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The Witness Chair

(1936 b 64')

En: 5 Ed: 4

An executive suspected of embezzling is prosecuted for murder, but the testimony of witnesses reveals he did neither.

Paula Young (Ann Harding) leaves Stanley Whittaker's office by stairs so that no one will see her. Connie Trent (Frances Sage) calls on Paula and says she was going to marry Whittaker on the boat to Europe. Whittaker's body is found with a gun in his hand. Lt. Poole (Moroni Olsen) finds Whittaker's note confessing he misappropriated $75,000 and absolving James Trent. The office was locked and dark, and Lt. Poole doubts it was suicide. Paula comes in to work and identifies Whittaker. Bookkeeper Grace Franklin (Margaret Hamilton) is told and faints. Office boy Benny Ryan (Billy Benedict) tells Lt. Poole that the gun is Trent's. Franklin says that Whittaker would not steal. James Trent (Walter Abel) identifies his gun and is arrested.

In court Lt. Poole testifies no fingerprints were found on the gun. Paula Young testifies how the day before Benny showed her Trent's gun. She says that Whittaker (Douglass Dumbrille) and Trent never quarreled. Bookkeeper Franklin testifies that the shortage was due to Trent's department. Auditor Henshaw (Charles Arnt) says that Whittaker accounted for the money and held Trent responsible; but Henshaw admits he paid off his $3,000 mortgage. Paula testifies that she heard Whittaker offer Henshaw $5,000 to blame Trent and fix the books. Paula then tells Trent, who suggests they wait one day for the evidence of the books. Trent's secretary Tillie Jones (Maxine Jennings) says that Connie called Trent, and then Trent decided to work after dinner.

The time of death was about 10 or 11. The elevator operator says that Trent left at 10:30. Then he took a girl up, and in court he points out Connie. She denies she went out with Whittaker or wrote him letters; but the prosecutor (Paul Harvey) has her love letters to him. Connie says that her father did not know of her romance to Whittaker, and Paula stands up to confirm that. Then Paula says she killed Whittaker. Paula testifies that Connie called Whittaker, who told Connie to meet him at the boat. Paula signs for the tickets but rips them up. Paula types Whittaker's confession, gets Trent's gun, and asks Whittaker to sign it. He signs and tries to take the gun away, but he is shot. In court Paula says it was an accident and faints. Trent learns that Paula will have to face a jury; but when she revives, he asks her to marry.

This realistic courtroom melodrama unravels a murder mystery by the testimony of various witnesses with an ambiguous result since Paula must stand trial.

Copyright © 2000 by Sanderson Beck

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