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Night Court

(1932 b 92')

En: 6 Ed: 6

Based on the play by Mark Hellinger and Charles Beahan, a corrupt judge frames a young mother on prostitution.

Judge Moffett (Walter Huston) tries to hide Lil (Noel Francis) from reporters in his office closet. Crawford gives him an envelope of money; Moffett tells Grogan to deposit it. After handing out several quick sentences, Moffett dismisses three robbers represented by Crawford. The governor appointed Judge Osgood (Lewis Stone) to investigate graft. Osgood is grateful the city gave him free education, library books, and parks. Moffett visits Lil to get money from the safe, telling her to move and lay low in the poor part of town, as Osgood's commission is looking for her. She gets an apartment next to Mike and Mary Thomas. Lil goes there to keep Mary (Anita Page) from talking to detectives, and her baby takes an envelope; Mary sees it is Moffett's bankbook, though Lil gets it back. Moffett and Lil arrange for a man to be caught with Mary in her room half undressed, claiming she took him there and demanded more money. Mary calls the police, but she is arrested for prostitution and extortion. Moffett appoints Crawford as Mary's lawyer. He tells her to plead guilty and pay a $5 fine, but Moffett gives her six months in a workhouse.

The janitor (Jean Hersholt) tells Mike (Phillips Holmes) what happened and gives him a drink. Mike asks Judge Moffett about his wife's case, and Moffett takes his baby and gives it to the state. Lil gets Mike drunk and calls Moffett's man Grogan. Mike visits Mary in jail; she tells him what the lawyer said and what really happened, mentioning "Mrs. Moffett's bankbook." Mike goes to a lawyer, who calls Moffett. Moffett tells Grogan to get some "bad boys," and the lawyer tells Mike to talk to Lil. Two men kidnap Mike and beat him up. Osgood has evidence of Moffett's corruption and offers him immunity if he'll testify; but Moffett says Osgood has nothing and threatens him. Later Grogan and others break into Osgood's house and steal his papers. Tortured, Mike agrees to take a boat trip. Grogan and Moffett burn Osgood's papers. Mike (after swimming from the boat) takes Moffett in his taxi to his apartment and ties him up all night. News reports Osgood is murdered and Moffett is wanted. Mike takes him to the police station, where Moffett accuses Mike but is arrested for murder. Moffett demands a hearing, but a dictaphone recorded his conversation with Osgood. He turns to Mike for an alibi and has to admit he framed his wife. Moffett is sentenced to ten years, as Lil, Crawford, Grogan, and others are arrested. Mike is reunited with his family.

Moffett's fear of being caught for corruption leads him to go too far in framing an innocent person, resulting in the unraveling of the graft network. A bad judge can ruin many people's lives, especially the poor who cannot afford good lawyers while letting the corrupt get away with crimes.

Copyright © 1999 by Sanderson Beck

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