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A small-town newspaper editor risks everything to expose a corrupt sheriff.
As Haven D. Allridge, the well-respected editor of the St. Howard newspaper, drives home across the county line after dining with his daughter Peggy and her husband, county prosecutor Randy Stauton, he offers a ride to Wilfred Jackson, a man who sells sandwiches in his building. A few minutes later, Haven is stopped for speeding. Haven apologetically says that he left his license at his office, but when county sheriff Kellwin C. Burke arrives, he balks at Haven's "city" ways and orders him and Jackson to the county jail. After being denied a phone call, Haven refuses to give his name and is thrown into a large cell with prisoners who hold a kangaroo court, search him and take his pocket change. When they discover that Jackson has a hidden quarter, they beat him. In court the next morning, Jackson, who pleads not guilty to soliciting a ride, is held over thirty days for trial, while Haven is fined the $68.00 he had when arrested. A lawyer recognizes Haven as Randy's father-in-law and tells Burke, who pretends to be apologetic and releases him. Haven then goes to Randy asking him to do something, but Randy insists that his hands are tied and warns that Burke is dangerous. Haven decides to use his newspaper to sway public opinion and collects fifty-five affidavits from people who had been similarly mistreated across the county line. Burke retaliates by initiating ordinances against newspaper distribution in the county. When a newspaper truck driver is killed in a staged accident, police captain Buck Maxwell appeals to the state attorney general's office for help. Chick Johnson is assigned to the case, despite his protests that he is leaving for a better job. In St. Howard, Chick and Maxwell go to see Haven, but find that he has mysteriously left town and the affidavits, which were in a locked drawer, are missing. That night, Cleo Bethel approaches Chick in a bar. When Chick realizes that he is being set up, she admits that Burke hired her to "get friendly" and take him to Bennie Amboy's, one of Burke's hangouts. Chick later goes to Amboy's, where Cleo works as a singer. She introduces him to Nelson S. Tarsson, Burke's smooth lawyer, who obliquely offers a bribe that is rejected by Chick. The next day, Chick and Maxwell learn that all of those who signed affidavits against Burke have been frightened into changing their stories, and Chick suspects that Haven has also turned. Amboy is then questioned in Maxwell's office and is coerced into telling them why he called Haven late one night: Amboy telephones Haven and tells him to come to his place to hear "the lowdown" on Burke. Once there, Haven is offered a bribe, which he refuses, then one of Burke's henchmen beats him up and takes him into another room. Finishing his story, Amboy says that he has no idea what happened after that. A short time later, Haven returns to town and tells Peggy that he has accepted a job in Detroit. Peggy is suspicious and accuses him of caving in to Burke. That night, Chick urges Haven to testify at Burke's preliminary hearing the next day, but Haven refuses and Chick serves him with a subpoena. Feeling defeated, Chick tells Maxwell that there is no hope for the case, but Maxwell, who has faith in Haven, tells him not to give up. At his hotel, Chick receives a note from Amboy telling him that Cleo is in jail. When Chick goes to bail her out, he is told that she is not there, but he finds her, beaten, in a cell. He then gets into a fight with the guard and takes the key to her cell. As Cleo and Chick are about to leave, Burke arrives with Tarsson, who advises his client to let her go. Burke is angered and draws a gun, but when Maxwell arrives, Burke acquiesces. After seeing Cleo safely leave town, Chick goes to the hearing. He gets no information from Haven, but requests that he stay in the courtroom. Throughout the day Haven uncomfortably listens as the frightened witnesses recant their earlier affidavits. A surprise witness is Jackson, who is still in jail, and relates what happened after he and Haven were arrested. Chick next calls Amboy, but is told that his body has just been found. Chick then recalls Haven, who refuses to corroborate Jackson's story. Despite Chick's impassioned concluding argument, the judge has no choice but to dismiss the case for lack of corroborative evidence. Just before the decision is rendered, though, Randy comes forward and asks to question Haven, who still refuses to speak. Then Randy asks Peggy to stand up and reveal to the court that he himself had been at Amboy's the night Haven went there. Haven now reveals what happened after he was beaten: When he revives, he sees Randy in the room and is shown a cashier's check and other evidence by Tarsson that reveals Randy had suppressed evidence after the trucker's death. A remorseful Randy states that it was his ambition that made him do it, and Tarsson responds that Randy will be sent to jail for twenty years, leaving Peggy and her daughter alone. Realizing his price has been met, Haven acquiesces. Back in the courtroom, the documents are brought forth and the judge orders Burke to be held without bail until his trial. Chick apologizes to Haven, who thanks him. Jackson is then released and Chick decides that he wants to finish the job and stay with the attorney general's office.
Cast & Crew
|MPAA Ratings:||Premiere Info:||Los Angeles opening: 11 Jan 1952|
|Release Date:||1952||Production Date:||
|Color/B&W:||Black and White||Distributions Co:||Loew's Inc.|
|Sound:||Mono (Western Electric Sound System)||Production Co:||Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp.|
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Very Good Crime Movie
Fine performances by cast, particularly Gomez (always one of my favorites) and Hodiack. Greatly enhanced by black and white presentation. Watch it some...