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The Spellbinder

The Spellbinder(1939)

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Jed Marlow, a wily lawyer adept at devising tricks to win unjust acquittals for his criminal clients, faces a dilemma when client Tom Dixon informs him that he plans to murder the auditor who has been blackmailing him and threatens Marlow himself with blackmail unless the lawyer agrees to defend him. Over Marlow's objections, Dixon proceeds with his plan, and after making it look as if the auditor was drunk, Dixon pushes him down the stairs to his death. Newspaper reporter Steve Kendall, however, suspects that the accidental death was murder, and his accusations bring Dixon to trial. In a brilliant courtroom tactic, Marlow incites the judge into sentencing him to jail for contempt of court, thus winning the jury's sympathy and his client's acquittal. To insure that his lawyer's lips will remain sealed, Dixon elopes with Marlow's innocent young daughter Janet. Enraged when he learns of his daughter's marriage, Marlow slays Dixon on his wedding night. Brought to trial for murder, Marlow refuses to testify in his defense to protect Janet. When Janet learns the truth about Dixon, however, she rushes to court to defend her father. To spare his daughter embarrassment, Marlow confesses the extenuating circumstances that drove him to commit murder, and an understanding judge promises to temper justice with leniency.