The Witness Chair

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The Witness Chair
Directed by George Nicholls, Jr.
Produced by Samuel J. Briskin
Written by Rita Weiman
Screenplay by Rian James
Gertrude Purcell
Starring Ann Harding
Walter Abel
Music by Roy Webb
Cinematography Robert De Grasse
Edited by William Morgan
Distributed by RKO Radio Pictures
Release date
  • April 24, 1936 (1936-04-24)
Running time
64 minutes
Country United States
Language English

The Witness Chair is a 1936 courtroom drama film directed by George Nicholls, Jr., starring Ann Harding and Walter Abel. After this movie, Harding briefly retired from films, and the following year she married symphony conductor Werner Janssen.


Late one night, secretary Paula Young (Ann Harding) leaves the office of her boss, Stanley Whittaker (Douglas Dumbrille, locking the door and taking the stairs to avoid being seen by the elevator operator (Frank Jenks). The next morning, the cleaning lady finds Whittaker's dead body, an apparent suicide. Police Lieutenant Poole (Moroni Olsen) finds a letter signed by Whittaker in which the deceased states he embezzled $75,000. Soon, however, he suspects otherwise and, after investigating, arrests widower James "Jim" Trent (Walter Abel), the vice president of Whittaker Textile Corporation. The gun that fired the fatal shot belongs to Trent, and the typewritten suicide note, though signed by Whittaker, specifically states that Trent is not involved in the embezzlement.

The trial goes badly for the defendant. The elevator operator recalls seeing only Whittaker and Trent in the office building that night, and Martin (Paul Harvey), the prosecuting attorney, produces a possible strong motive: Trent's daughter Connie intended to run away with Whittaker that night. However, Paula interrupts the proceedings to claim responsibility for the crime. She had guessed that Whittaker intended to flee the country with Connie (she being unaware of his embezzlement) when two ship tickets were delivered to the office. With strong, concealed feelings for Trent, Paula forced Whittaker at gunpoint to sign the confession she had typed. However, Whittaker then tried to grab the gun, only to be fatally shot in the struggle. Trent asks Paula to marry him.



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