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After Office Hours

After Office Hours(1935)

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Wealthy socialite Sharon Norwood lands a job at her uncle's newspaper, the News Record , but is soon fired by managing editor Jim Branch for writing a music review with which he disagrees. Jim, who believes that any good story, whether it be "found, bought or stolen," ought to be published, takes interest in the sensational Patterson divorce case and believes that the conniving Tommy Bannister, Julia Patterson's secret lover, has bribed the jury. Lacking sufficient evidence to prove his claim, Jim can only speculate about Bannister's guilt, but decides that he can get his evidence through Sharon, who is a close friend of Bannister. While waiting at the Norwood residence for Sharon to return from her dinner with Bannister, the charming Jim chats with Mrs. Norwood, whom he affectionately and half-jokingly calls his mother-in-law. After rehiring her, Jim casually proposes marriage to the lovely Sharon, but she rejects the offer. One evening, Jim takes Sharon to the new River Club, where they happen upon Bannister, Julia Patterson, her husband and their entourage. Sharon soon becomes aware of Jim's ulterior motives and leaves the club with Bannister, refusing to play any part in the investigation. Bannister takes Sharon to his boathouse across the sound from the Pattersons' house, only to be intruded upon by Julia, who is jealous of Sharon. When the angered Julia threatens to reveal the truth about how he bribed his jury, Bannister strikes her, and she collapses. Sharon, oblivious to the confrontation because she has been listening to the phonograph, does not suspect that anything is wrong. The next day, Julia is found murdered in her bedroom and her husband becomes the prime suspect because he admits he had a quarrel with her and remembers nothing more of the drunken evening. Also, Julia's smashed wristwatch establishes the time of the murder at 11:20, the same time that Sharon phoned Jim from the boathouse with Bannister in her presence. Thus Bannister is provided with an alibi. Jim, however, is not convinced of the man's innocence, and soon finds evidence that Julia's watch was crushed with the leg of a night table, and deduces that Bannister altered the time before smashing the watch. When Jim publicizes his accusations, Sharon comes to the defense of her friend by having her uncle fire the renegade editor. Out of a job and feeling remorseful, Jim apologizes to Sharon, who is vacationing at her beach resort, and promises to apologize to Bannister as well. Sharon takes him up on his offer and drives him to her friend's place, but once there, Jim reverts to his old sleuthing, prompting Bannister to challenge him to a fistfight. After Jim is knocked out and forced to walk home, he and Hank Parr, his photographer friend, search the boathouse for clues. They soon conclude that Julia's screams could not have been heard over the sound of the phonograph, and that Bannister had enough time to row the body across the sound and return before daybreak. When Sharon and Bannister row up to the boathouse and find the two men there, Jim tries to bluff Bannister by telling him that Julia's vanity case was lost at the scene of the crime and probably is located in the water below his dock. Having been warned that the police are on their way to investigate, Bannister panics and, once Jim and Parr are out of sight, dives into the water to retrieve the piece of supposed evidence. Sharon witnesses the dive and becomes convinced of his guilt. Jim and Parr return to the boathouse, and while they keep Bannister down with punches, Sharon calls the police. The next morning, Sharon's mother reads about Bannister's arrest in the newspaper and is shocked when she discovers that Jim has spent the night in Sharon's room. However, Mrs. Norwood quickly regains her composure when she learns that Jim plans to marry her daughter.