21 September 2001 | lugonian
What goes around, comes around.
THE ACCUSING FINGER (Paramount, 1936), directed by James Hogan, is an interesting little melodrama featuring Paul Kelly in a rare lead as Douglas Goodwin, a hard-hitting prosecuting attorney who works on getting 100 percent conviction, sending those to prison and others to be executed. After an argument with his wife, Miriam (Bernadene Hayes), who refuses to grant him a divorce because of his love for his secretary (Marsha Hunt), Miriam is mysteriously shot and killed followed the gun being thrown to the floor, with the Goodwin maid (Hilda Vaughn) arriving to point her finger on Goodwin, the accused killer. In spite of he pleading innocent of the crime, the incident in reverse sends Goodwin to prison's death house where he comes across numerous cell-mates, those he sent up who still hold a grudge, thus, making life for him quite uneasy.
THE ACCUSING FINGER co-stars Marsha Hunt as Claire Patterson, Goodwin's secretary whom he cannot marry because of his present unhappy marriage; Kent Taylor as Jerry, Goodwin's friend; Harry Carey as Senator Nash; and Jonathan Hale as the Governor. What's also makes this movie interesting to see is the casting of two supporting players: Robert Cummings, better known for light comedic roles in both screen and TV, playing very serious as James W. Ellis, a man sent to the death house by Goodwin to be executed in the electric chair, who in turn, does not really hold a grudge against his executor; and Joseph Sawyer, famous for gangster roles in several Humphrey Bogart crime dramas over at Warner Brothers, playing a sympathetic prison priest named Father Reed.
THE ACCUSING FINGER, which runs a little over an hour, is at times convincing, and is as fast paced as many crime dramas of the 1930s. The moral of the story here is "what would happen if the situations were reversed?" The character of Douglas Goodwin gets to learn this first hand. Aside from a hokey conclusion, this "B" drama, which hasn't been available on television for quite some time (WPIX, Channel 11, in New York City used to air this quite frequently during the afternoon hours prior to 1972) is recommended viewing. (**)