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CRIME WITHOUT PASSION (director/writer: Ben Hecht/Charles MacArthur; cinematographer: Lee Garmes; editor: Arthur Ellis; music: Frank Tours/ Oscar Levant; cast: Claude Rains (Lee Gentry), Margo (Carmen Brown), Whitney Bourne (Katy Costello), Stanley Ridges (Eddie White), Paula Trueman (Buster Malloy), Greta Granstedt (Della), Esther Dale (Miss Keeley), Leslie Adams (O’Brien, State Attorney); Runtime: 72; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Ben Hecht/Charles MacArthur; Paramount Pictures; 1934)
“Riveting courtroom drama.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Writer Ben Hecht’s initial directing attempt is a winner. He co-directs and co-writes this clever suspense thriller with longtime writing partner Charles MacArthur. They previously collaborated on the smash hit Front Page (1931). The crime drama revolves around a big-time narcissistic shyster criminal lawyer, Lee Gentry (Claude Rains), who has tired of his unfaithful mistress brunette dancer (Margo) and has eyes on a blonde (Whitney Bourne). The brunette, however, can’t be shaken off that easily. So the smart lawyer plants a gun on her, but she reacts to it and is accidentally killed. Realizing her death looks bad for him, the lawyer uses his unethical lawyering skills to take away any suspicion from him by a massive cover-up.

It’s no surprise that the cad gets his comeuppance, but it’s a surprise how he gets it in this riveting courtroom drama. The opening courtroom scene, with its brilliant montages and use of innovative new film techniques, makes this pic unforgettable.

There are cameos by Fannie Brice, MacArthur‘s stage actress wife Helen Hayes, and from both Hecht and MacArthur.

The pic was aided by top-notch cinematographer Lee Garmes, who used camera angles most effectively and was said to have had a hand in the directing.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”