One for the don’t miss list. Spencer Tracy is a former legendary defense attorney that is now in civil practice. A neighborhood man’s parents beg him to take their sons’ murder case. Acting kudos have to go out to William Campbell as the sleazy Frankie Korvac. It’s based on the book by Elezar Lipsky and directed by John Sturges.
Sven Norson (Jay C. Flippen with a bad Swedish accent) steps out of a noisy bar and witnesses a murder. The victim is fish market owner William Sheffield. The cops find the getaway car and the fingerprints of cheap hood Frankie Korvac (William Campbell). He says his co-worker at the fish market, Johnny O’Hara (James Arness), is the one who pulled the trigger. It’s Johnny’s car.
Detective Ricks (Pat O’Brien) spots Johnny going home and calls out to him. Johnny runs. He thinks it may be Knuckles Lanzetta (Eduardo Ciannnelli). Johnny’s having an affair with his young wife Katrina. Earlier he told her he couldn’t see her anymore because he was afraid of what Knuckles would do to her if he found out.
The cops nab Johnny and take him to D.A.Louis Barra (John Hodiak) and confront him with evidence. That includes a suitcase that belonged to Sheffield that was rumored to have a gold bar in it. Turns out it’s just old clothes. There’s also a recently fired gun that Johnny brought back from the war. He lies about where he was that night.
Johnny’s parents go to attorney Jim Curtayne (Spencer Tracy) who agrees to take the case. At first he refused because of his daughter Ginny (Diana Lynn). She’s worried that he’ll start drinking again. The pressures of being a defense attorney got to be too much and he turned to civil law. Johnny lies to Jim and gives a false alibi.
Ginny tells her fiancee Jeff Chapman (Richard Anderson) she can’t marry him while her father is involved in the case. She’s compelled to watch over him. Before the trial Jim investigates and that includes talking with Knuckles. He tells him Sheffield was talking about repaying a large loan. He also meets Mrs.Knuckles.
Jim is back in his old form as the trial gets underway. Then Frankie takes the stand. Jim can’t break him. The pressure is getting to him and Ginny catches him with a bottle. She manages to stop him.
Ricks and Jim go for lunch in a bar and he tells Jim that Barra has a secret witness to the crime. Ricks leaves and out from a booth comes Sven. Earlier he had to accept the minimum fee for testifying from Barra and isn’t happy at the meager amount. He arranges with Jim to change his testimony….for five hundred bucks. Jim writes him a check.
Back in court Sven is on the stand. Looks like he’s double crossing Jim. Jim sees what’s really going on when Barra is standing next to him while questioning Sven. He’s got the check in his hand. Done deal. O’Hara is guilty.
The movie has some great suspense to come. The whole production is absorbing from beginning to end. Don’t miss it.
In the final segments look for character actors Emile Meyer as Captain Tom Mulvaney and Regis Toomey as Fred Colton, a police sound man.