Portia on Trial (November 8, 1937)
Released on November 8, 1937: A powerful New York City newspaper titan uses every bit of power that he has to stop a female lawyer from defending the killer of his son.
Produced by Albert E. Levoy
Directed by George Nichols Jr.
Written by Faith Baldwin with screenplay by Samuel Ornitz and Edward E. Paramore Jr.
The Actors: Walter Abel (Dan Foster), Frieda Inescort (Portia Merriman), Neil Hamilton (Earle Condon), Heather Angel (Elizabeth Manners), Ruth Donnelly (Jane Wilkins), Barbara Pepper (Evelyn), Clarence Kolb (John Condon), Anthony Marsh (Richard Condon), Paul Stanton (judge), George Cooper (Efe), John Kelly (Hank), Hobart Bosworth (Governor), Ian Maclaren (Father Caslez), Chick Chandler (Barker), Bob Murphy (Police Inspector), Inez Palange (Mrs. Gannow), Leo Gorcey (Joe Gannow), Huntley Gordon (Doctor Thorndike), Marion Ballou (Mrs. Manners), Hooper Atchley (Jack Madden), Nat Carr (first committeeman), Lucie Kaye (Portia's receptionist), Jack Baxley (juror), Allan Cavan (Richard Conlon's doctor), Kernan Cripps (reporter), Frank Dae (unknown), Jack Deery (Major Greenwood), Sherry Hall (court bailiff), Frank McClure (attorney at trial), Larry Steers (party guest)
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When Titans Clash, Blood is Thicker than Justice
Papa was a preacher and every Saturday evening was the same . . . . A quiet dinner at home, and after dinner Dad would work on the finishing touches for Sunday’s sermons, Mom would sit with the newspaper quietly filling in the answers to the crossword puzzle, and I watched television until Perry Mason was finished. After the great attorney once again defended a client that appeared to be guilty until the brilliant defense by Perry Mason, it was off to bed. My last thoughts as I was falling asleep on Saturday evenings was how brilliant Perry Mason was . . . Snatching victory from the ashes of certain defeat every Saturday evening. . . He was the greatest.
And I still thought he was the greatest lawyer on either the big screen or the little screen until I watched this courtroom thriller. Portia Merriman, played by Frieda Inescort, is the best criminal defense attorney in New York City. John Condon, played by Clarence Kolb, is the owner of a newspaper empire . . . Able to sway public opinion around the nation with the stroke of a pen. Portia and Condon are bitter enemies . . . . Why? . . . . We are not sure, but it involves a messy soap opera family event of some kind. Newspaper titan Condon has a son and a grandson . . . The grandson has spent his youth in England, and now is 19 years old and headed for America and his place in the powerful Condon family. With him on the ship over is a young British girl who is not a lot older than him, and who is planning to become his step-mother. This leads to that and Titan Condon decides that his son will not marry the British girl, so with a phone call he is able to have her arrested and processed for deportation back to England as a non-desirable person. She doesn’t know that grandpa Condon set her up, believing that her future husband, son of the Titan, has gotten tired of her and arranged for her departure. When the son visits her to straighten it out, she shoots him on sight . . . In front of witnesses . . . and he is dead, dead, dead. When Portia Merriman decides to defend the British girl, Grandpa Condon, Titan of the nation, first tries to buy her off of the case, but when that fails, he does what has made him powerful . . . He provides the Legal Bar Association with documents that will have Portia dis-barred as a lawyer and not allow her to practice law ever again. This will immediately prevent her from defending the young British girl. When Portia attends her hearing about being disbarred, she has no defense for the documents that they have . . . It looks like the Titan newspaper man has won over the powerful female attorney . . . Until Portia quietly pulls out a court document of her own. . . She takes the damning documents as evidence in the trial for the young British girl . . . They cannot be used against Portia until after this murder trial . . . And they will be an integral part of the British girl’s defense. . . . . Whoa . . . . . After enjoying a soap opera beginning that got me familiar with the players, we are going hard-ball full steam ahead with a court room drama between two titans . . . . The powerful grandpa newspaper man against the little lady who must defend a killer . . . And she must use secret documents that could end her career . . . If this woman ever faced Perry Mason in a courtroom, my money would be on the lady . . . Court room fireworks are about to explode, my friends, hang on for a wild ride . . . Pop a big bowl of white kernel popcorn with plenty of warm melted butter drizzled over it and enjoy the show.
Frieda Inescort at the trial
Anthony Marsh and Clarence Kolb
Clarence Kolb and Frieda Inescort
Clarence Kolb and Lucie Kaye
Clarence Kolb on the witness stand
Frieda Inescort and Heather Angel
Frieda Inescort and Paul Stanton
Frieda Inescort and Ruth Donnelly
George Cooper and John Kelly
Heather Angel and Barbara Pepper
Neil Hamilton and Anthony Marsh
Neil Hamilton and Frieda Inescort
Ruth Donnelly and Frieda Inescort
Walter Abel and Frieda Inescort