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Libel

Libel(1959)

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Remind Me

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In London on a two-day layover, Canadian airline pilot Jeffrey Buckenham visits a pub where he becomes agitated upon viewing a portion of a television program featuring Sir Mark and Lady Margaret Loddon giving a tour of their historic estate. During the live broadcast, Mark cannot recall an event from his youth, but Maggie covers for her husband. After the telecast, Mark apologizes, but Maggie reassures him that she has grown accustomed to his memory lapses since his return years earlier after being a German prisoner-of-war. Later that night, Mark confesses to Maggie that he is inexplicably haunted by a portion of a tune and an unidentifiable image that he believes is connected to the song. The following day, Jeff joins a public tour of the Loddon estate and remains behind to confront Mark, who recognizes him as a fellow prisoner in the German POW camp. When Jeff sees that Mark is missing two fingers on his right hand, he accuses him of being Frank Welney, a camp inmate who bore a striking resemblance to Mark. After Jeff departs, he visits Mark's cousin, Gerald Loddon, a car salesman, and reveals his suspicion that Welney is masquerading as Mark. Gerald suggests that Jeff print a formal accusation exposing Welney in the Sunday Gazette , a disreputable but best-selling journal. The following afternoon, Maggie finds two reporters in her home taking photos of her and Mark's young son Michael. The reporters show her a copy of Jeff's published accusation. Later, Mark declares they should ignore the item, but Maggie remains doubtful. After the couple overhears several of their acquaintances gossiping about the article on their walk to church, Maggie insists that Mark sue Jeff and the paper for libel for Michael's sake. Upon learning of the suit, Jeff visits Gerald, who offers Jeff a portion of a letter he received from Mark during the war, but advises Jeff that he is obliged to stand by Mark in public. On the first day of the trial, Mark is called by his attorney, Sir Wilfred, and summarizes his experiences during the war, admitting his long stay in the camp turned his hair prematurely white as well as caused gaps in his memory. The prosecutor, Hubert Foxley, accuses Mark of being Welney, a poor, small-time actor, who longed to take over Mark's wealth, title and marriage. Foxley then reads from Mark's letter to Gerald, which notes Welney's physical similarity to Mark except for having lighter hair and a damaged right hand. Mark explains that his hand was injured during his flight from the camp. Prompted by Foxley, Mark then describes the breakout in April 1945: Mark, Welney and Jeff escape together, traveling by night to avoid detection. On the third night, the men hide by a small bridge guarded by German soldiers and discuss making a risky foray to a nearby farm for food. Jeff cautions Mark not to volunteer as he is wearing an officer's jacket and offers to go instead, leaving Mark and Welney alone. In the present, Mark adds that all he can recall after Jeff's departure is the fragment of a tune and a reflection in the mist. Foxley asks Mark if he recalled Maggie, his then fiancée, and Mark admits he had forgotten her, but she wrote him constantly during the six months he was hospitalized. At the adjournment, Sir Wilfred tells Mark that Maggie's testimony will allay any doubts, but Mark refuses to allow Maggie to testify. After lunch, Gerald testifies that he has no doubt of Mark's identity. At the end of the day, Sir Wilfred again insists that Maggie testify, but Mark again refuses, claiming the trial is too undignified. That evening in their hotel room, Maggie expresses surprise that Mark had not remembered her and he admits he never told her out of fear of rejection. When Mark admits to being uncertain of his own identity, Maggie comforts him. The following day Jeff testifies that Welney was a grating character, prone to violence who questioned Mark repeatedly about his family and home and once physically imitated Mark when he believed himself alone. Jeff relays that during their escape, he heard shots and returned to the bridge to see the German guards standing over a body in an officer's jacket and concludes that Welney murdered Mark to take his place. During the court recess, Maggie approaches Jeff to insist that he is mistaken about Mark. Jeff tells her that Mark was a true friend to him and confides that on that night by the bridge, Mark had followed Jeff to ask him to return the last thing Maggie gave to him, a tiny medallion, if anything should happen to him. By Maggie's reaction, Jeff realizes that she has not seen the medallion since Mark returned from the war. Upon the trial's resumption, Foxley calls German physician Dr. Schrott, who testifies that in April 1945 a man found in a British officer's jacket was brought to him, terribly beaten and maimed so severely that his right arm had to be amputated. With no memory or ability to speak, the man was never identified and remains a hospital inmate known only as Number Fifteen. The man kept the jacket, which is presented in court and when Foxley suggests that seeing a familiar face may jar his memory, Number Fifteen is brought into court. The horribly disfigured man is directed toward Mark and when Number Fifteen shuffles closer, Mark recoils. Sir Wilfred points out to the court that no one knows Number Fifteen's identity, then tells Mark that Maggie must testify on his behalf. Taking the stand, Maggie declares that seeing her husband's strong reaction to Number Fifteen convinced her that he is not Mark. When Foxley asks Maggie if she considers Number Fifteen to be Mark, she says that it was clear the men recognized one another. That night back at the hotel, Maggie calls Mark an imposter, despite their years together. Distraught, Mark spends the night walking the streets and at dawn finds himself by a canal. While Mark gazes into the water at his reflection, his memory is abruptly restored. In court later that morning, Mark explains that on the night by the bridge after Jeff had departed, he had crawled over to the river for a drink and heard Welney whistling the aimless tune he always whistled. The whistling ceased and Mark saw Welney's reflection above as Welney prepared to strike him with a log. The men fought and, in a rage, Mark beat Welney senseless. He then exchanged jackets with him and as he was fleeing was shot in the hand by the guards. Mark states that he believes the shock of his unaccustomed burst of violence triggered his amnesia. When the judge asks Mark if he can provide any evidence of his claim, Mark hesitates, then asks for the jacket and finds the medallion from Maggie. Both Maggie and Jeff recognize the medallion and Foxley hastily requests a settlement. Mark offers to pay for Number Fifteen's continued care, then thanks Jeff for restoring his memory, and reunites with a contrite Maggie.