The Trial of Vivienne Ware


56m 1932

Film Details

Release Date
May 1, 1932
Premiere Information
New York opening: 29 Apr 1932
Production Company
Fox Film Corp.
Distribution Company
Fox Film Corp.
Country
United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the novel The Trial of Vivienne Ware by Kenneth M. Ellis (New York, 1931).

Technical Specs

Duration
56m
Sound
Mono
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
5,500ft (6 reels)

Synopsis

On October 4, attorney John Sutherland returns to New York from London to learn that the woman he wants to marry, Vivienne Ware, has become engaged to Damon Fenwick, a well-known architect. That night, Fenwick takes Vivienne to the Silver Bowl cafe, where singer Dolores Divine, with whom he once had been involved, insults Vivienne. Fenwick brings Vivienne home and promises that he will never see Dolores again, but he immediately returns to the club to pick up Dolores. The next day, Vivienne, greatly upset, sends a letter to Fenwick. At two the following morning, as Vivienne packs, detectives arrest her for the murder of Fenwick. The trial attracts much publicity. The crowded courtroom proceedings are covered by radio commentators Graham McNally and Miss Gladys Fairweather, who describes Vivienne's attire to intrigued female listeners. The district attorney establishes that Vivienne called at Fenwick's house on October 5, and after she saw Dolores in revealing pajamas eating breakfast with Fenwick, who wore a robe, she walked out, extremely upset. The district attorney then introduces into evidence Vivienne's letter to Fenwick, which he regards as a threat. Fenwick's next-door neighbor then testifies that on the night of October 5, she saw Vivienne enter Fenwick's house. John, acting as Vivienne's attorney, asks her to change her plea to self-defense and accuses her of not telling him the truth when she denies that she went to Fenwick's house the night of the murder. As Dolores is about to testify, a man throws a knife at her and escapes from the courtroom. When someone shouts that Angelo Paroni, the owner of the Silver Bowl cafe, threw the knife, Paroni, still in the courtroom, denies it. After the prosecutor finishes, John puts Vivienne on the stand. She testifies that she was only breaking the engagement with the letter, not threatening Fenwick. She states that on the night of October 5, she went to a hockey match, then left feeling ill and drove home. She also states that she must have dropped her handkerchief, which had been found beside Fenwick's body, when she saw him and Dolores at breakfast. When the district attorney badgers Vivienne, she breaks down and in a fit says that even John thinks she went to Fenwick's house the night of the murder. The prosecutor then puts John on the stand. John changes Vivienne's plea to not guilty on grounds of self-defense and relates that when she left the hockey match, which she attended with him, he followed her to Fenwick's house before he returned home. At the conclusion of John's testimony, his assistant Johnson rushes in with new evidence, and John asks for a recess. That night, the police arrest Paroni's cousin, Joe Garson, for throwing the knife in court. The next day, Mercedes Joy, a dancer at the cafe, testifies that on the night of October 5, Dolores received flowers from Fenwick, which greatly upset Paroni, and that Dolores missed the twelve o'clock show. John questions Paroni, who says that his revolver, which is the same calibre as the one that killed Fenwick, was missing from his desk drawer the night of the murder. Next, a chauffeur testifies that he picked up Dolores and drove her to Fenwick's house the night of the murder. John calls Dolores to the stand, and she explains she went to warn Fenwick, but that he was dead when she got there and that she saw either Paroni or his cousin leave. Garson is brought to the stand, and as he is about to testify, Paroni shoots and kills him. A riot breaks out as Paroni tries to escape. Paroni is shot by police, and Garson, as he dies, confesses that Paroni, jealous of Fenwick, made him kill Fenwick. Vivienne, declared not guilty, embraces John as the flashbulbs flare and the crowd goes mad.

Film Details

Release Date
May 1, 1932
Premiere Information
New York opening: 29 Apr 1932
Production Company
Fox Film Corp.
Distribution Company
Fox Film Corp.
Country
United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the novel The Trial of Vivienne Ware by Kenneth M. Ellis (New York, 1931).

Technical Specs

Duration
56m
Sound
Mono
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
5,500ft (6 reels)

Quotes

Trivia

Notes

The novel by Kenneth M. Ellis originally appeared in serial form in the New York American newspaper during the time period in which the radio drama of the same name was broadcast over New York station WJZ. According to an article in Radio Digest, in October 1930, Edmund D. Coblentz, the editor of New York American, read about the broadcast of a murder trial in Copenhagen and got the idea to sponsor a fictional murder trial that would be broadcast in New York over the radio. He assigned Ellis, a feature writer for the newspaper, to write the story and arranged with WJZ of the NBC network to broadcast the trial on six successive nights. The circulation department of the paper offered money prizes for the best verdicts that listeners sent in. U.S. Senator Robert F. Wagner from New York played the judge in the broadcast, while internationally famous lawyer George Gordon Battle and former Assistant District Attorney of New York Ferdinand Pecora played the lawyers. The play was subsequently broadcast in other cities where Hearst newspapers were published. A sequel, entitled Dolores Divine, Guilty or Innocent, which was also written by Ellis and published first serially in the New York American and then in book form (New York, 1931), also attracted famous legal names to participate in the cast, including ex-Governor of New York, Charles Whitman and former New York Supreme Court Justice Jeremiah T. Mahoney. According to information in the Twentieth Century-Fox Records of the Legal Department at the UCLA Theater Arts Library, the writers of the screenplay read both books before starting work on a treatment, and they were unable to state how much of either was used in the final film, which credits only the earlier novel.