The Silent Witness
Cast & Crew
While on his way to join his father, London barrister Sir Austin Howard, and his mother at the theater, Anthony Howard drops in unexpectedly on his mistress, Nora Selmer, whom he wants to marry. After giving her a check payable to cash, which his father earlier had given him, Tony finds a man in Nora's bedroom, who identifies himself as her husband, Carl Blake. When Tony orders Blake out, Nora rebukes him, saying she is fed up with his little checks and with being "mauled about" by him. Enraged, Tony chokes her, and when she slumps, he cries he did not know what he was doing and goes home. When his parents return from the theater, Tony confesses that he killed Nora and says he wants to give himself up. Scotland Yard inspector Robbins then calls and shows Sir Austin a wallet that was found near the body, which contains a piece of Sir Austin's check. Sir Austin, who blames himself and his wife for pampering Tony, orders him to say that he was with them at the theater that night, and then he is himself arrested for the murder. During the trial, Sir Austin admits to an affair with Nora but denies going to her flat that night. In the midst of prosecutor Arthur Drinton's badgering of Sir Austin, Horace Ward, a forger, interrupts, saying he saw who killed Nora. Afraid that Ward will name Tony, Sir Austin confesses killing Nora. Ward, however, signs a statement saying that Tony was the man he saw. Although Sir Austin tries to stop him, Tony then confesses to the murder and tells Colonel Grayson, who is in charge of the case, that he left Nora lying in front of the couch. Grayson admits Ward and Blake to his office where Ward, who confesses that he was also Nora's lover, testifies that she wanted him to forge Sir Austin's name to a check. While he was with her the afternoon of the murder, he says, Sir Austin visited and paid her £1,000 to break with his son. During the interrogation, Blake offhandedly remarks that Nora's body was found on the couch. Sir Austin points out that Tony said he left the body in front of the couch, whereupon Ward reveals that after Tony left, Blake returned in search of money. Nora revived, Ward says, ordered Blake out when he demanded money and threatened to report that he had married again and thus was a bigamist. Blake, Ward reveals, then strangled her with gloves on, while Ward hid behind the curtains. Blake then starts to shoot Ward with his cane, in which a gun is hidden, when guards stop him. Sir Austin says that he felt he was largely responsible because if he had not gone to Nora's flat behind Tony's back, the murder might not have happened. Tony reconciles with Sylvia Pierce, his girl friend before Nora, and Sir Austin explains that self-sacrifice is one of the greatest luxuries in life.
R. L. Hough
Guy S. Duty
The play The Silent Witness was a revised version of The Man in the Dock (London, 1928). This was the talking picture debut of Lionel Atwill, who played in the Broadway stage production of the play. Motion Picture Herald erroneously refers to the film as a British production.