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Maid of Salem

Maid of Salem(1937)

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In 1692, in a milieu of Puritan ethics which are strictly enforced by church elder Nathaniel Goode, the women of Salem, Massachusetts become fascinated with stories about Satan told to them by Tituba, a slave in the Goode household. Meanwhile, Barbara Clarke, who lives with her widowed Aunt Ellen and her son Timothy, meets fugitive Roger Coverman, who fled Virginia after being pronounced a traitor for resisting taxation. In love with Roger's free spirit, Barbara continues to meet him in secret. As the town's fear of the occult grows, two women are arrested for witchcraft at Cape Ann. Virginia Goode then steals her father's book on witchcraft, and, caught by Tituba, she is punished by her father and schemes for vengeance against Tituba. During the height of the town's hysteria and paranoia, Virginia feigns a hallucinating fever which convinces the parish elders that she is also a victim of Tituba's witchcraft. The slave is arrested and forced to confess, implicating two other town innocents as well. Barbara boldly moves to defend Tituba until Aunt Ellen reveals that Barbara's mother was accused of witchcraft and hanged in England. To escape the frenzy of Salem, Roger leaves with his recluse uncle, Jeremiah Adams, for Florida (which is under Spanish rule) via Boston, but Jeremiah is killed by seamen who seek the reward for Roger's arrest, and he is put in jail. Back in Salem, when a harmless old woman named Rebecca Nurse is sentenced to die at "Gallows Hill" by the Cheeves, a couple who carries an old grudge against her, Barbara defends her and is accused of being a witch herself. Timothy, who saw Barbara kiss Roger good-bye in the night, tells the court Barbara had assured him she was with "no man" and the judge twists his testimony into an admission of Barbara's consorting with the Devil. Meanwhile, Roger escapes from prison, ironically on the day the new governor of Virginia arrives with his pardon, and makes his way to Salem, where fifteen people have now been hanged for witchcraft. During Barbara's trial, she refuses to confess to being a witch, but, because she must protect Roger's anonymity, is unable to prove that she was not with Satan. When Barbara's friend John rises to defend her, his wife Martha, fearing it was John whom Barbara was with, reveals the truth about the death of Barbara's mother, sealing her fate. As Barbara is about to be hanged, Roger finally arrives, solving the mystery of Barbara's lover. Virginia then admits that it was spite that made her incriminate Tituba. Finally realizing that all were wrongfully accused, Crown Justice Sewall appeals to the governor to abolish the trial for witchcraft. As Barbara is let out of prison, she and Roger embrace. The governor then orders that the tree at Gallows Hill be burned, and the villagers set fire to it.