Held for Murder, or Her Mad Night (October 12, 1932)
Released on October 12, 1932: A pre-code story of love, lust, and murder between loose women and playboy men.
Directed by E. Mason Hopper
Written by John T. Neville.
The Actors: Conway Tearle (Steven Kennedy), Irene Rich (Joan Manners), Mary Carlisle (Constance Kennedy), Kenneth Thomson (Schuyler Durkin), William B. Davidson (the District Attorney), Henry Hall (the judge), William Irving (jury foreman).
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This is an early 'talkie' and definately 'pre code,' before the Hays Office started censoring films in the U.S. This story is about a group of wealthy men and women, and their 'relations' with each other, and a murder wrap tossed in for good measure. Men in this movie are allowed and encouraged to have relations with many women, but the woman that they marry must be chaste. Of course, the women are just as adventurous as the men, they just need to be smarter and hide their infidelites.
Our movie opens with Steven Kennedy and Joan Manners on a cruise ship. Steven is asking Joan for the twentieth time if she will marry him. And she playfully turns him down once again. They met five days ago at the beginning of the cruise, and Steven fell madly in love with her on first sight. She wonders why such a successful lawyer never married, and he finally tells her while they are enjoying drinks in his stateroom. He tells the story of his friend who had a wife that ran away with another man, leaving his friend with a young baby girl. The man fell apart and couldn't care for his young baby, so Steven raised her on behalf of his friend and let her believe that she was Steven's kid sister. Joan is so touched by this lovely story that she agrees to marry Steven on the spot. Ahhh . . . . sounds like love is triumphant again. But not so fast.
Back home, Joan is visited by her old friend Schuyler, who she has had an affair with. She tells Schuyler that she has fallen in love and is getting married, and would Schuyler please keep their romantic past a secret. Schuyler reluctantly agrees, but discovers that the man she is planning to marry is his best friend from childhood days. Next we visit Steven at home, and we meet his young charge who believes she is his kid sister. Connie is a young, wild blonde who collects keys to gentlemen's apartments, and has wild times with a different man every night. She has one day left before leaving on a year long cruise around the world.
Next of course, Schuyler visits Steven and tells him immediately that he has a key to Joan's apartment, and they have been lovers. Steven is distraught, Joan is distraught, and it looks like a fine mess and a wedding that will not happen. But this one gets much stickier before we have our murder mystery. That evening young Connie goes to visit Joan, the woman that her 'older brother' Steven is supposed to marry. They hit it off at once, and when Joan mentions that the wedding is probably off because Schuyler has a romantic letter that will prove that she had an affair with him, Connie is happy. Connie is smiling because she has a key to Schuyler's apartment, and she can go steal the letter and keep Joan's name 'pure.' Later that evening Connie takes it upon herself to sneak into Schuyler's apartment and find that letter, but Schuyler comes home and finds her there. He thinks that she is there to be with him romantically, but when he puts the moves on her she resists, and in a struggle, shoots him with his own gun. Joan is outside the door trying to visit Schuyler herself, and overhears the struggle and gunshot, and Connie lets her in. When Joan sees what has happened, she tells Connie to go to her cruise and be off, and Joan will handle everything. Of course, the police arrive and find Joan and a very dead Schuyler, and Joan will not tell them about Connie, or that Connie was the killer. And we learn one more tangle in this twisted tale of love and death. Before he dies, Joan reveals to Schuyler that she is the mother of Connie who ran away from her husband and her baby girl Connie so many years ago.
In the midst of her trial for murder, with Steven defending her, Joan suddenly peads guilty when a witness wants to enter testimony about a much younger girl visiting Schuyler earlier in the evening. Joan must protect her daughter Connie at all costs. So Schuyler is dead, Joan is sent to prison, scheduled for the electric chair, Steven is unable to get any relief from the electric chair death sentence for Joan, and Connie is off on a fun cruise around the world. Now, remember that this is a pre-code flick, so there is no 'rule' that the bad guys must lose, or that there must be a happy ending. This twisted tale might end in any one of several disastrous ways.
Pop your white kernal popcorn, grab a beverage of choice, and enjoy a great adult drama from 1932.