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Portia on Trial

Portia on Trial(1937)

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The opening credits introduce this film as "Faith Baldwin's Portia on Trial." Hollywood Reporter news items provide the following information: Gordon Rigby and Cromwell Ormsby wrote an adaptation of Baldwin's story, but the extent of their contribution to the finished film has not been determined; Helen Gahagan was set to star in the picture, but was replaced by Frieda Inescourt; and Walter Abel and Barbara Pepper were borrowed from RKO for the production. The Variety review listed the picture's running time as 85 minutes, probably in error. The Variety review also noted that "comparison of Walter Abel's work as district attorney in the big court scene with another one in [the 1936 M-G-M film] Fury is inevitable".
       According to the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library, after Republic submitted an early synopsis of Baldwin's story to the PCA on March 31, 1936, PCA Director Joseph Breen noted that the synopsis would result in a film that the PCA would have to reject for the following reasons: the heroine was "presented in such a way as to make her unethical acts appear attractive"; adultery was condoned by some of the characters; and it was "indicated that in one case that Portia made an impassioned argument to the jury blaming society as a whole for the unlawful acts of her client, which is definitely contrary to the tenets of the Production Code." Breen again rejected a later version of the script, saying that it was unacceptable because of "an excessive and unnecessary amount of illicit sex" and "the condonation and flavor of justification of illicit sex." Because of this rejection, the script was rewritten. After the film was released, the PCA received a complaint from the Los Angeles Bar Association, but the substance of the complaint is not known. The film was rejected for distribution in Quebec because "undue sympathy [is] created for a murderess." Alberto Colombo was nominated for an Academy Award in the Music (Scoring) category.