Star Witness


1h 8m 1931
Star Witness

Brief Synopsis

An old man who witnessed a crime is threatened by gangsters.

Film Details

Genre
Drama
Crime
Release Date
Aug 22, 1931
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
Distribution Company
The Vitaphone Corp.; Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
Country
United States

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 8m
Sound
Mono
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
7 reels

Synopsis

The Leeds family--Abby and George, their children Sue, Jackie, Donny and Ned, and Abby's father, Private Summerill, a Civil War veteran--witness a gang shooting of an informer and a policeman. The killer escapes through their house and everyone gets a good look at his face. District Attorney Whitlock asks the Leeds to identify the murderer, and they all pick out Maxey Campo's picture and agree to testify at the trial. As soon as the news comes out, however, George is kidnapped from work by Campo's men. The men first offer George a bribe not to testify, and when he refuses to back down, they beat him up. Whitlock puts the family under house detention to protect them and Sue is escorted to work by the police. The family grows restive under the restraint. Donny, the middle son, is determined not to miss his baseball game and sneaks out of the house, enabling the gangsters to kidnap him. They threaten to kill the child if anyone in the family testifies against Campo. Whitlock tries to find Donny, but in the meantime, everyone except Summerill refuses to take the stand. Summerill insists that it is their civic duty to testify, no matter what the cost to them, in order to keep gangsters off the streets. Although Sue claims that no one will believe his testimony as he was drunk at the time, Whitlock decides that they have no choice but to put Summerill on the stand. Just before his turn, Summerill escapes from the courtroom to look for Donny. He walks down the streets of the neighborhood where Donny is being held, playing his fife. Donny hears the instrument and recognizing it, throws his baseball through the window. Summerill brings the police, who shoot it out with the gangsters. Donny is rescued just in time to help Summerill convict Campo in court. Campo is executed.

Film Details

Genre
Drama
Crime
Release Date
Aug 22, 1931
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
Distribution Company
The Vitaphone Corp.; Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
Country
United States

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 8m
Sound
Mono
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
7 reels

Award Nominations

Best Writing, Screenplay

1932

Articles

Star Witness


The mob's on trial in Star Witness (1931), but it's not just the criminals who are found guilty. The film also places responsibility in the hands of the public - the scared and silent witnesses that are too often afraid to come forward.

Star Witness centers on the Leeds family, a typical American household, who witness a vicious mob battle outside their apartment that ends with a murderer running through their living room. The entire family sees the killer and can identify him. But when the Leeds' statements put the kingpin behind bars, his associates terrorize the family to stop them from testifying in court.

Led by Chic Sale as the Civil War veteran grandfather, the stellar cast includes Walter Huston as the District Attorney and Dickie Moore as the youngest Leeds. Sally Blane, who plays Sue Leeds, was the sister of Loretta Young. Her given name was Elizabeth Jane Young. Star Witness was to be director William Wellman's first film at Warner Bros. after leaving Paramount. But the film faced some changes in development. The film's original title was Precious Little Star, which was later changed to The Man Who Dared, finally settling on The Star Witness. With all the delays, a Joe E. Brown flick Maybe It's Love (1930) ended up being Wellman's first WB outing.

It was a real life incident that spiked interest in Star Witness. In Harlem, a gang shooting occurred in which several children were shot. But police were unable to convince witnesses to talk in the case. Capitalizing on this front page story, Warner Bros. rushed the film into theatres while agreeing to turn over all proceeds from the first two screenings of Star Witness at the Winter Garden Theater in New York to the families of five children injured by gang bullets. This sensationalistic ploy worked like a charm and Star Witness was well received by audiences of its era. It was so popular that WB remade it years later as The Man Who Dared in 1939 starring Charley Grapewin and Jane Bryant.

Director: William A. Wellman
Screenplay: Lucien Hubbard
Cinematography: James Van Trees
Film Editing: Harold McLernon
Original Music: Alois Reiser (uncredited)
Principal Cast: Walter Huston (Dist. Atty. Whitlock), Frances Starr (Ma Leeds), Grant Mitchell (Pa Leeds), Sally Blane (Sue Leeds), Edward J. Nugent (Jackie Leeds).
BW-68m.

by Stephanie Thames

Star Witness

Star Witness

The mob's on trial in Star Witness (1931), but it's not just the criminals who are found guilty. The film also places responsibility in the hands of the public - the scared and silent witnesses that are too often afraid to come forward. Star Witness centers on the Leeds family, a typical American household, who witness a vicious mob battle outside their apartment that ends with a murderer running through their living room. The entire family sees the killer and can identify him. But when the Leeds' statements put the kingpin behind bars, his associates terrorize the family to stop them from testifying in court. Led by Chic Sale as the Civil War veteran grandfather, the stellar cast includes Walter Huston as the District Attorney and Dickie Moore as the youngest Leeds. Sally Blane, who plays Sue Leeds, was the sister of Loretta Young. Her given name was Elizabeth Jane Young. Star Witness was to be director William Wellman's first film at Warner Bros. after leaving Paramount. But the film faced some changes in development. The film's original title was Precious Little Star, which was later changed to The Man Who Dared, finally settling on The Star Witness. With all the delays, a Joe E. Brown flick Maybe It's Love (1930) ended up being Wellman's first WB outing. It was a real life incident that spiked interest in Star Witness. In Harlem, a gang shooting occurred in which several children were shot. But police were unable to convince witnesses to talk in the case. Capitalizing on this front page story, Warner Bros. rushed the film into theatres while agreeing to turn over all proceeds from the first two screenings of Star Witness at the Winter Garden Theater in New York to the families of five children injured by gang bullets. This sensationalistic ploy worked like a charm and Star Witness was well received by audiences of its era. It was so popular that WB remade it years later as The Man Who Dared in 1939 starring Charley Grapewin and Jane Bryant. Director: William A. Wellman Screenplay: Lucien Hubbard Cinematography: James Van Trees Film Editing: Harold McLernon Original Music: Alois Reiser (uncredited) Principal Cast: Walter Huston (Dist. Atty. Whitlock), Frances Starr (Ma Leeds), Grant Mitchell (Pa Leeds), Sally Blane (Sue Leeds), Edward J. Nugent (Jackie Leeds). BW-68m. by Stephanie Thames

Quotes

Trivia

Notes

According to Variety, Warner Bros. rushed the film into release in response to a gang shooting in Harlem, in which several children were shot and police were unable to get witnesses to talk. Actor Chic Sale had originally developed his old man character in vaudeville. Motion Picture Herald notes that Warner Bros. turned over the entire proceeds of the first two performances of the film at New York's Winter Garden theater to the families of five children who were victims of gang bullets in New York's little Italy. Lucien Hubbard received an Academy Award nomination for writing. Film Daily notes that Walter Huston replaced Jack Holt and Ralph Ince replaced Lucien Prival. The film was remade by Warner Bros. in 1939 as The Man Who Dared .