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Count the Hours

Count the Hours(1953)

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In the middle of the night, elderly farmer Fred Morgan and his live-in housekeeper, Sarah Watson, are shot to death when they catch a mysterious intruder stealing money from Fred's desk. The next morning, the bodies are discovered by Fred's nephew, Alvin Taylor, who in turn alerts Fred's hired hand, George Braden. George, who lives on the Morgan property with his wife Ellen, reacts with horror to the scene, but later is drilled by the suspicious district attorney, Gillespie. After George lies to Gillespie that he does not own a .32 caliber gun, the type of firearm used in the murders, a panicked Ellen sneaks to their cottage to hide her husband's revolver. While police detectives search the cottage, Ellen keeps the gun out of sight, then throws it into a nearby lake. One of the detectives observes her, however, and both she and George are taken to police headquarters for questioning. Ellen and George deny any wrongdoing, but after hours of intense interrogation by Gillespie, George, fearing that Ellen will have a breakdown, confesses to the murders. Later, Gillespie asks lawyer Doug Madison to defend George, but Doug refuses to take the case until he sees the pregnant Ellen diving in the lake in search of George's gun. Ellen's determination to locate the gun and prove George's innocence changes Doug's mind. After accepting the case, however, Doug is criticized by a hostile public and by his socialite fiancée, Paula Mitchener, who fears for his political future. Reassuring both Paula and Ellen, Doug hires a professional diver to scour the lake. As soon as Doug runs out of money, the diver quits and tries to rape Ellen. Doug stops the attack, and in revenge, the diver starts a rumor that Ellen is having an affair with her lawyer. George's trial then begins, and the testimony against him appears insurmountable. Just before closing statements, however, a teenager hired by Doug to search the lake bursts in to announce he has found George's gun. The Bradens' joy at the discovery is short-lived, as a ballistics report on the firearm proves inconclusive. George is convicted and given the death penalty. When Doug declares he is appealing the verdict, Paula, who has heard the rumors about Ellen, tries to talk him out of it, feeling he has become obsessed with the case. Doug persists, however, and Paula agrees to stand by him. Later, Doug comes to Ellen's aid when Alvin, who inherited his uncle's property, hands her an eviction notice. During the discussion, Alvin reveals that George's predecessor, Max Verne, threatened Fred after Fred fired him. Sensing he has stumbled onto something, Doug goes to the farm where Verne now works and meets his young, seductive bride Gracie. After Gracie admits that Verne convinced her to marry him by buying her new clothes, Doug does a background check on Verne and learns that he served time for burglary. Verne is eventually arrested and confesses to the killings. During a re-trial hearing, however, Gillespie produces expert witnesses who testify that the alcoholic Verne has a tendency to confess on impulse. With his confession invalidated, Verne is freed, and George's conviction is upheld. Afterward, Ellen goes into labor, and Doug dutifully waits at the hospital, missing an important date with Paula. Fed up, Paula breaks off with Doug, and the now clientless Doug decides to leave town on the day of George's execution. While having a farewell drink with Ellen at a bar, the bartender complains that Verne is an unwanted, frequent customer. The bartender also discloses that Verne told him about the murders early in the morning, hours before the police had discovered the crime, and Doug realizes he has the evidence he needs to save George. Doug instructs the bartender to telephone the sheriff, while he goes to Verne's farm. Before the bartender can make the call, however, Verne shows up. The bartender sends the jealous Verne scurrying home by telling him that Doug is after Gracie, then notifies the sheriff. At the farm, Doug is trying to convince Gracie to tell him where Verne is, when Verne sneaks up with his gun. Just as Verne is about to pull the trigger, the sheriff arrives. Verne is arrested and George's execution is called off. Paula then begs Doug's forgiveness, and the two look forward to a happy future together.