Two recent Warner Archive releases, Trial and Young Man With Ideas, feature Glenn Ford as well intentioned lawyers. Don’t expect a cookie cutter story from either film, however, as each release are blessed Ford’s acting versatility and engaging narratives.
If hard hitting dramas are your cup of tea, Trial packs a wallop. Glenn Ford is David Blake, a law professor who needs actual court experience to keep his day job. His desperation lands him in the hands of shady attorney Barney Castle (Arthur Kennedy, who received an Oscar nod for the role) and Barney’s ex-lover/secretary Abbe (Dorothy McGuire).
A 17-year-old youth named Angel Chavez (Rafael Campos) is on trial for a girl’s murder. Since Angel’s caught in a town poisoned by racists, his Hispanic roots could spell his doom. David immediately bonds with Angel and becomes a surrogate father figure, but the trial is compromised after David uncovers Barney’s Communist leanings. Directed by Mark Robson (Peyton Place, Von Ryan’s Express), Trial contains an inspired and showy performance from Kennedy, as Barney is more than willing to sacrifice Angel’s life to increase the Communist Party’s hold on the nation.
The entire ensemble, which includes Katy Jurado (High Noon) as Angel’s mom, Juano Hernandez (Kiss Me Deadly) as the principled judge, and John Hodiak (Battleground) as the prosecutor, all do excellent work. Special mention goes to the palpable chemistry between Dorothy McGuire (The Spiral Staircase) and Ford. Both Abbe and David believe in making the world a better place, but for Abbe her road took a bit of a detour.
McGuire fills an exposition filled scene that could have gone sideways with conviction. There’s nothing about Abbe’s story, even if she’s a supporting player in the proceedings, that’s boring. And much of that credit goes to McGuire’s sheer believability in the role.
While the supporting players gets their moment in the sun, it’s Ford who serves as Trial’s narrative backbone. As always, he brings a reliable and sure-handed approach to the part. Although David Blake’s handling of the Angel Chavez case gets a bit shaky, Mr. Ford is always on steady ground. Trial is Manufactured On Demand and can be purchased at The Warner Archive Collection site.
Made in 1952, the 84-minute Young Man With Ideas is lighthearted fare, as Glenn Ford is Maxwell, a Montana legal researcher who quits his job and heads out to Los Angeles with his family in tow. Encouraged by loving wife Julie (Ruth Roman) to start over in California, he lands a job as a bill collector while spending his free time studying for the bar.
Their new digs is the former residence of a bookie, and when Julie accidentally takes a bet over the phone, their domestic bliss takes a momentary turn for the worse. Along with a mobster (Sheldon Leonard) on his tail, Maxwell also must pull away from the advances of law classmate Joyce (an astounding Nina Foch) and a French singer with money problems (Denise Darcel).
Each woman have their respective hold on Maxwell’s decision making, but eventually this affable and self deprecating chap must grow a backbone and end his passive ways. Ford proves he has a deft comedic touch in the feature, and he’s wonderful working opposite all of the actresses.
Nina Foch, who also starred that year in Scaramouche with Janet Leigh and Stewart Granger, is a total revelation as Maxwell’s fetching colleague. Foch had a long career in Hollywood and also spent years working as a renowned acting teacher, and her unpredictable and compelling delivery shines through in this predictable yet ultimately engaging comedy.
When Maxwell enters Julie’s (Foch) Los Angeles apartment, she’s seductively dressed to the nines. A happily married Maxwell is there to study for the bar exam, but Julie’s advances momentarily distract him as she walks into the living room to ask, “The fire still burning alright?” It’s a sexual innuendo that’s subtly played to the hilt from Foch, with Ford effectively lending support as the befuddled Maxwell. The beautifully shot and performed sequence between Ford and Foch can be seen in the preview clip below.
Although not as weighty as Trial, Young Man With Ideas has its share of moments, and along with my lifelong appreciation for Ford and Roman, I’m now a huge fan of Nina Foch, even without the fireplace.
Young Man With Ideas is Manufactured on Demand and is available via the Warner Archive Collection.