The Silent Witness (1932)

73 mins | Drama | 7 February 1932

Writer:

Douglas Doty

Cinematographer:

Joseph August

Editor:

Jack Murray

Production Designer:

Duncan Cramer

Production Company:

Fox Film Corp.
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HISTORY

The play The Silent Witness was a revised version of The Man in the Dock (London, 1928). This was the talking picture debut of Lionel Atwill, who played in the Broadway stage production of the play. MPH erroneously refers to the film as a British ... More Less

The play The Silent Witness was a revised version of The Man in the Dock (London, 1928). This was the talking picture debut of Lionel Atwill, who played in the Broadway stage production of the play. MPH erroneously refers to the film as a British production. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Film Daily
7 Feb 32
p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter
8 Jan 32
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
11 Feb 32
p. 2.
International Photographer
1 Feb 32
p. 32.
Motion Picture Herald
16 Jan 32
p. 44.
Motion Picture Herald
13 Feb 32
p. 34.
New York Times
8 Feb 32
p. 21.
Variety
9 Feb 32
p. 15.
DETAILS
Release Date:
7 February 1932
Premiere Information:
New York opening: week of 5 February 1932
Production Date:
10 December 1931--mid January 1932
Copyright Claimant:
Fox Film Corp.
Copyright Date:
14 January 1932
Copyright Number:
LP2793
Physical Properties:
Sound
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
73
Length(in feet):
6,614
Length(in reels):
8
Country:
United States
Passed by NBR:
Yes
SYNOPSIS

While on his way to join his father, London barrister Sir Austin Howard, and his mother at the theater, Anthony Howard drops in unexpectedly on his mistress, Nora Selmer, whom he wants to marry. After giving her a check payable to cash, which his father earlier had given him, Tony finds a man in Nora's bedroom, who identifies himself as her husband, Carl Blake. When Tony orders Blake out, Nora rebukes him, saying she is fed up with his little checks and with being "mauled about" by him. Enraged, Tony chokes her, and when she slumps, he cries he did not know what he was doing and goes home. When his parents return from the theater, Tony confesses that he killed Nora and says he wants to give himself up. Scotland Yard inspector Robbins then calls and shows Sir Austin a wallet that was found near the body, which contains a piece of Sir Austin's check. Sir Austin, who blames himself and his wife for pampering Tony, orders him to say that he was with them at the theater that night, and then he is himself arrested for the murder. During the trial, Sir Austin admits to an affair with Nora but denies going to her flat that night. In the midst of prosecutor Arthur Drinton's badgering of Sir Austin, Horace Ward, a forger, interrupts, saying he saw who killed Nora. Afraid that Ward will name Tony, Sir Austin confesses killing Nora. Ward, however, signs a statement saying that Tony was the man he saw. Although Sir Austin tries to stop him, Tony then confesses to the murder and tells ... +


While on his way to join his father, London barrister Sir Austin Howard, and his mother at the theater, Anthony Howard drops in unexpectedly on his mistress, Nora Selmer, whom he wants to marry. After giving her a check payable to cash, which his father earlier had given him, Tony finds a man in Nora's bedroom, who identifies himself as her husband, Carl Blake. When Tony orders Blake out, Nora rebukes him, saying she is fed up with his little checks and with being "mauled about" by him. Enraged, Tony chokes her, and when she slumps, he cries he did not know what he was doing and goes home. When his parents return from the theater, Tony confesses that he killed Nora and says he wants to give himself up. Scotland Yard inspector Robbins then calls and shows Sir Austin a wallet that was found near the body, which contains a piece of Sir Austin's check. Sir Austin, who blames himself and his wife for pampering Tony, orders him to say that he was with them at the theater that night, and then he is himself arrested for the murder. During the trial, Sir Austin admits to an affair with Nora but denies going to her flat that night. In the midst of prosecutor Arthur Drinton's badgering of Sir Austin, Horace Ward, a forger, interrupts, saying he saw who killed Nora. Afraid that Ward will name Tony, Sir Austin confesses killing Nora. Ward, however, signs a statement saying that Tony was the man he saw. Although Sir Austin tries to stop him, Tony then confesses to the murder and tells Colonel Grayson, who is in charge of the case, that he left Nora lying in front of the couch. Grayson admits Ward and Blake to his office where Ward, who confesses that he was also Nora's lover, testifies that she wanted him to forge Sir Austin's name to a check. While he was with her the afternoon of the murder, he says, Sir Austin visited and paid her £1,000 to break with his son. During the interrogation, Blake offhandedly remarks that Nora's body was found on the couch. Sir Austin points out that Tony said he left the body in front of the couch, whereupon Ward reveals that after Tony left, Blake returned in search of money. Nora revived, Ward says, ordered Blake out when he demanded money and threatened to report that he had married again and thus was a bigamist. Blake, Ward reveals, then strangled her with gloves on, while Ward hid behind the curtains. Blake then starts to shoot Ward with his cane, in which a gun is hidden, when guards stop him. Sir Austin says that he felt he was largely responsible because if he had not gone to Nora's flat behind Tony's back, the murder might not have happened. Tony reconciles with Sylvia Pierce, his girl friend before Nora, and Sir Austin explains that self-sacrifice is one of the greatest luxuries in life. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.