JOURNAL OF A CRIME
director: William Keighley; screenwriter: Charles Kenyon/F. Hugh Herbert/from the play Jacques Deval; cinematographer: Ernest Haller; editors: William Clemens/James Gibbons; music: Leo B. Forbstein/Heinz Roemheld ; cast: Adolphe Menjou (Paul Moliet), Ruth Chatterton (Francois), Claire Dodd (Odette), George Barbier (Chautard), Noel Madison (Costelli), Douglas Dumbrille (Attorney General), Henry O’Neill (Doctor); Runtime: 65; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Hal B. Wallis; Warner; 1934-B/W)
“A pre-Code morality play melodrama that’s never believable or convincing, nevertheless is watchable.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
A pre-Code morality play melodrama that’s never believable or convincing, nevertheless is watchable. The low-budget crime drama is adequately directed by William Keighley (“The Street With No Name”/”The Prince and the Pauper”). It’s based on an absurd play by Jacques Deval, and is written by Charles Kenyon and F. Hugh Herbert as if daring you to throw rotten tomatoes at it.
It’s set in Paris in the 1930s. An American company is rehearsing at a theater for a musical play, with the ladies man playwright Paul Moliet (Adolphe Menjou) and the director Chautard (George Barbier) working closely together on the set. The opportunist leading lady, a callow Odette (Claire Dodd), is the haughty mistress of the married Paul. She demands Paul wave goodbye to his wife or she will not see him again. It’s hard for Paul to do that because his clinging wife Francois (Ruth Chatterton) loves him so much that she will never let him go.
On the day when a career criminal, Costelli (Noel Madison), kills a teller while robbing a bank and then on the run hides backstage at the theater of the play rehearsal, where Odette is killed while doing her singing number onstage. The clerk killer is caught backstage on the ropes and is assumed to be the murderer. But Paul finds his wife’s gun near the crime scene, in a bucket of water, and knows his wife did it. He diligently keeps a journal, expecting her to crack soon and confess to the authorities. After six months pass and Costelli, convicted of both murders, is to be executed, the guilt-ridden Francois walks to the Attorney General’s office to confess, but is struck by a car when she tries to save a child chasing his ball in the street from being hit and survives but develops amnesia. Now Paul loves his helpless wife and supports her efforts to recover.
Well, she gets away with murder, but only because of the accident (considered here as an act of God).
REVIEWED ON 5/27/2020 GRADE: C