The Witness Chair
|The Witness Chair|
|Directed by||George Nicholls, Jr.|
|Produced by||Samuel J. Briskin|
|Written by||Rita Weiman|
|Screenplay by||Rian James|
|Music by||Roy Webb|
|Cinematography||Robert De Grasse|
|Edited by||William Morgan|
|Distributed by||RKO Radio Pictures|
Late one night, secretary Paula Young (Ann Harding) leaves the office of her boss, Stanley Whittaker (Douglas Dumbrille, locking the door and taking the stairs to avoid being seen by the elevator operator (Frank Jenks). The next morning, the cleaning lady finds Whittaker's dead body, an apparent suicide. Police Lieutenant Poole (Moroni Olsen) finds a letter signed by Whittaker in which the deceased states he embezzled $75,000. Soon, however, he suspects otherwise and, after investigating, arrests widower James "Jim" Trent (Walter Abel), the vice president of Whittaker Textile Corporation. The gun that fired the fatal shot belongs to Trent, and the typewritten suicide note, though signed by Whittaker, specifically states that Trent is not involved in the embezzlement.
The trial goes badly for the defendant. The elevator operator recalls seeing only Whittaker and Trent in the office building that night, and Martin (Paul Harvey), the prosecuting attorney, produces a possible strong motive: Trent's daughter Connie intended to run away with Whittaker that night. However, Paula interrupts the proceedings to claim responsibility for the crime. She had guessed that Whittaker intended to flee the country with Connie (she being unaware of his embezzlement) when two ship tickets were delivered to the office. With strong, concealed feelings for Trent, Paula forced Whittaker at gunpoint to sign the confession she had typed. However, Whittaker then tried to grab the gun, only to be fatally shot in the struggle. Trent asks Paula to marry him.
- Ann Harding as Paula Young
- Walter Abel as James "Jim" Trent
- Douglass Dumbrille as Stanley Whittaker
- Frances Sage as Constance "Connie" Trent
- Moroni Olsen as Police Lieutenant Poole
- Margaret Hamilton as Grace Franklin, the bookkeeper
- Maxine Jennings as Tillie Jones, Trent's secretary
- William 'Billy' Benedict as Benny Ryan, the office boy
- Paul Harvey as Prosecuting Attorney Martin
- Murray Kinnell as Defense Attorney Conrick
- Charles Arnt as Mr. Henshaw, the auditor
- Frank Jenks as Roy Levino, the elevator operator
The New York Times dismissed it as "a lugubrious and mediocre film;" while more recently Noirish called it a "very interesting B-movie," writing that "The Witness Chair is no hidden classic, but it’s a movie far better and certainly far more intriguing than its obscurity might suggest."
- "The Witness Chair (1936)". BFI.
- "The Witness Chair (1936) - George Nicholls Jr., George Nichols Jr. - Synopsis, Characteristics, Moods, Themes and Related". AllMovie.
- "The Witness Chair (1936) - Overview - TCM.com". Turner Classic Movies.
- T.m.p (18 April 1936). "At the Palace" – via NYTimes.com.
- realthog (6 January 2018). "Witness Chair, The (1936)".