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Journal of a Crime

(1934 b 65')

En: 5 Ed: 5

Based on a play by Jacques Deval, a wife kills her husband's mistress and escapes undetected except that her husband knows.

Francoise Moliet (Ruth Chatterton) waits in the cold outside the theater and hears her husband Paul Moliet (Adolphe Menjou) argue with Odette (Florey). Paul tells Odette he loves her, but his wife loves him. Odette insists he ask her for a divorce. At home Francoise looks alluring for her husband, welcoming him at 3 a.m. She won't let him talk seriously though and says goodnight. Paul checks his gun. Francoise consults a lawyer; but he can do nothing but sue. At rehearsal Paul explains to Odette he couldn't talk with Francoise. A robber (Noel Madison) shoots a bank teller and escapes into the theater. Odette is shot on stage, and Paul says she is dead. The robber is caught on a ladder. Paul finds his gun in a bucket of water with one bullet fired.

Paul asks Francoise how long she has been home and shows her the gun. At dinner she puts the attorney general Cartier (Douglas Dumbrille) on her left. They discuss crimes of passion, and Francoise says a woman may kill after she is "dead." Later she tells Paul she would not blurt out at dinner that she killed. Paul will keep her secret and let her suffer. She threatens suicide if he goes to the police.

Two months later Francoise tells Paul she is leaving him. Odette's dog Toby is brought in, and Paul plans to keep him. Francoise reads Paul's journal and writes, "I'm staying." At Paul's party Francoise shows up and sees Odette's ghost come in. On the 136th day Paul writes that Francoise is breaking under the strain. They learn the bank robber Costelli was sentenced to death for two murders. Francoise asks Cartier for a permit to see Costelli. She visits Costelli in prison and admits she killed Odette. Costelli tells her to keep her mouth shut. Paul says that Francoise and he are both suffering. She reads that Costelli was executed after confessing he killed Odette. Francoise faints and remembers. She asks Paul to save her, and he says only she can help herself. She calls the attorney general and goes to see him; but on the way she saves a boy from a car and is hit. Francoise is in critical condition. The doctor tells Paul of trauma and amnesia. Paul must teach Francoise about her past. He does not question the wrath and mercy of God. In the final scene he teaches her the words for mountain, sky, and sun.

This story explores the feelings of a wronged wife who commits a crime of passion. When so much of a woman's identity and self-esteem result only from her relationship with her husband and when his loyalty becomes divided, such extremes are possible.

Copyright © 1999 by Sanderson Beck

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