tears. Most television plays weren't very good, which is why the good ones stood out and sometimes propelled their stars to stardom. Case in point is James Dean, who got introduced to American moviegoers through his work on television playhouses. I've seen quite a few of his early movies, and without a doubt, my favorite is Sentence of Death. It's so great, it feels like a theatrical movie that got replayed on the small screen. I highly recommend watching this one, even if you're wary on tv movies; it's guaranteed to pleasantly surprise you.

Betsy Palmer takes the lead and shines as bright as any major Hollywood star as a good-time society dame out slumming it at a drugstore when she becomes the witness to the murder of the owner. The grieving widow, Virginia Vincent, is anxious to convict her husband's killer, but the two policemen on the case have conflicting views. Ralph Dunn believes Virginia's identification of James Dean out of a lineup, but his partner Gene Lyons is skeptical. When Betsy passionately declares Dean is not the killer, she and Gene ban together to try and find the real man before titular punishment is carried out.

The script is fast-paced, Westinghouse's production values are good, and the acting is top-notch. Betsy was heavily employed on the small screen, but after seeing her Doris-Day-esque style, it's a wonder she didn't rocket to stardom alongside the supporting actor in this television thriller. Gene is also convincing in his role, and he also enjoyed a brief but memorable career on television. James Dean gives a very strong performance, transitioning from a troubled kid struggling to find his alibi to a man on death row pleading for his life. You'll get to see his signature Montgomery-Clift-esque style that propelled him to instant popularity, his hunched shoulders, his bad-boy attitude that's clearly misunderstood, his sensitive face, and his heartbreaking pout. He doesn't have as big a part as Betsy and Gene, but this is one of the best tv movies he made, so I urge you to check it out if you're a fan and want to see more than just the three theatrical films he made. Next up, check out The Thief for more of his emotional outbursts!

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Release Date:

17 August 1953 (USA) See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

CBS Television Network See more »
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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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