THE WORLD WAS HIS JURY (1958) is a low-budget yet entertaining courtroom drama starring Edmond O'Brien as a star defense attorney.
As the film opens, Captain Jerry Barrett (Robert McQueeney) has taken command of the S.S. Paradise following the death of the captain. On the ship's last night at sea a fire breaks out, killing 162 passengers and injuring scores more. Captain Barrett, hit in the head as the ship is rocked by explosions, is temporarily incapacitated during the emergency, which his crew attributes to inebriation rather than injury.
Hotshot defense lawyer David Carson (O'Brien) defends Barrett on the charge of manslaughter. David's wife Robin (Mona Freeman) is unhappy as she, like the press and consequently most of the world, believes Barrett is guilty.
I'd be the first to admit the film is a little creaky in spots, including the stiff acting of Barrett's oh-so-cute kids (Gay Goodwin and Kelly Junge Jr.) and a lack of chemistry between O'Brien and Freeman; additionally, as someone who's read dozens of trial transcripts, I suspect some of the courtroom tactics used in the film wouldn't have actually been allowed, even given that the story takes place several decades ago in a different state.
That said, the movie is never dull, and O'Brien is on screen for most of the film; he's a charismatic actor who is reason enough for me to enjoy a movie, and he's entirely believable as a showy courtroom star.
The film also demonstrated the old saw that the more things change, the more they stay the same, as the newspapers in the film are just as obsessed with the disaster and trial as a modern media source would be today.
I enjoyed John Beradino in a significant role as Carson's investigator; the former baseball player went on to a long run as Dr. Steve Hardy on GENERAL HOSPITAL beginning in 1963.
This was the first of two films released in 1958 directed by Fred F. Sears and starring Karin Booth, who here plays Captain Barrett's supportive wife. Booth was George Montgomery's leading lady in Sears' BADMAN'S COUNTRY (1958).
The movie runs 82 minutes. It was shot in black and white by Benjamin H. Kline from a script by Herbert Abbott Spiro. This Sam Katzman production was distributed by Columbia Pictures.
The movie is available on DVD-R in the Columbia/Sony Choice line from sources such as the Warner Archive, Amazon, or Deep Discount. It can also be rented from ClassicFlix.
THE WORLD WAS HIS JURY has been shown on Turner Classic Movies.