The Dock Brief
The Dock Brief (US title Trial and Error) is a 1962 black-and-white British legal satire directed by James Hill, starring Peter Sellers and Richard Attenborough, and based on the play of the same name written by John Mortimer (creator of Horace Rumpole).
|The Dock Brief|
Cover of 1999 DVD version
|Directed by||James Hill|
|Produced by||Dimitri de Grunwald|
|Written by||Screenplay: Pierre Rouve|
Play: John Mortimer
|Music by||Ron Grainer|
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer British Studio
|Distributed by||Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (USA/UK)|
77 minutes (DVD)
The film had its world premiere on 20 September 1962 at the Plaza Theatre in London's West End.
Richard Attenborough was nominated for the 1963 BAFTA Award for best British actor for his role.
In a cell under the Old Bailey, two men meet. One is Wilfred Morgenhall, an unmarried barrister who never gets any cases and is overjoyed to have won this dock brief, the defence of an accused individual with no lawyer (at public expense). The other is his client Herbert Fowle, an insignificant man who just wants to plead guilty to murdering his wife and get it all over.
Flashbacks show that the wife was impossible to live with and Fowle, who avoided her as much as possible, hatched a plot to get rid of her by taking in a male lodger. The lodger found her amusing and attractive, until one day he went too far and Mrs Fowle threw him out of the house. In despair at his plot having failed, Fowle killed her.
Morgenhall role plays various defences, in the process raising Fowle's will to fight. But when the case is called, he botches it and Fowle is found guilty. Morgenhall goes to visit him in prison, where he learns that Fowle has been reprieved because his defence was so poor. The two leave together, two lonely and inadequate men who have become friends.
- Peter Sellers as Wilfred Morgenhall, barrister
- Richard Attenborough as Herbert Fowle, the accused murderer
- Beryl Reid as Doris Fowle, his late wife
- David Lodge as Frank Bateson, the lodger
- Frank Pettingell as Tuppy Morgan, solicitor
- Audrey Nicholson as Morgenhall's girl (in flashback)
- Tristram Jellinek as Mr. Perkins, the prosecutor
- Eric Woodburn as Judge Banter
- John Waite as clerk of the court
- Patrick Newell as 1st warder
- Henry Kay as 2nd warder
- Frank Thornton as photographer at the Fowle wedding
- Eric Dodson as examiner
According to MGM records, the film made a profit of $141,000.
1957 radio playEdit
1957 BBC television versionEdit
Following on from the success of the radio adaptation, the BBC produced a version for television. It aired in September 1957 and again featured Hordern as Morganhall.
1960 Australian television versionEdit
Morgenhall: "Now you're the only case I've got, and the most difficult."
The New York Times: "Charming, comic...robustly amusing." (quoted from the DVD cover)
- The Times online archive 20/9/1962 page 2
- The Eddie Mannix Ledger, Los Angeles: Margaret Herrick Library, Center for Motion Picture Study.
- "Dock Brief - If Men Played Cards as Women Do Notes". tactnyc.org. The Actors Company Theater. Retrieved 1 October 2019.
- "The P.M.G.'s private eye". The Australian Women's Weekly. 27, (37). Australia, Australia. 17 February 1960. p. 68. Retrieved 22 May 2016 – via National Library of Australia.CS1 maint: extra punctuation (link)
- "Courtroom for Two". Sydney Morning Herald. 25 January 1960. p. 12.