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Monday, December 15, 2014

'Twilight of Honor' DVD: Dreamy Richard Chamberlain Goes From Medical Drama to Courtroom Thriller

Twilight Of Honor (1963)
As Warner Archive points out, the Oscar-nominated 1963 courtroom drama "Twilight of Honor" is a Richard Chamberlain vehicle that takes advantage of his well-earned star power regarding the Unreal TV reviewed television medical series "Dr. Kildare." Chamberlain's David Mitchell in this one is a young attorney who gets first-hand lessons in both the reality of the duty of an attorney to defend his or her share of undesirable clients and in the realities of being a criminal defense attorney.

The following clip, courtesy of YouTube and Archive, of one of the best scenes in "Twilight" nicely showcases the talent of Chamberlain and conveys the exceptional tone of the film.


"Twilight" being an excellent example of the earnest social conscience films of the '50s and early '60s makes it a perfect choice for a film role for Chamberlain. His persona as a caring and assertive young professional who is also very human makes him highly compatible with the role of a rookie attorney whom a judge appoints to defend a drifter facing trial for killing a prominent local man.

Armchair litigators get a great lesson in criminal law in the form of a fact pattern in which it is undisputed that Ben Brown killed Cole Clinton, played by Pat "Mr. Haney" Buttram of the '60s sitcom "Green Acres," while sharing a hotel suite with Clinton and Brown's wife Laura Mae. (Newcomer Joey Heatherton earns a well-deserved Golden Globe nomination for portraying Laura Mae.)

The related rubs are that the circumstances of said fatal encounter may make that incident a justifiable act that does not support a conviction under the applicable law and the contrary desire of the district attorney and others on that side of the legal system to see Brown convicted of the offense for which he is standing trial.

The true power broker behind all this is retired attorney/Mitchell mentor Art Harper, played by the largely invisible Claude Rains. Harper has an undeclared reason for his role in getting Mitchell appointed as defense attorney but is more transparent regarding the behind-the-scenes help that he provides his protege during the trial. Throwing Art's daughter Susan in the mix as a love interest for Mitchell adds a nice light tough to this serious film and sets the stage for wonderfully witty and cute banter at the end of the film.

The trouble regarding the highly relevant facts regarding the killing relates to Mitchell being able to get them out. Flawed confessions that the prosecution obtains from Ben, an alliance between the prosecution and Laura Mae, and public opinion being strongly against his client are only some obstacles that Mitchell faces in ensuring that Ben receives the fair trial to which that poor sap is entitled.

Like a tasty beef stew that marinates all day in a crock pot before hitting the dinner table, "Twilight" nicely simmers for roughly an hour (with a few periods of bubbling in the process) before the final attempt to serve up justice. This leisurely (but hardly boring) pace makes great story telling that is largely absent in this era in which action seemingly must be both non-stop and intense.

All of this amounts to "Twilight" being a great film to watch on a wintry Sunday afternoon. The only thing that would enhance this experience would be having the still dreamy Chamberlain join you for the screening.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Twilight" is welcome to email me; you can also connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.