Twilight Of Honor

TWILIGHT OF HONOR, an ‘adult’ courtroom drama from 1963, wrested 85th on that year’s money-making list, the $2,200,000 gross probably covering what it cost to make. The case presented did manage to grasp a pair of nominations from the Academy Awards, one for Art Direction (easily taken by America America), the other, more sensationally, for Nick Adams as Supporting Actor. His twitchy patsy (the story’s defendant) lost to another life & family-casualty character, played to perfection by Melvyn Douglas in Hud. The desperate gambit Adams made in self-advertising for an Oscar was more of a raw display than the one he offered in the movie. Nick’s failed ballyhoo did succeed in hogging credit from star Richard Chamberlain, trying out big screen leading man shoes while enjoying a cascade of fan mail from his hit TV show Dr. Kildare (1961-66). For those who have eyes it’s hard to care about either male lightweight when Joey Heatherton is torching scenery as the plot’s bad girl, the 19-year old hip-thrusting singer/dancer/vixen unleashing a brand of blatant sex tease in her feature debut. *

Gee, can I possibly stir up trouble in this roadside bar filled with horndogs? Shindig meets Hullabaloo on the road to Where The Action Is

‘David Mitchell’ (Chamberlain), a lawyer in a small New Mexican town, is appointed to defend a young man on a murder charge. ‘Ben Brown’ (Adams) has the deck as stacked as it can get: he seems unstable from the get go, he’s already confessed, his sleazebait wife ‘Laura Mae’ (Heatherton) has turned him in for the reward, the deceased was ‘everybody’s pal’, the arrogant prosecutor (James Gregory) smells a career boost victory, and the judge is not inclined to mercy. Heavily outgunned, David has only the backing of wily old mentor ‘Art Harper’ (Claude Rains) and his fetching daughter ‘Susan’ (Joan Blackman), who has yearnings for the widowed defender.

No, Dick, you can’t have Elvis’s phone number.

Functionally directed by TV vet Boris Sagal, Henry Denker’s ‘meh’ screenplay was taken off the well-reviewed novel by Al Dewlen. The then-seamy stuff is in the vein of Anatomy Of A Murder, employing racy terms and sexual situations, but dramatically it doesn’t come close to the earlier film.

Would you pick up these hitchhikers? Him, anyway.

Even when he gets excited, Chamberlain is bland; his easygoing manner on TV didn’t translate into charisma on the big screen (and the David character is a cipher, which doesn’t help him any). The charming Blackman had just adorned Elvis hits Blue Hawaii and Kid Galahad, but she’s wasted here, vainly trying to get some chemistry spark out off the emotion-recessive leading man. The verve element is left to the others. Who overacts more is a toss-up: bemused old pro Rains, bluster-prone Gregory, anguish-indulging Adams or off-meds Edgar Stelhi (as the judge). Their hamming tries to goose the material, but easily the best impression is made by Heatherton’s aggressively wanton mattress mate.

Gregory, consulting “Ham vs. Wry” to see if he can chew a case load with more relish than the firm of Rains, Adams & Stelhi

Along with Joey’s heated showcase, 20-year-old hopeful Linda Evans makes her feature debut (prior, she’d logged 11 TV episodes). The balance of the supporting cast is loaded with familiar faces, given little to do: Jeanette Nolan, Pat Buttram, Donald Barry, Arch Johnson, Paul Langton, George Mitchell, Bert Freed, Henry Beckman, Chubby Johnson, Burt Mustin. 104 minutes.

* Nick Adams splashed 8-grand of his own bread ($77,000 in 2022) blanketing trade publications with ads. He spouted “A nomination for me means that Twilight Of Honor will bring in another million dollars and supply funds for more Hollywood pictures. Next, it means I, as a Hollywood star, can make more films in Hollywood and stop this runaway production which is killing Hollywood. I will never make a picture abroad”…”I spent $8,000 on my ads and I would spend $88,000 to bring my performance to the attention of voters.”  Two years later he was “starred” in  Frankenstein Vs. Baragon and Monster Zero, both shot in Japan.

The best defense is a good sex offensive

If a kitten combo of Blackman-Heatherton doesn’t cat your nip, a bowl of Little Friskies won’t help much either.

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