Excellent performances highlight this courtroom drama written and directed by Clifford Odets. Outstanding are Anthony Franciosa as a defense attorney, Sanford Meisner as a prosecutor and Mildred Dunnock as an over the top possessive mother. This is one not to be missed.
Mrs.Annie Brown hires attorney Victor Santini (Anthony Franciosa) to defend her daughter on a murder charge. Jo Morris (Rita Hayworth) is accused of killing her husband. Her co-defendant is her lover Larry Ellis (Gig Young). Santini interviews Jo in prison and the details of the crime are told via flashback.
Jo’s husband Mike (Alfred Ryder) is a police detective He’s abusive to her and their young daughter Avis. Jo has broken off her affair with her accountant Larry but her mother urges her to start it up again and wants her to call him after Mike leaves for work.
Jo finds out Larry’s young son was killed in an accident a month ago and she goes to console him. They meet in a strange bar where the entertainment is a woman who plays the organ.
Back home Mike has arranged for an insurance agent to come over. He wants a twenty thousand dollar policy and Jo wisecracks why not make it sixty. The agent leaves and Mike tells Jo he’s losing hearing in both ears and it will cost him his job if anyone finds out.
He leaves for work and a woman is waiting outside the door. Mike thinks she’s selling something. She comes in and Jo finds out she’s Larry’s possessive mother (Mildred Dunnock). She says she’ll tell Mike about her affair with Larry if she doesn’t break it off. Larry is in Sacramento on business and doesn’t know what Mom is up to.
Jo calls Larry who tells his friend Morris about the threat. He then flies to L.A. to console Jo. Jo, Avis and Mike are returning from a wedding party. Mike’s drunk. Jo parks the car and Larry comes out of hiding. Larry comes into the kitchen and eventually Mike hears them. He goes to the hall closet and gets his gun. Mike staggers into the kitchen and he and Larry struggle. The gun goes off killing Mike.
Back to the present and the prison interview. Santini has his doubts since Jo lied to the police and said a prowler did it. Larry’s cuff link was found on the floor and the cops traced him to Sacramento. He said he was in bed sick that night. The cops aren’t buying that story.
The trial. To run down this sequence. which is the last hour of the movie, would spoil the great acting to come. I will state that Sanford Meisner and Mildred Dunnock gave Oscar worthy performances and it’s mystifying why they weren’t even nominated. It’s no surprise that Meisner was an acting teacher. Don’t miss this one.
Mildred Dunnock did receive Oscar nominations for Best Supporting Actress for “Baby Doll” (1956) and “Death Of A Salesman” (1951).