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Slightly Honorable

(1939 b 86')

En: 5 Ed: 5

Adapted from a novel by F. G. Presnell, a lawyer and his partner are involved in political chicanery. An 18-year-old singer falls in love with the lawyer who is framed for the murder of his woman friend. He and his partner try to find out who the murderer is.

            Radio reports a scandal about dangerous highways when the man responsible for bad highways died on one of them. At the funeral John Webb (Pat O’Brien) and Vincent Cushing (Edward Arnold) are carrying the casket from the church. Reporter advises a cameramen to take a photo of the two together because one may be dead soon. The lawyer John is accompanied by his partner Russ Sampson (Broderick Crawford). John at the Capitol Bar meets with Senator Scott and tells him his client wants the highway contracts, and he hands him an amendment to the highway bill calling for sealed bids. John assures Scott that his client will support his campaign. Russ asks what happened, and John says they could make $100,000. Alma Brehmer (Claire Dodd) comes up to John, and Russ refuses to get lost. John asks her what happened to them. She calls it yesterday’s blighted romance. She invites John to a party at a nightclub.

            Nightclub singer Ann Seymour (Ruth Terry) is performing with a chorus line. Vincent hands John a drink, and Alma takes John aside. John watches the singer. Russ is dancing with a blonde. Alma takes John to the bar. Rowdy George Taylor (Douglas Dumbrille) has come in drunk and shouts. John wonders how he and Alma might have been together. They imagine being married. She lost her recipe for apple pie and other things. John pinches her cheek and goes to meet the singer and asks her to dance. Alma rejects former boyfriend Pete Godena (Bernard Nedell) she regrets having known. Ann tells John how hard she rehearsed, and she hopes to make money as a singer. She is eighteen years old and two months. She says she likes John, but he advises her to get a young college fellow. He says he can’t date her, but she says she can date him. He walks away and sees Alma dancing with Vincent. Alma’s ex-boyfriend Pete Godena is harassing Ann and rips her dress. John goes over and slugs him. John picks up Ann and leaves with her and Russ. Vincent stops him briefly and sends his men after them. Russ pretends he has a gun in his pocket, and they leave.

            John drives Ann, and they go up the elevator to his apartment. She likes it and limps. John takes off her shoe and massages her foot. He gets some coffee. She stands up and starts taking off her dress. John comes back and tells her to put on her dress. She shows him where she could sew it up. She says it was the prettiest dress she ever had. He says he will find her a cab. He gives her $100, and she puts on the dress. He helps her, and she kisses him. He leaves her at the elevator, and again she says she likes him.

            John comes into his law office and orders his secretary Miss Ater (Eve Arden) to call Mike Daley, who is on a floor. John tells him something and sees a knife fly by his head and stick in the wall. He says goodbye and looks around. He tells Miss Ater it is his new letter opener. Ann comes in with clothes boxes and opens one. She pulls up her dress to try it on, and Miss Ater comes in. The secretary goes out, and John tells Ann she is embarrassing him. She says she spent the $100, and she moved to a new apartment. She pulls up her dress again. John tells her to sit still and goes out. He goes into the other office where Russ is playing guitar and singing. John makes a call to Vincent and asks him for $100,000. Miss Ater comes back in and asks John to sign a check for her. John tells Vincent he is taking a gamble. He tells Russ he gets $20,000 as his cut. Alma calls John from her bed and asks him to drop by around 8 before her heavy date at 9. Ann has come in and is jealous. Russ leaves with Ann and John.

            The three are reading a newspaper at a bar. John leaves and goes to a hotel. He rings Alma’s bell on the windy roof and goes in the open door. He calls her name and lights a match. He hears a woman scream and knocks over a small table. He sees a peacock on the porch. He comes back in and turns on the light. He sees Alma dead and says he will square it for her. He uses his handkerchief to wipe off his fingerprints in the room and goes out.

            John from a pay phone reports the murder while stuttering. He hangs up and dials another number so that his call can’t be traced. He goes back to the hotel and provokes a policeman who puts him under arrest. Inspector Fromm arrives and releases John. They go up to Alma’s room. District Attorney Joyce (Alan Dinehart) questions John who says Cushing gave her jewelry. John says Alma told him she had a date at nine. John says the skunk who killed her will burn. Vincent arrives and denies he gave her jewelry. Two policemen bring in George Taylor, and he uses his gun and wounds Cushing in the arm. An officer brings in Ann, and she runs to John. She admits she is jealous and wanted to kill Alma. Captain Graves (Cliff Clark) asks that they all take off their shoes to look for blood. John asks someone to call him a lawyer.

            The suspects all walk without their shoes to the Homicide Bureau. Russ meets John there. Ann asks John to sit by her. Graves asks if anyone saw a knife before, and Ann raises her hand but then denies it. John says that Cushing quarreled with Alma. The D.A. shows his bias toward Cushing, and Russ challenges him on that, citing the law. John accuses Taylor, who says he cut himself. John says Taylor hated her because she turned him down for Cushing. Pete Godena has to be restrained. Drunk Mike Daley comes in. The D.A. lets them all go with their shoes.

            A newspaper reports that Scott is mobilizing. In the office Russ is creating a graph for the campaign as John comments. A reporter arrives and questions John briefly. John opens his desk drawer and finds the knife. Russ asks John if he killed Alma. The secretary says Captain Graves is there with a detective. John sticks the knife into the ceiling. They come in and conduct a search with two policemen, and John says they are searching for a knife. Russ shows them a bar behind a bookcase, but they decline to partake. The police go in the other office, and Russ and John see the knife move a little. Ann comes in, and the knife falls to the floor. She faints, and they come back but only for a moment. John tries to revive her and offers her a charge account.

            Senator Scott speaks and uses the graph Russ made. A testing machine is wheeled in to demonstrate how different paving lasts. Their own state’s paving will last only seven years.

            John and Russ with the reporter come in to their office and see that it has been searched again. The reporter says jealousy may be the motive.

            Vincent accuses his wife of being jealous and tells her there is a revolver in the desk drawer. She finds an article about the murder of John Brehmer. She tells her daughter to get money from her father. Vincent comes back with her and asks his wife if she has lost her reason. She says he killed Alma’s father and then her. He asks what she did with the clipping and looks for it.

            John goes into a dark office, and someone throws a vase at him. They fight, and John turns on a lamp. He sees it is Miss Sarilla Cushing (Phyllis Brooks). He lights two cigarettes and gives her one. Later she leaves. Ann comes in then and says she will not come to see him anymore. Sarilla gives a coat to the elevator operator.

            John says good morning to his secretary and sees her listening on the phone.  Then she collapses. The D.A. and others have come and accuse John of killing his secretary. Russ and Ann come in. Ann says John Webb had a fight with his secretary last night. John is fingerprinted. Ann sees the secretary collapsed on the desk and faints. John is handcuffed. Russ rushes in and says he got it from a judge, and they release John.

            Sarilla with a bruised face asks her father for $5.

            John and Russ have a new secretary and look at the newspaper. John says the suspects are Cushing and Godena. The secretary finds the knife, and John takes it. He goes out and meets a citizens committee waiting to see him.

            John and Russ go to John’s apartment and find Ann there. They look through papers and find a check signed by Joyce. John says that Cushing, Godena, and Joyce will all go to jail.

            A newspaper reports the exposure of the Cushing machine. Graves tells John and Russ, who are in pajamas, that he has been promoted. Graves says the newspaper thinks John is the murderer, and so he is arresting him. Ann comes in with clothes boxes. Graves warns John not to leave town. Ann asks if John said she was his girl, and he says he did in an emergency. John gets a call from Senator Scott who says the new D.A. Graves thinks John is the murderer. Scott says the vote is tomorrow. John finds a crumpled clipping about the murder of Alma’s father. John explains why Cushing paid him half the money.

            John and Russ take a plane and at night borrow a car to go to a cemetery. John says the murderer of Alma’s father is from this town. They use flashlights to look around. They see a ghost preaching that sinners should repent. John and Russ split up, and each takes one side. John finds a tombstone with the name Russel. Russ is watching John and throws a knife that goes in John’s arm. John calls Russ, who comes and asks if he saw what he looked like. John says he is quitting. The tombstone has “Sampson” on it.

            Bandaged John calls on Russ in his office. John says he found out more pieces. Russ opens a drawer that has a knife. John asks why he threw the knife at him last night. Russ says he was trying to scare him off. Russ has the knife in his hand. Russ says Alma was trying to blackmail him. He says she recognized him. He says she saw him putting the knife in John’s desk. Russ says he could not stand the waiting for a verdict. John says he was fond of Alma and says he is sorry. He walks toward the door. Russ throws the knife, and John stops it with a chair. They fight. Four men are speeding in a police car. John knocks Russ down and then embraces him. John says he is sorry. Russ says going quick is better and thanks him. He dies. The police come in with reporters, and John tells them all to get out.

            John is riding in a car with Ann. She thanks him because she found a college fellow. He says he might be a kidnapper, and he will not stand for it. He says she needs a lawyer she can count on.

            Ann shows her ring and asks John if they always ask the question to obey. They get in his elevator, and the elevator man says he is a victim of his technique.

            This murder mystery has comic elements and romance while portraying political corruption.

Copyright © 2012 by Sanderson Beck

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