Toronto Film Society presented The Unknown Man (1951) on Monday, December 19, 1977 in a double bill with The Sniper as part of the Season 30 Monday Evening Film Buff Series, Programme 4.
Production Company: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Producer: Robert Thomsen. Director: Richard Thorpe. Story/Screenplay: Ronald Milar, George Froeschel. Art Direction: Cedric Gibbons, Randall Duel. Music: Conrad Salinger. Photography: William Mellor. Editor: Ben Lewis.
Cast: Walter Pidgeon (Dwight Bradley Masen), Ann Harding (Stella Masen), Barry Sullivan (Joe Bucknor), Keefe Brasselle (Rudi Wallchek), Lewis Stone (Judge Hulbrook), Eduard Franz (Andrew Jason Layford), Richard Anderson (Bob Masen), Dawn Addams (Ellie Fansworth), Phil Ober (Wayne Kellwin), Mari Blanchard (Sally Tever), Konstantin Shayne (Peter Hulderman), Don Beddoe (Fingerprint Man), Holmes Herbert (Reverend Michael), Jean Andren (Secretary), Richard Hale (Eddie Caraway), Jeff York (Guard), John Maxwell (Dr. Palmer), John Butler, Harry Hines, Robert Scott, Ronald Brogan, Robert Griffin, Frank Gerstle, Jimmy Dodd, Larry Carr, Eric Sinclair (Reporters), Dabbs Greer (Driver), Mira McKinney (Maid), Richard Karlan (Lieutenant), Wheaton Chambers (Bailiff), Emmett Vogan (Court Clerk), Jack Gargan (Secretary), Moyna Andre, Anna Q. Nilsson, Bess Flowers (Guests), Mae Clarke (Stella’s Friend), Harry Cody (Detective), Jack Shea (Sash), Frank Pershing (Jury Foreman).
…a rather unique story idea carrying some sound psychological tremors…Mr. Pidgeon is a respected civil lawyer who admirably tackles his first criminal case to save an innocent youth from a murder rap. With the lad scot-free, a chilling little scene reveals his blithe guilt and Mr. Pidgeon’s conscience spurs him through the city’s crime web to the No. 1 spider….
Some of the performances manage to pierce through. Miss Harding, as the lawyer’s wife, and Eduard Franz, as his victim, are conventionally restrained. On the other hand, Keefe Brasselle, the young killer; Mr. Sullivan, a cynical district attorney, and Konstantin Shayne, a confused locksmith, are first-rate.
The New York Times, H.H.T., November 17, 1951
Not much can be written of the story, because the surprise elements of the plot are so essential to the film’s appreciation. The film is far better than any of the contemporary reviews, particularly the New York Times, allow.
Richard Thorpe’s solid direction cannot be faulted for lack of spectacular effects. It gets to the point of the narrative as directly as possible, and lets the performances of the cast, especially a dignified Mr. Pidgeon, carry the story along to its surprising conclusion. The New York Times journalist was unduly harsh when he wrote: “Whoever is responsible, it’s no treat to watch Mr. Pidgeon though he might inquire, ‘Justice, anyone?'”
Notes written by Jaan Salk
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