(1959 b 161')
Adapted from a novel by John D. Voelker using the name Robert Traver and directed by Otto Preminger, a country lawyer defends a jealous army officer accused of murdering the man who raped his pretty wife.
At night Paul Biegler (James Stewart) drives into town. Parnell Emmett McCarthy (Arthur O’Connell) is informed of this at a bar and says goodnight. Paul goes home and puts away his shotguns. He puts fish in the sink. He sees a note and calls Mrs. Manion, leaving a message. Parnell comes in and finds a paper bag with a bottle in it he opens. Paul approves and plays the piano and smokes a cigar. Paul says he makes a living as a lawyer and likes to talk with Parnell. Paul answers the phone, and Parnell advises him to take Mrs. Manion’s case. Laura Manion (Lee Remick) is calling from a bar and asks if he read about her husband who is in jail. He says he will see her husband and her at ten in the morning. Parnell tells Paul that Mr. Manion killed someone.
In the morning Maida Rutledge (Eve Arden) comes in and finds Parnell sleeping on the couch and Paul reading the newspaper. Paul tells her to cancel his appointments, and she implies he has none. She says the refrigerator is filled with fish, but he cannot pay her salary.
Paul drives to the county jail and meets Laura who has a dog by her car. They go in, and Deputy Sheriff Sulo (John Qualen) says they can see Manion. Paul asks Laura to take off her dark glasses and sees that she has a black eye. Paul makes an appointment to see Laura in his office, and then he meets in a private room with Lt. Frederick Manion (Ben Gazzara). Manion asks if he was the district attorney and asks what he knows about defense. Manion says that Barney Quill raped his wife, and he has the unwritten law on his side. Paul says there is no such law, and he could get life in prison. Paul asks him questions about his service in the army, and he was married before. Laura was divorced too. Manion has no children. He says the newspaper accounts are correct, and he took a lie-detector test. Manion says he is sorry for offending him, and Paul says he is not.
Paul goes out and eats hard-boiled eggs with Parnell. He says Manion is hostile. Paul goes back and tells Manion four ways he can defend him. He is not justified because an hour intervened between when he learned of the rape and the murder. Paul suggests he plead guilty and ask for mercy. Paul says the sympathy will be with him because his wife was raped. He asks Manion what his legal excuse is. Manion says he must have been mad. Paul says anger is no excuse, and Manion says he must have been crazy. Paul asks him to remember how crazy he was and leaves.
Paul asks Maida if Laura is there yet. Maida says she has been listening to his jazz records. She asks if Paul got any money. Paul says he has not decided whether to take the case. He goes in the other room and turns off the music. He asks where she lived. She says her marriage was happy. Her first marriage ended because she went for Manny. She asks for a beer and asks if he is married. He says no. Paul gets a beer from Maida, and Laura has him give some to the dog. Paul asks if she is ready to tell him the story, even what she did not tell the police. She describes what she did at Barney’s bar. She left about eleven, and Barney offered to drive her home because of the bears. He drove to the trailer park, and the gate was closed. Barney offered to drive her in by another road. She realizes she is attractive to men and says Paul is interested in her that way too. He likes the way she is dressed and asks how she was dressed that night. She does not wear a girdle. She says Barney stopped the car and said he was going to rape her. Barney threw the dog out the window. She tried to fight him off, and they were in the woods. He hit her, and she stopped fighting him. He tore her panties off her. She says she was raped. Barney started driving and took her back to the trailer park. He said he was going to tear off her clothes again, and she ran off. He chased her and started beating her. She screamed and made it through the fence. She never saw Barney again. Paul says that is enough for now. She picks up her dog and leaves.
Parnell learns that she is the lady in the case. Paul says if he takes the case, he wants Parnell to help. Parnell says he will but not in the courtroom. Paul asks if he will lay off the booze, and Parnell is not sure he could. Maida suggests he try it. Parnell says he has never been in a big murder case. Paul asks if he will be there tonight, and Parnell says yes. Paul goes out.
In his cell Manion tells Paul that he remembers going to Quill’s bar with a gun. Paul asks if he remembers the five shots. Manion says the shots seemed far away. Paul says he will take the case and will charge $3,000. Manion says he is broke but can raise it after he gets out of jail. Manion can give him money from his next pay check. Manion asks what Paul will do next, and he says he will see his wife again.
Paul goes to the office of District Attorney Mitch Lodwick (Brooks West) and discusses the case with him. Paul asks him to lower the charge because Laura passed the lie-detector test. Mitch asked how he knew that.
Manion sees Paul and Laura outside from his cell. Paul asks about her panties, and she says she never found them. Paul tells her she passed the lie-detector test. He says her husband is watching her, and he asks if she is afraid of him. She admits she is because he is jealous. Paul asks if her husband has any reason to be jealous, and she says no, not once.
Paul drives to Quill’s bar and looks around the empty room that has a wall full of photos. Alphonse Paquette (Murray Hamilton), the bartender, comes in and says they are not open until five. Paul questions him about what happened that night. He does not want to talk about it, and Paul says he will have to talk in court. Alphonse says he liked Barney. He was not married, but Mary worked for him.
In a beauty salon Maida sees Mary Pilant (Kathryn Grant). In a bar Parnell learns that Mary is a dish, and a soldier tells her that she was Quill’s private property.
Paul goes to a restaurant and is joined by Maida. Paul asks her about Mary Pilant. Maida says she was involved with Quill. She says Barney got upset because Mary got involved with someone else. Maida points out the pretty girl who is Mary to Paul, who invites her to sit with them and Parnell. He asks her about Quill, and she says he was a good man. Paul asks about the rape, and she says she does not know anything about that. She gets upset and leaves the table.
In jail Manion tells Paul that the army wants him to have an examination. Paul will look into that. Manion’s cellmate indicates he would like to be with Laura, and Manion grabs him jealously.
Paul is playing piano with a jazz band, and Laura is dancing. Paul asks to talk to her outside. He advises her to see her husband every day. He says he is taking her home. Until the trial is over, she is going to stay away from men and juke joints and dress modestly. He drives her and parks by the trailer park. She leads him toward her trailer and shows him her favorite place. She says she is lonely. She invites him in, and he apologizes for spoiling her fun and says goodnight.
In court Judge Weaver (Joseph N. Welch) is presiding and explains he is a visiting judge. The D. A. reads the charge against Clarence Madigan for breaking and entering. Madigan pleads guilty, and the judge says he will sentence him later. The Manion case is called, and Paul introduces himself. He explains that Manion is in Detroit getting an examination by the Army’s psychiatrist. Paul says Manion will stand mute, and the Judge enters a plea of not guilty.
Manion arrives at a railroad station and is met by Paul and Parnell. Manion says the doctor said he was temporarily insane; he had an irresistible impulse to shoot Quill. Manion leaves with the sheriff. Parnell doubts Michigan ever accepted that defense. Paul says they could plead self-defense.
Judge Weaver goes to a law library and sees Parnell and Paul studying books; he closes the door and leaves. Parnell and Paul look for cases they can use as precedents. Paul finds an 1886 case.
In court the judge exams the jurors. The Assistant Attorney General Claude Dancer (George C. Scott) joins the D. A. at his table while the judge asks the jurors questions. Parnell passes a note to Paul to look out for the man from the Attorney General’s office. The D. A. introduces Dancer, and the judge is honored to accept him.
In his chambers the judge commends the lawyers. Dancer says they have a psychiatrist who must exam the defendant. Paul asks him to file a formal petition, which is late. Dancer decides not to file the petition and exam the defendant.
Dr. Raschid testifies as to the cause of death. Paul asks him about the spermatogenesis of Quill, which means he was fertile. The D. A. objects. Paul asks why that test was made. The doctor says he was not asked about whether the deceased reached a sexual climax. The D. A. objects, and the judge tells the jury to disregard the question and the answer.
A photographer testifies about the pictures he took of the deceased, and they are entered as evidence. Paul asks if he took other photos and what they were. The D. A. objects and is over-ruled. He also took pictures of Mrs. Manion, showing how she looked. Manion suggests the prosecution was hiding evidence and is reprimanded. Paul complains he has two experts competing against him, and the judge rules that only one of them may question each witness. As people leave, Paul asks Maida about Parnell and learns that he took his car.
Parnell is driving toward the Canadian border.
Dr. W. Gregory Harcourt, a psychiatrist, is sitting at the prosecution’s table, and Paul asks who he is.
The D. A. questions Alphonse, who describes Manion coming in and shooting at Barney who was behind the bar. He says he walked slowly and seemed like a mailman. He saw him walking away outside and told him not to run away from this. Manion asked if he wanted some too. Alphonse says he said it “cool and hard.” Paul asks if he saw Laura at the bar that night. Alphonse says Quill left the bar that night and describes how he appeared when he returned. Alphonse did not notice whether he had changed his clothes. He admits that Barney was drinking as usual. Paul asks Alphonse about men who like women and whether Barney was a “wolf.” Barney took over the bar from Alphonse, and he was by the door when Manion came in. Paul asks him if Barney asked him to look out the window for Manion, and Alphonse says no. Paul asks if he kept any guns behind the bar, and Alphonse says there were guns in concealed racks. Paul asks if Barney ever displayed the guns, and he says yes.
George Lemon (Russ Brown) testifies he is a caretaker at the trailer park, and he is a deputy sheriff. The D. A. asks if he saw Lt. Manion. Lemon says he was awakened, and Manion asked him to take him to jail. Lemon says he was in possession of his faculties. The D. A. objects, and Paul quarrels with him. The judge reprimands him and warns him of contempt. Paul apologizes. Paul asks if he heard anything, and Lemon says a tourist told him the next day they heard screams by the gate.
Detective Sergeant James Durgo (Ken Lynch) is the next witness, and he says Manion was with his wife and that he had shot Quill, asking if he was dead. He took Manion to the jail, and Manion said he would do it again. He says Manion was calm and collected. Paul asks if Manion said he had trouble with Quill. Durgo says they were his words. Paul asks what Manion actually said. The D. A. objects, and they debate the issue. Paul says they cannot separate the motive from the act. He says the temporary insanity was triggered by the trouble Manion had with Quill. The judge overrules the objection. Durgo says that Manion said that Quill had raped his wife. He was awakened by screams and said his wife fell into his arms. She was bruised and beat up. Paul asks if he found evidence backing up Laura’s account. He describes what they found at the scene. The judge asks them to approach the bench, and he suggests they must go into the rape. They decide they have to use the word “panties,” and the judge orders people to get over their laughter when the word is used again. Paul asks Durgo if he gave Mrs. Manion a lie-detector test. The D. A. objects, and the judge explains that the test results are not admissible. Durgo testifies he was convinced of her honesty. The D. A. asks Durgo why she asked for the test. Dancer asks for a recess. Paul asks Manion and Laura why they did not tell him about her swearing by a rosary. Paul tells them they must tell the truth.
Dancer questions Dr. Dompiere (Howard McNear) who says they found no sperm. Paul cross-examines how they could have done better testing. He testifies it is impossible to tell if a mature woman has been raped. Sperm is not necessary for rape.
Dancer recalls Alphonse and asks how she was dressed that night. He describes she was in tight clothes. Paul admits that she is a beautiful woman and that it is understandable that her husband would have been upset when he saw her bruised and beat up. Dancer criticizes Paul. Alphonse testifies how she was behaving while playing pinball. She was being friendly with Barney and bumped him with her hip. Paul asks how drunk she was and whether she was happy. Alphonse says she was, but she was not attracting a crowd. Paul asks if Barney said he was going to rape her, and Alphonse says no.
Parnell drives a station wagon through a gate at night. Paul visits him in the hospital and asks what he was up to. Parnell says Quill hired Mary Pilant, and Barney Quill was her father.
Paul goes to the bar and asks to speak with Mary, saying where she was from in Canada. Paul asks Alphonse for a beer at the bar. Mary comes in, and they sit at a table. Paul apologizes because he did not know that Barney was her father. He asks for evidence about Laura’s story about the rape. Mary says Barney could not have raped her. Paul wants her to back up her story. He suggests that Barney was many things. Paul asks her to persuade Alphonse to testify for the defense. Paul believes that Barney told Alphonse to look out for Manion. Paul says Manion fired as soon as he entered. Paul suspects that Barney told Alphonse that he raped Laura. She asks Al if he has not told something he knows about that night. She asks if her father raped Mrs. Manion, and Al says he would not hurt a woman.
In court Paul questions Manion, and he testifies what he did that night. He took care of Laura and then loaded his gun. He knew Quill kept guns behind the bar and was afraid that he might shoot him. He wanted to hold Quill while someone got the police. He says he was in a daze. Paul asks if he noticed if the bar was crowded. Manion says he saw only Quill. Paul asks why he shot him, and Manion says he does not remember shooting him. He asks about his conversation with Alphonse outside, and he vaguely remembers something about it. When he got home, he realized his gun was empty. Paul asks if he loved his wife that night and if he still loves her, and he say yes. Dancer asks Manion how many men he has killed. Paul objects. Manion says he killed four men in Korea and maybe others. Dancer says he never had a lapse of memory during war or battle fatigue, and he says no.
Paul calls Laura Manion to the stand as Mary is arriving at the courthouse. Laura describes what Manion did at the trailer. Later Manion said, “I think I killed Barney Quill.” She tells him to go to Mr. Lemon. Manion said he forgot that he was a deputy sheriff. Paul asks the judge to let him show the dog, and it is permitted. Laura brings a flash light, and the dog turns on the light. The dogs jumps on Dancer. He cross-examines and brings out that she was divorced before she married Manion. She married him three days after her divorce. Dancer brings out that she is a lapsed Catholic. He asks about her integrity. He asks if they had an argument because her husband was out late, and she admits that. Paul objects that Dancer stood between him and the witness. Paul threatens to punch him if he does it again. Dancer asks why she went out alone at night. She says she gets restless. He asks if she ever went to meet another man, and she says no. He asks why she got into Barney’s car, and she says she was afraid of the bears at night. She says she did not want to offend Quill. She says it was the first time she had been in Barney’s car at night. He asks her to describe her panties. Dancer asks if she was wearing panties, and Paul objects to these questions. She admits that she does not always wear panties. Dancer asks if her husband is excessively jealous. Paul objects. She admits that Manion struck a lieutenant at a party. She also says her husband struck her because he was jealous. She admits it was a jealous rage. He asks her what she swore about that night. She says she swore that Barney raped her, and he asks her why he should believe her. He asks if her husband hit her that night, and she says he slapped her.
Parnell meets Dr. Matthew Smith at the train station.
In court Paul questions Dr. Smith who says that Manion was temporarily insane that night. As a soldier only an action would release his tension; it was an irresistible impulse. A man in dissociated reaction would seem like a normal man. Dancer asks if he found any history of psychosis or neurosis. Paul asks Maida about Mary, but Mary did not come back after lunch. Dr. Smith says he would have shot Quill whether he thought it was right or wrong.
The judge meets in his chambers with the lawyers. Dancer suggests they change their plea to guilty. Paul shows the judge a law book with a fish-hook in it and gives it to him. The judge sees the 1886 case as a precedent.
Dancer questions Dr. Harcourt and asks if the defendant was sane on that night, and he agrees. Paul asks if Dr. Harcourt could be wrong, and he agrees it is possible but believes he is right. Duane Miller is called by the prosecution. Dancer questions him. Miller was in the same cell with Manion and reports their conversation. He says Manion said he fooled his lawyer and others. Manion shouts that he is a liar. Paul apologizes and says a felon is testifying against an officer. Miller testifies that Manion said he is going to kick his wife around after he gets out. Paul asks Miller about his record, six times in prison. Paul asks Miller if he dreamed up his story to please the prosecutors.
Paul recalls Manion and asks if Miller’s testimony is true. Manion says none of it. Paul asks what he talked to Miller about. Dancer asks if Manion ever attacked Miller physically. Manion admits he pushed his head against the bars once when he said something about his wife. Dancer asks if Manion’s action was similar to that against Quill. Manion says his wife was not running around with Quill. Paul asks Manion if he ever beat his wife. He has no doubt that Quill raped his wife.
Paul asks permission to leave the courtroom for a minute, and he comes back with Mary Pilant who will testify. Dancer calls it a trick. She testifies that she manages the inn and that she lived in the room next to Quill. He asks her about the laundry, and she says she found the panties the day after. She shows them, and Paul offers them as the defense’s exhibit. Dancer asks what she said before, that she did not believe that Quill raped Laura. She says she is not sure now. Paul objects to Dancer’s questions, and the judge asks him to ask straight questions. Dancer asks if she was Barney’s mistress, and she says he was her father.
Paul plays piano at home, and Maida asks if the jury will stay out all night. Maida hopes they will win because she needs money to fix her typewriter. Parnell says twelve people have to judge another human being who is different than they are. Paul says Dancer’s summary was the best he ever heard, but Maida says she liked Paul’s. The phone rings, and she says they are ready.
They return to the courtroom, and tipsy Laura tells Paul that she will be waiting for her husband in the car. The judge cautions the audience as the jury returns. The foreman says they found the defendant not guilty by reason of insanity.
Paul and Parnell in his car talk, and Parnell says he does not need to drink. Paul says he got a law partner out of the case. They park in the woods by the trailer park. Lemon gives Paul a note from Manion. Parnell reads it aloud. Manion apologized and wrote that he was compelled by an irresistible impulse. Paul says they are going to administer Quill’s estate for Mary Pilant, and Parnell calls that poetic justice.This classic courtroom drama explores in depth whether temporary insanity is a legitimate defense for killing a person when a jealous man is provoked by the rape of his beautiful wife. The country lawyers do their best against the professional prosecutors who have extensive resources to prepare their case.