The Dock Brief
|The Dock Brief|
Cover of 1999 DVD version
|Directed by||James Hill|
|Written by||Screenplay: Pierre Rouve
Play: John Mortimer
|Distributed by||Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (USA/UK)|
|Release dates||25 September 1962
DVD 26 January 1999
|Running time||88 minutes
DVD 77 minutes
The Dock Brief (US title Trial and Error) is a 1962 black-and-white British legal satire directed by James Hill, starring Peter Sellers and Richard Attenborough, and based on the play of the same name written by John Mortimer (creator of Horace Rumpole).
Richard Attenborough was nominated for the 1963 BAFTA Award for best British Actor for his role.
After 40 years of undistinguished practice Wilfred Morgenhall (Sellers), a cynical and unsuccessful barrister, is overjoyed to be assigned a dock brief: the defence of an accused murderer.
His client Herbert Fowle (Attenborough), is a meek man who wants to plead guilty to murdering his wife. Through a series of courtroom scenes and flashbacks the lead-up to the crime unfolds, involving Fowle taking in a lodger (David Lodge), who takes a more-than-passing interest in Mrs. Fowle (Beryl Reid). Morgenhall, given an opportunity to shine for the first time in his life, insists on pleading his client "not guilty."
But the case does not go as planned: Morgenhall botches the pleadings and Fowle is found guilty. As Morgenhall drowns his sorrows in a pub, he learns that the Home Office has overruled the verdict: Fowle has been declared not guilty on the grounds that his defence was inadequate.
The film was released in the USA under the title "Trial and Error."
- Peter Sellers as Wilfred Morgenhall, Barrister
- Richard Attenborough as Herbert Fowle, the Accused Murderer
- Beryl Reid as Doris Fowle, his late wife
- David Lodge as Frank Bateson, the Lodger
- Frank Pettingell as Tuppy Morgan, Solicitor
- Audrey Nicholson as Morgenhall's Girl (In Flashback)
- Tristram Jellinek as Mr. Perkins, the Prosecutor
- Eric Woodburn as Judge Banter
- John Waite as Clerk of the Court
- Patrick Newell as 1st Warder
- Henry Kay as 2nd Warder
- Frank Thornton as Photographer at the Fowle Wedding
- Eric Dodson as Examiner
According to MGM records, the film made a profit of $141,000.
Morgenhall: "Now you're the only case I've got, and the most difficult."
The New York Times: "Charming, comic...robustly amusing." (quoted from the DVD cover)
- The Eddie Mannix Ledger, Los Angeles: Margaret Herrick Library, Center for Motion Picture Study.
- The Dock Brief, aka Trial and Error (USA) at the Internet Movie Database
- "Mortimer, Sir John (1923-2009), British Film Institute".
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