Circumstantial Evidence


1h 8m 1945

Brief Synopsis

A young lad has his fine new hatchet confiscated by a grumpy baker. The boy's hot-headed father tries to get it back, but this results in a fight in which onlookers seem to see the father use the disputed weapon to strike and kill the baker. At the resulting murder trial, their evidence on this point becomes a matter of life-and-death.

Film Details

Release Date
Mar 1945
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.
Distribution Company
Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.
Country
United States

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 8m
Sound
Mono
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
6,104ft (7 reels)

Synopsis

In a small town, Joe Reynolds, a recent widower and foreman of the local plant, receives a package from Sam Lord, his best friend and the town's mailman, containing a hatchet set for Joe's beloved son Pat. Pat and his friends use the hatchet to break up wooden crates behind Kenny's Bakery, and when the disagreeable Kenny catches them, he hits Pat, takes the hatchet and calls the police. Upon learning of this, Joe storms into the bakery and begins to fight with Kenny in front of salesboy Pete Horton and customers Mrs. Simms and Mr. Bolger. The witnesses watch from the other side of the counter as Joe raises the hatchet and Kenny falls to the ground, dead. Although Joe insists that Kenny slipped and hit his head on the stove, the three accuse him of hatcheting Kenny to death, and Joe, terrified, runs to his house. There he tells Pat and Sam that he must run away for a while, but Sam, who believes that Joe's innocence will save him, turns him into the police. Joe, however, assumes Sam has set him up, and sees his suspicions reinforced at his trial, when Sam inadvertently recalls hearing Joe say that he would "bash Kenny's head in if he had to." Since the witnesses also claim to have irrefutable proof of Joe's guilt, he is sentenced to die by the electric chair. At the state penitentiary, Joe tells Pat that if only one witness changes his or her testimony during an appeal, he can be released. Pat then visits each witness and begs them to reconsider, but none will, and when Mr. Bolger calls the police to have him arrested for trespassing, Pat runs away. When Sam finds the boy with Joe's friends Marty Hannon and his pregnant wife Ann, he convinces a reluctant Pat to live with him and his wife Kate. Over the next weeks, Sam works fervently to free Joe, but the Board of Appeals will not listen to Sam's pleas. Meanwhile, Joe's fellow prisoner, Mike Mulvey, informs him of a plan in which he could take a pill to fake an illness, and when the guards brought him to the prison hospital, he could then escape through a tunnel. Although Joe initially refuses, he changes his mind after learning that his appeal has been denied. At the same time, Sam arranges a boxing match between Murray and Freddy, the sons of Judge White and Governor Hanlon, and coaches the two boys to re-stage the fight that Joe had with Kenny. At the fight, Mrs. Simms, Mr. Bolger, and Judge White insist that they saw Freddy hit Murray with a hammer, and when Murray stands up, unharmed, they all realize that they only assumed they knew what happened. This prompts them to see that the supposed evidence at Joe's trial might likewise have been circumstantial. As Joe enacts his escape plan in the prison, Judge White holds an impromptu re-trial with Sam, Freddy, Murray and the witnesses, which results in the witnesses admitting they might have been wrong. Just then, however, an escaped Joe turns up at Marty's house, where Pat and Sam convince him he must return to jail. Joe embarks on a complicated escape back into his cell, arriving just in time to meet Governor Hanlon and hear of his re-trial. Within days, Joe is found innocent, and he holds his son as he reconciles with Sam.

Film Details

Release Date
Mar 1945
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.
Distribution Company
Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.
Country
United States

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 8m
Sound
Mono
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
6,104ft (7 reels)

Quotes

Trivia

Notes

A written prologue states that circumstantial evidence is very dangerous and can lead to the conviction of innocent people. Although a September 1944 Hollywood Reporter news item announced that Preston Foster was to star in the picture, he did not appear in the final film.