Today’s movie is The Verdict (1946). I really don’t watch too many English films unless they star Robert Donat. Having received all of my formal education in the third world country of Mississippi, I have a major problem with non-pigeon English. Anyway, I was poking around somewhere and found out that Sydney Greenstreet and Peter Lorre were in nine movies together. Well, I’ve seen The Maltese Falcon (1941), Casablanca (1942), and Passage to Marseille (1944) dozens of time, so I figure I would check out one of the others. That is how I came to The Verdict (1946), and I was pleasantly surprised. This film is rated 7.2 on iMDB.com and has a 78 percent liked by audiences on RottenTomatoes.com.
New York Times critic Bosley Crowther didn’t care for the movie and said Lorre was “disinterested,” and Greenstreet was “puffier than usual.” He must have been outside-of-mind. I had no idea who the killer was until the end of this great movie.
So, let’s get going with the actors.
Sydney Greenstreet played the role of Supt. George Edward Grodman. Greenstreet was covered in Episode 100 – The Maltese Falcon (1941). Also covered in Episode 100 was Peter Lorre who played Grodman’s friend Victor Emmric.
Ian Wolfe had a small uncredited part as the Jury Foreman. Wolfe was covered in Episode 38 – 99 River Street (1953).
Joan Lorring played the slightly Cockney dancehall singer Lottie Rawson. Lorring was born in Hong Kong in 1926. Apparently, her mother was a Russian Jew that immigrated to the British port. The family left Hong Kong at the beginning of World War II. Good plan!
Lorring began working in radio in Los Angles. At 18, she was in her first film, Song of Russia (1944). This was followed by The Bridge of San Luis Rey (1944). She played opposite Bette Davis in The Corn is Green (1945) and was nominated for a Best Supporting Actress Oscar. She lost to Anne Revere whom we covered in Episode 132 – Fallen Angel (1945). Lorring had the chops and even appeared in two of the ten Lorre/Greenstreet film; Three Strangers (1946) and The Verdict (1946).
Following the war, her film career began to fade. She worked on stage, Broadway, and television. She popped back up in The Midnight Man (1974) with Burt Lancaster. The next year she was in a TV soap before retiring. Lorring died in 2014 in Sleepy Hollow, New York. What an odd place to end up.
George Coulouris played the ambitious inspector then Supt. John R. Buckley. Coulouris was born in England in 1903. Coulouris studied at London’s Central School of Speech and Drama and was working in English theater by 1925. This actor moved to Broadway in 1929. His first film was Christopher Bean (1933).
Coulouris met Orson Welles and joined the Mercury Theater group. Movies that followed include Citizen Kane (1941), For Whom the Bell Tolls (1943), Watch on the Rhine (1943), Blood from the Mummy’s Tomb (1971), Papillon (1973), and Murder on the Orient Express (1974). He returned to England and spent his later years working on stage and doing British films. He died in 1989.
Holmes Herbert has a relatively small part as Sir William Dawson. He was born in England in 1882. He immigrated to America prior to World War I. 1918 found him in Hollywood, and he was very successful as a silent film actor. He switched to talking films in 1931 and found roles in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1931) with Fredric March, Daughter of the Dragon (1931), The Invisible Man (1933), Mark of the Vampire (1935), Captain Blood (1935), The Buccaneer (1938), and The Ghost of Frankenstein (1942). His last film was in 1952, and he died in 1956.
Arthur Shields played the alibi witness Rev. Holbrook. Shields was born in Ireland in 1896. In 1914, he began acting and directing at Dublin Abbey Theater. Shields was involved in the Easter Uprising of 1916 and spent some time as a POW or criminal depending on your perspective. In 1918, he came to America and worked primarily in comedy and on Broadway until 1941. Shields returned to Ireland but was lured back by director John Ford. Shields played one of the leaders of the Easter Uprising in The Plough and the Stars (1936). He began working with Ford and other and his film highlights include Drums Along the Mohawk (1939), How Green Was My Valley (1941), The Corn Is Green (1945), The Verdict (1946), Three Strangers (1946), Fighting Father Dunne (1948), She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (1949), The Fighting O’Flynn (1949), The Barefoot Mailman (1951), The People Against O’Hara (1951), Jack and the Beanstalk (1952) as the voice of the harp, and The Quiet Man (1952). A lot of priest work. Shields died in 1970.
Rosalind Ivan played landlady, Mrs. Vicky Benson. Ivan was born in 1880 in England. She carried the nickname “Ivan the Terrible.” Her most popular films are The Corn Is Green (1945), Pursuit to Algiers (1945), and two Film Noir films; Scarlet Street (1945) and Johnny Belinda (1948). She died in 1959.
The movie begins at Newgate Prison in London in the year 1890. As the morning bell rings, they are carrying out an execution. A melancholy Supt. George Edward Grodman (Sydney Greenstreet) leaves the prison just prior to the execution. When asked why he is leaving early by a street policeman, he asks back “do you want to watch a man walk to the gallows knowing you’d sent him there?” The street policeman continues to complement the superintendent on the handling of the case.
Grodman slowly walks through the fog until he arrives at Scotland Yard. When he gets to his office, the commissioner, Sir William Dawson (Holmes Herbert) and Inspector John R. Buckley (George Coulouris) are waiting. Dawson says that Grodman sent an innocent man to the gallows. You can see the sheer joy on Buckley’s face as he watches Grodman twist. The executed man said that he spent the night with a minster that left for Wales in the morning and the rest of the case was circumstantial. Dawson brings in the priest alibier (Arthur Shields) who actually went to New South Wales, Australia and only arrived the morning of the execution. Grodman examines the priest and realizes he made a mistake. Grodman is forced to resigns and is replaced by Buckley. Buckley won’t let Grodman take the case file for review. Grodman has nightmares of his dismissal and shame. The public calls for Grodman’s hanging.
At Grodman apartment, Victor Emmric (Peter Lorre) and Arthur Kendall (Morton Lowry) the nephew of the murdered woman in the botched case are waiting with drinks to cheer up their old friend. Kendall had testified that the hanged man was his aunts only enemy. Grodman says he is going to write a book about cases that he has solved. Victor agrees to illustrate the case. Clive Russell (Paul Cavanagh) comes in and is shocked to see Kendall. The two men don’t like each other as Kendall is a mine owner, and Russell serves in Parliament and wants to regulate mining safety. They almost come to blows, but Victor stops them. Russell leaves saying he has an early train and Kendall says he hopes the train wrecks before he leaves. All of the men live in boarding houses across the street from each other.
Outside on the street, Russell threatens Kendall. The threat is overhead by Lottie Rawson (Joan Lorring) who is Kendall lower-class fun thing. Lottie is a bit cockney. She is mad because he gave her fake jewelry. Of course, she found out when she tried to hock the jewels. She asks for the expensive watch fob she gave him, but he storms away. Grodman and Victor witness this last part. Lottie threatens to have Kendall killed.
Kendall goes to see landlady Mrs. Vicky Benson (Rosalind Ivan), who is, of course, drinking alone. He asks for a wake-up at 6 am. Kendall goes to his room and securely locks the doors and windows before retiring. He does not answer when the landlady Benson knocks at 6 am. She rushes across the street and wakes Grodman, who is already dressed. When he gets no answer, Grodman breaks the door and finds the murdered Kendall. Landlady Benson screams brings a Bobby who finds Victor standing outside of Grodman apartment. The second scream leads them to the murder. Grodman sends for Superintendent Buckley.
Buckley questions everyone and the locked room is a real puzzle. Later Buckley and Dawson go over how the room was locked, and they have no idea how the murder got out. Buckley calls in a professional burglar to show how the room could be broken into. The bugler is no help. Finally, Buckley goes to see Grodman. Buckley starts grilling Victor. Victor tells about Lottie.
That night Lottie leaves the theater in the fog, looking like a perfect Ripper victim. She goes to Kendall’s room and tries to find the watch fob. Buckley comes in after her and starts quizzing her about the murder. Buckley says there is not watch fob in the room. Landlady Benson shows up outside the door, and the two ladies start to scrap. Buckley arrests Lottie.
Two days later Grodman comes to see Buckley at Scotland Yard. Buckley thinks the fob is with the murderer and Grodman says it may have been buried with Kendall. The mortician can’t remember the fob, so they have the body dug up. Victor shows up and says he has always wanted to see a grave opened, especially at night. Landlady Benson shows up and demands that they do not desecrate Kendall’s grave. In the breast pocket of the dead man is a picture of the landlady Benson with a lover inscription on it. The fob was there also. Lottie is eventually released.
Victor and Grodman go to see Lottie singing and dancing at her club. Buckley is at the club also. After her act, Lottie joins Victor and Grodman. They have a good time drinking, and Victor draws Lottie’s picture on the tablecloth à la Toulouse-Lautrec.
Lottie eventually says that no one is looking into Russell as a suspect. She says he threatened Kendall and had a side girlfriend.
Russell returns to the boarding house and finds his room open. He checks the bureau and then calls landlady Benson. She informs him that Buckley was in the house. He goes across the street to Grodman’s place. Victor is there and jumps in the closet as Russell comes in. Grodman shows up later. The two men, thinking they are alone, begin to talk about the murder. Buckley has found out that Russell did not arrive at his destination for three days. Russell says he has to protect a lady. Russell says he is having an affair with Lady Pendleton. Grodman and Russell leave to get a drink.
Victor comes out of Scotland Yard after being questioned by Buckley. Grodman is outside. Victor says Buckley plans to question Lottie about Lady Pendleton.
While Lottie is in her dressing room, someone throws some Lilies and a note warning her not to talk about Pendleton. Lilies are the flower most associated with death. Buckley arrives shortly, and Lottie admits Kendall was blackmailing Russell. Lottie also says she is more of an Orchid than Lilies person. When the police leave, Victor appears out of the shadows to see Lottie. Victor brings her Orchids and a bracelet. Victor comes home, and landlady Benson is very nervous. Victor creeps her out with talk of throat cutting. Victor goes to his room and removes a revolver from his pocket.
A gloved hand opens the boarding house door, and a shadowy figure goes up the stairs. The person tries to enter Victor’s room, and Victor opens fire chasing the figure away. Landlady Benson is about to die of fright. Victor searches the house while the landlady Benson calls for help. After a Bobby comes, she beats on the window and wakes Grodman. As Grodman dresses two black gloves fall out of his night clothes. Buckley shows at the boarding house and scares everyone again.
Buckley begins to lead everyone to Kendall’s room. Russell shows up just in time for the demo. Buckley says the killer was well known to Kendall and was freely admitted. After the murder, the killer broke the bolt. He would then use thin pliers to lock the door from the outside. Since the door had to be broken down, they would assume that they broke the bolt at the same time. Buckley says he found a knife, a train ticket, and receipt in Russell’s room and that he is the murderer. Buckley arrests Russell.
Next, the jury is shown debating the guilt of Russell. The jury holdout believes it’s a setup because he didn’t get rid of the evidence against him. Finally, the jury finds Russell guilty. He is condemned to be hanged.
Grodman comes to tell Russell that his appeal was denied and he will be hanged in three weeks. Grodman wants to contact Lady Pendleton to give him an alibi. Grodman begins his three-week search for the woman who is somewhere in France.
Grodman makes it back to the prison just hours before the execution. He has to give Russell the news that Lady Pendleton is dead.
Victor is drinking himself stupid prior to the execution. Victor goes to Grodman, and he is writing a note about how much Victor knows about the murder. They talk about the last chapter of the book. Grodman reveals that he found a button off of Victor’s coat from when he was hiding in the closet. Grodman says he found out that Kendall killed his aunt. He says Kendall used his friendship with Grodman to frame the first hanged man. Grodman says he must tell who murdered Kendall to save Russell. Victor says he is very afraid and asks if they really have to go to the prison, to tell the truth. Grodman finishes his book on the way. He says he gave false clues as revenge against Buckley.
Victor and Grodman go into Buckley’s office. Grodman asks Buckley if he takes responsibility for the execution. Finally, he says Russell is not guilty. Grodman explains that he drugged Kendall and after they broke into the room, when landlady Benson was outside of the room, that he stabbed him. Grodman said Kendall murdered his aunt and allowed an innocent man to die. Grodman said he could avenge the murders and make a fool out Buckley. He only had to reveal his crime because Lady Pendleton died. He gives the book to Victor and says it was he who tried to break into Victor’s room. Big target to miss!
World-Famous Short Summary – Revenge, like Romulan ale, is best served cold.
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Beware the moors
 The count is ten if you include This is Our Live (1942), where they were both uncredited. Classic Movie Hub Blog
 Bosley Crowther “Movie Review: The Verdict (1946)”, New York Times, December 13, 1946