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Trial (1955) - Film Review

Updated on May 12, 2011

In resemblance to the Scottsboro trial, Trial (1955) is about a murder trial turned political ploy. One night in the at the town beach of San Juno, California, Angel Chavez a young Mexican American flirts with an American girl named Marie. A forbidden practice in 1955. When the American girl leaves, she falls of a heart attack and dies. The state assumes murder, and Angel is the suspect. Thus begins the long and strenuous trial concerning the controversial topics of racial segregation and equality. A law professor named David Blake is sent to a law firm run by Barney Castle and ultimately resides to take the case over. 

Even before the trial, an angry mob of white men attempts to break down the county jail to take Angel and lynch him. As in the Scottsboro case, the troops are called in to break up the mob. In trial, the state chooses an African American judge, and David believes that it is a ploy to convince the country that the trial isn’t the subject of racial discrimination. That may be true, but Barney explains how “no negro judge would cross its state.” At the same time, David finds proof that the state fixed its jury selection with personal interviews at the juror’s homes - probably to influence them into a guilty verdict. As a result David takes three weeks just to try and get a sequestered jury. In another scene, David cross-examines the doctor that determined death and is able to pressure him into revealing that the girl could have died of over exertion and not a violent episode, but just as he gets close the district attorney calls for a recess and the judge confides, allowing the doctor time to gather an fixed response. 

As if that weren’t enough, just like in the Scottsboro case, the Communist party is involved with helping Angel’s cause, and are in fact (in the eyes of the anti-communist propaganda stance that the film takes) trying to further there own cause by using the Angel case and David Blake as their puppets. In the center of it all, is Barney. One particularly strong scene involves a rally held to raise funds for Angel’s case in New York. Barney explains to David that the rally will be sponsored by the All People’s Partycomprised of sixty percent communists. David (the symbol of good because of his previous stance on the town’s segregation) doesn’t want “dirty” money from the communists, and when he goes up to say his speech in front of the rally without giving support to the All People’s Party, he is quickly and deliberately cut off. Barney then guilts the people at the rally into donating money. David is disgusted at the scene. Since our sympathies lie with David, the audience is influenced into sharing the same feeling of disgust for the rally. 

Finally after David pulls a strong case of defense, Barney puts Angel on the stand with intend of getting a conviction because, the “Party’s collected money for a martyr and now the figure they’ve got to produce one.” The Party fixes the appeal process to get David off the case to insure that Angel is killed. David brings it to the court’s attention and the shift of hatred then goes to that of communism and not of race. This seals the anti-communist stance of the film while promoting the racial equality of the Scottsboro case because of David’s true fight for Angel. 


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    • Cogerson profile image


      7 years ago from Virginia

      I loved Arthur Kennedy's performance in this movie....good hub on a great movie. Voted up.


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