Final Verdict is just good enough, and just frustrating enough, to make you think that the book upon which it’s based might be really good. Adela Rogers St. Johns, the famous society columnist, screenwriter, and novelist, wrote this semiautobiographical story about a young girl’s entrancement with her father’s work. Set in pre-World War I California, Final Verdict stars Treat Williams as colorful criminal lawyer Earl Rogers. Olivia Burnette (NBC’s new sitcom The Torkelsons) plays his daughter, Nora, who is so fascinated by the law that Rogers allows her to tag along when he visits prisons to interview accused murderers.
Williams here gets to play the sort of intelligent, principled lawyer that he couldn’t be in his recent shouting match of a series, Eddie Dodd. He manages to convey both Rogers’ shrewd toughness as a defense attorney and his tender adoration of his daughter. The relationship between Earl and Nora is at once sweet and bold — director Jack Fisk (Raggedy Man, Violets Are Blue), overseeing his first TV movie, convinces us that Earl raised Nora to become the proto-feminist that Adela Rogers St. Johns was in real life.
But the rest of the movie is structurally unsound. There are subplots about Earl’s drinking problem, his troubled relationship with his father (Glenn Ford, in a solid but wasted performance), and his wife’s jealousy of Nora; these themes are shoved randomly in between tales of Rogers’ courtroom triumphs.
The movie’s okay, but I’m going to hunt down the book. C+