The Man Who Wouldn't Talk


1h 12m 1940

Brief Synopsis

A man involved in a crime (Nolan) kills his key witness by mistake and resigns himself to death. He changes his name so as not to harm his family. The law is not content with his explanation, however.

Film Details

Also Known As
The Valiant
Release Date
Feb 2, 1940
Premiere Information
New York opening: 11 Jan 1940
Production Company
Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.
Distribution Company
Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.
Country
United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the play The Valiant by Holworthy Hall and Robert M. Middlemass (copyrighted 29 Sep 1920).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 12m
Sound
Mono
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
6,557ft (8 reels)

Synopsis

When prominent New York businessman Frederick Keller is murdered, police arrest his former accountant, John Finney. Before Finney is sentenced, however, a mysterious man enters the courtroom and proclaims himself the murderer. District Attorney Cluett interviews the man, who gives his name as Joe Monday, which is an obvious alias. Joe refuses to divulge any personal information yet readily signs a confession. The press builds up the story of the anonymous murderer, and people begin writing to Joe in hopes that he is their long-lost brother, son or father. Joe's defense attorney, Steve Phillips, asks Joe to reveal his identity for the sake of those whose false hopes he is raising, but Joe maintains his silence, even when he is visited by Alice Stetson, who is searching for her brother Frank. Alice has not seen Frank since he left to fight in World War I, during which he was declared missing in France. At first she thinks that Joe is Frank and tests him by reciting poems they loved as children, but when he says that he served with Frank in the Army and saw him die, she becomes discouraged. Steve believes that this may be a clue to Joe's identity, however, and he and Alice travel to Washington, D.C. to look at the records of Frank's company. There is no "Joe Monday" listed, so they decide to question the company's two surviving members. The first, James Sawyer, is blind and cannot identify Joe, and when they try to question Paul Gilli, they discover that he has gone to New York to testify in the trial. When the trial begins, Gilli testifies that Joe is Frank Stetson and that he spied for Germany during the war. Frank was court-martialled on the basis of evidence provided by Keller and sentenced to death. Joe still refuses to testify in his defense, and the jury tries to reach a verdict. As they are deliberating, the judge calls them into the courtroom and introduces a new witness, Otto Bruckner. Bruckner takes the stand and testifies that, during the war, he was a German spy posing as a French cafe owner named Henri Picot. Keller was also a spy, and when Frank found evidence of Keller's treachery, Keller framed him. Joe finally breaks down, embraces his beloved sister and agrees to testify. He describes how Keller betrayed him and how he escaped from the firing squad but could not return to his family because he had been branded a spy. After twenty years, he found Keller and tried to force him to tell the truth. Keller pulled a gun on him, and Joe was forced to shoot him in self-defense. Believing that all evidence confirming his story had been destroyed, Joe refused to say anything about himself in order not to hurt Alice and their aged mother. Joe is acquitted after his stirring testimony, and later, a crowd cheers as he is reunited with his mother.

Cast

Lloyd Nolan

[Frank Stetson, alias] Joe Monday

Jean Rogers

Alice Stetson

Richard Clarke

Steve Phillips

Onslow Stevens

Frederick Keller

Eric Blore

Horace Parker

Joan Valerie

Miss Norton

Mae Marsh

Mrs. Stetson

Paul Stanton

[District] Attorney Cluett

Douglas Wood

Walker

Irving Bacon

Paul Gilli

Lester Scharff

[Otto Bruckner, alias] Henri Picot

Harlan Briggs

Foreman of the jury

Elizabeth Risdon

Woman juror [Mrs. Johnson]

Renie Riano

Lilly Wigham

John H. Elliot

Juror

Gus Glassmire

Juror

George Melford

Juror

Charles Trowbridge

Judge

Sherry Hall

Court clerk

Manton Moreland

Robbins

Arthur Hoyt

Little man

Robert Emmett Keane

Editor Harvey

Ed Mortimer

Second man

Chester Clute

Pompous man

Harry Denny

Third man

Arthur Rankin

Fingerprinter

Joe Merlo

Photographer

Cliff Clark

Ryan

Eddie Dunn

Jim

Edith Evanson

Hannah

Cy Ring

Reporter

Franklin Parker

Reporter

Imboden Parrish

Reporter

Charles Tannen

Reporter

A. S. Byron

Mike

George Magrill

Policeman

Harry Hayden

Dan

Pat O'malley

Laboratory technician

Fred Kelsey

Bailiff

Frank Dae

Judge

John Butler

John Finney

Hooper Atchley

Finney's lawyer

Bruce Warren

Assistant to the district attorney

Emmett Vogan

Assistant to the district attorney

George Douglas

Lieutenant

Ernie Alexander

Soldier

Abe Dinovitch

Soldier

Paddy O'flynn

Soldier

Edward Earle

Officer

Bert Moorhouse

Officer

Ed Stanley

Officer

Stanley Andrews

Colonel

George Chandler

First clerk

George Walcott

Second clerk

John Eberts

Peon

Harry Burns

Italian

William Haade

First American

Paul Sutton

Second American

Charles Stevens

Mexican

Jean Del Val

Jacques

Hector Sarno

Miguel

Edward Keane

Warden

Peter Lynn

Convict

Freddie Walburn

Boy

Charles Peck

Boy

James Dundee

Guard

Herbert Ashley

Jailer

Gary Breckner

Announcer

Max Wagner

Truck driver

Jean Houghton

Mrs. Sawyer

Selmer Jackson

James Sawyer

Fern Emmett

Housekeeper Annie

Ralph Dunn

Guard

Tom Hanlon

Main commentator

Stanley Blystone

Police announcer

Walter Soderling

Leona Roberts

Marie Blake

Don Forbes

John Hiestand

Film Details

Also Known As
The Valiant
Release Date
Feb 2, 1940
Premiere Information
New York opening: 11 Jan 1940
Production Company
Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.
Distribution Company
Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.
Country
United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the play The Valiant by Holworthy Hall and Robert M. Middlemass (copyrighted 29 Sep 1920).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 12m
Sound
Mono
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
6,557ft (8 reels)

Quotes

Trivia

Notes

Robert M. Middlemass and Holworthy Hall's one-act play was published in McClure's (Mar 1921) and was popularized in vaudeville by Bert Lytell in the early 1920s. The Variety review of this film notes that the play "originally had been a Lambs Gambol skit." The Lambs were a New York-based club that put on variety shows every year. The working title of this film was The Valiant. According to Hollywood Reporter news items, Richard Barthelmess and then Humphrey Bogart were considered for the lead role. This was director David Burton's first film since the 1936 RKO picture, Make Way for a Lady. The Man Who Wouldn't Talk is a remake of a 1929 Fox production entitled The Valiant, which was directed by William K. Howard and starred Paul Muni in his screen debut. Fox also made a Spanish-language version titled El valiante in 1930. Two television versions of Middlemass and Hall's play have been produced, both of which were entitled The Valiant. The first was broadcast on June 7, 1939 and starred Bert Lytell. The second, broadcast on November 29, 1948, starred Paul Muni. The Man Who Wouldn't Talk was the first version of the play to have a happy ending in which the lead character is not executed for the murder.