Wednesday, December 27, 2017

It's the holidays, a time that people often go to the movies, so let's have a movie review. And this one is about a courtroom drama, involving murder. It's called Madame X, starring Lana Turner, from 1966.  

It's based on a French play of the same title from 1908. And it had already been made into a movie, several times. Lana Turner plays a run-down, haggard woman who murders a man, the man she was living with. She shoots him with a pistol. Then she tells someone who responded to call the police because she had shot the man. And while she was waiting for the police to arrive, she burned everything she had with her name and identification on it. And when the police arrive, she refuses to say anything. It was the exact opposite of Lee Harvey Oswald who talked to the police for 13 hours. She wouldn't even give her name. When they asked her to sign a confession, she did, but with an X, hence her designation, Madame X.

This movie was made by Lana Turner, by her own production company, and it was a few years after the real-life event of her daughter Cheryl murdering her mobster boyfriend, Johnny Stompanado, with a knife, but it was to save her mother's life, and Cheryl was acquitted. In Madame X, they had to age Lana and really make her look washed out. She made a funny joke about it. "I've had some bad mornings in my time, but I've never looked like this."

She was assigned a public defender, a young man fresh out of law school, and this was his first case. She refused to tell him anything either. Still, he pled her Not Guilty, and at trial, he fought valiantly to try the victim, who was a no-good, hustling gigolo, who had been in and out of jail his whole life, for various and sundry crimes. But, near the end of the trial, something happens that makes her suddenly realize that this young defense lawyer of hers was her own biological son. And so she decides she wants to speak. She wants to tell the court why she killed the man. So, they swear her in, and she testifies. And what she said was very understandable as a motive for murder; it was definitely sympathetic; however, it did not rise to the level of justifiable homicide. At least, I don't think it did. 

But then, her lawyer (who is her son but doesn't know it) gives the most rousing and stirring closing argument to the jury as to why they should acquit her. It really was brilliant. I won't tell you the outcome, in case you want to see it, and I encourage you to.  

This movie is what you call "melodrama". The emotions are painted on thick. It is over-acted and over-played. Still, it didn't ruin it for me. I got into it. I was affected by it. I was moved. 

And I kept comparing this trial to the mock trial of Lee Harvey Oswald which recently happened in Houston. In the movie, she had an impassioned lawyer who argued for her with fervor. At the mock trial, two of Oswald's lawyers had no interest in him at all; they were just JFKing- trying to establish multiple shooters and conspiracy. The third took up his defense, some, but not with the passion and fervor that this young lawyer had for his client- not even close.      

And, it made me realize that when a lawyer is defending an innocent person, he or she needs to express OUTRAGE to the jury. Outrage- that the person was ever even charged. And it IS an outrage for an innocent person to be charged for a crime he didn't commit. In the movie, since the woman did it, her lawyer didn't express outrage at her being charged, but, he at least expressed passion for why she should be acquitted. But, the lawyers in Houston had every right to express outrage that Oswald was charged because there was no evidence against him. The prosecutor didn't present any. He claimed that the rifle found on the 6th floor was Oswald's and that it was the murder weapon, but he didn't present any proof that it was Oswald's. He didn't present any evidence about it at all. He just acted like everybody accepts that it was Oswald's rifle. So, you might say that he pitched a slow-ball right down the middle of the plate to the defense. But, they didn't act on it. They were too busy talking about Kennedy's head movements and his reactions and getting doctors to talk about it. That 's such fun stuff.

Watch Madame X. You won't regret it.    


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