AFI Catalog of Feature Films
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Criminal Court
Director: Robert Wise (Dir)
Release Date:   20 Nov 1946
Premiere Information:   New York opening: 15 Nov 1946
Production Date:   6 Mar--early Apr 1946
Duration (in mins):   59 or 62-63
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Cast:   Tom Conway (Steve Barnes)  
    Martha O'Driscoll (Georgia Gale)  
    June Clayworth (Joan Mason)  
    Robert Armstrong (Vic Wright)  
    Addison Richards (District Attorney Gordon)  
    Pat Gleason (Joe West)  
    Steve Brodie (Frankie [Wright])  
    Robert Warwick (Marquette)  
    Phil Warren (Bill Brannegan)  
    Joe Devlin ([Bob J.] Brownie [Brown])  
    Lee Bonnell (Gil Lambert)  
    Robert Clarke (Dance director)  
    Nancy Saunders (Secretary)  
    Tom Noonan (Cab driver)  
    Phil Dunham (Hankinson)  
    Dick Rush (Wilson)  
    Sam Ash (Jennings)  
    Colin Kenny (Roberts)  
    Homer Dickinson (Butler)  
    Robert Smith (Doyle)  
    Johnny Indrisano (Headwaiter)  
    Tony Barrett (Reporter)  
    Mike Lally (Reporter)  
    Carl Hansen (Reporter)  
    Lee Frederick (Kellogg)  
    Harry Harvey (Judge)  
    Jason Robards (Marsh)  
    Charles Regan (Assistant district attorney)  
    Max Rose (Bailiff)  
    Jack Gordon (Second gunman)  
    Joe Gray (First gunman)  
    Eddie Borden (Court clerk)  
    Stanley Blystone (Bartender)  
    Don Kerr (Page boy)  
    Sam Flint (Inspector Carson)  
    Joe Bernard (Luther)  
    Alf Haugan (Foreman of jury)  

Summary: Criminal attorney Steve Barnes has made a name for himself with his clever courtroom tactics and dedication to justice. After Steve, who is running for district attorney on a "clean government" platform, exposes Bob J. "Brownie" Brown, a phony eyewitness in a gangland murder case, as a perjurer, he is contacted by Brownie's boss, gangster and nightclub owner Vic Wright. Wright, with whom Steve's girl friend, singer Georgia Gale, has just gotten a job, has learned that Steve owns motion pictures showing members of his gang, including his brother Frankie, bribing various public officials. Acting on orders from his superior, Marquette, to stop Steve at any cost, Wright offers the lawyer a $50,000 campaign "contribution" in exchange for the motion picture negatives. After Steve refuses the bribe, Wright tells him that he has damaging information about him and demands that he not screen the movies for his supporters. Despite Wright's threats, Steve shows the pictures that night at his campaign headquarters, but slips away while they are being projected to confront Wright. Before Steve arrives, Steve's secretary, Joan Mason, consults with Wright in his nightclub office. Joan, who is acting as a spy for Wright, agrees to track down the motion picture negatives and then leaves the office through one door just as Steve comes in by another. Unaware that Joan is eavesdropping on their conversation, Steve laughs off Wright's attempts to scare him with a phony jury tampering confession and slugs the gangster. Infuriated, Wright goes for a gun hidden in a wall panel and threatens Steve with it. During the subsequent struggle, the gun falls and accidentally shoots and kills Wright. Steve returns to his headquarters without calling the police and thereby inadvertently sets up Georgia, who had an appointment with Wright, to be caught by Frankie with the murder weapon in her hand. After a terrified Georgia flees the scene and is arrested, Steve confesses his part in the case. The district attorney, however, is sure that Steve is lying and indicts Georgia on murder charges. Marquette, meanwhile, has ordered Joan not to reveal herself as an eyewitness and has flunky Joe West offer Steve her testimony in exchange for the motion picture negatives. When Georgia deduces that Steve is about to sacrifice his campaign for her freedom, she insists that he pursue the case honestly. The unsuspecting Steve then asks Joan to hire an investigator to track down West's "eyewitness," and the guilt-ridden secretary inadvertently reveals a fact about the case that only an eyewitness could know. During Georgia's trial, Steve suddenly realizes what Joan has done, and after calling her as a surprise witness, thwarts West's attempts to shoot her in court and extracts a confession out of her. With Georgia completely exonerated, Steve then proposes to his ecstatic girl friend. 

Production Company: RKO Radio Pictures, Inc.  
Distribution Company: RKO Radio Pictures, Inc.  
Director: Robert Wise (Dir)
  Sam Ruman (Asst dir)
Producer: Martin Mooney (Prod)
  Sid Rogell (Exec prod)
Writer: Lawrence Kimble (Scr)
  Earl Felton (Story)
Photography: Frank Redman (Dir of photog)
Art Direction: Albert S. D'Agostino (Art dir)
  Lucius O. Croxton (Art dir)
Film Editor: Robert Swink (Ed)
Set Decoration: Darrell Silvera (Set dec)
  Michael Orenbach (Set dec)
Costumes: Adele Balkan (Cost)
Music: C. Bakaleinikoff (Mus dir)
  Paul Sawtell (Mus)
Sound: Francis M. Sarver (Sd)
  Roy Granville (Sd)
Special Effects: Russell A. Cully (Spec eff)
Country: United States

Songs: "I Couldn't Sleep a Wink Last Night" and "A Lovely Way to Spend an Evening," words by Harold Adamson, music by Jimmy McHugh.
Composer: Harold Adamson
  Jimmy McHugh

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number
RKO Radio Pictures, Inc. 7/8/1946 dd/mm/yyyy LP708

PCA NO: 11554
Physical Properties: b&w:
  Sd: RCA Sound System

 
Genre: Drama
  Drama
Sub-Genre: Crime
  with songs
 
Subjects (Major): False arrests
  Gangsters
  Lawyers
  Murder
  Political corruption
 
Subjects (Minor): Bribery
  Confession (Law)
  District attorneys
  Duplicity
  Eavesdropping
  Fights
  Motion pictures
  Nightclub owners
  Perjury
  Political campaigns
  Proposals (Marital)
  Romance
  Self-sacrifice
  Singers
  Threats
  Trials
  Witnesses

Note: Criminal Court was producer Martin Mooney's first film for RKO. Mooney was a former crime reporter, according to HR . Harold Adamson and James McHugh's songs "I Couldn't Sleep a Wink Last Night" and "A Lovely Way to Spend an Evening," which were sung by Martha O'Driscoll in this film, were first presented in the 1943 RKO picture Higher and Higher (see entry below) and were made popular by Frank Sinatra. 

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
Box Office   10 Aug 1946.   
Daily Variety   8 Aug 46   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   1 Mar 46   p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter   4 Mar 46   p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter   5 Mar 46   p. 2, 3
Hollywood Reporter   29 Mar 46   p. 22.
Hollywood Reporter   8 Aug 46   p. 3.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest   27 Apr 46   p. 2963.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest   10 Aug 46   p. 3137.
New York Times   16 Nov 46   p. 15.
Variety   14 Aug 46   p. 10.

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.
 
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