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Flight From Destiny

(1940 b 75')

En: 6 Ed: 7

Adapted from Anthony Berkeley's play, a philosopher has six months to live and commits a murder to rid the world of a person harming his friend.

Philosopher Henry Todhunter (Thomas Mitchell) asks Dr. Larry Stevens (James Stephenson) if he is going to die soon and is told he has six months or less. Henry loses his job teaching college and tells Dean Somers (Thurston Hall) he will find something to do or shoot himself. To his colleagues Henry poses the problem of having six months to live. Peterson (John Eldredge) suggests murdering a menace. Henry tells Dr. Stevens he is considering it. Henry finds Betty Farroway (Geraldine Fitzgerald) waiting for him. She says that her husband Michael is leaving her. Henry and Betty see Michael Farroway (Jeffrey Lynn) on the street kiss Ketti Moret (Mona Maris). At an art gallery Henry calls on Ketti and asks her to give up Michael. She says she is not personally involved with him. Henry finds Michael drunk and tells him that Ketti does not love him. Michael slaps Henry, walks out, and is hit by a car.

Betty and Henry visit Michael, who deliriously asks Ketti to destroy the painting. Henry and Betty go to Michael's studio and find a painting Henry says is like the Francesco Ketti is selling. Henry talks to an art expert, who suspects she is selling forgeries. Henry investigates Ketti's relatives and friends but finds no one cares for her, and many hate her. Henry tells Ketti he knows her and warns her to leave Michael alone or she may die. Henry confronts Michael, who admits doing the forgeries and that he is under her spell. Henry asks Michael to go to her to get released. Michael tells Ketti he is going away with Betty and asks her to tell the buyer the paintings are fakes. Ketti refuses and warns Michael of prison. Michael threatens to kill her and leaves. Henry was listening, comes out, and shoots Ketti for all who hate her.

Betty tells Henry that Michael was arrested for the murder. Henry confesses to District Attorney Johnson (Jonathan Hale) and tries to explain his motives. Johnson says Henry is crazy. A psychiatrist questions Henry, who calls him an amateur. Johnson prosecutes Michael. Henry asks Dr. Stevens to testify so they will believe him. Henry is sentenced to the electric chair. Michael and Betty visit Henry and say that Michael is not being prosecuted for the forgeries. Dr. Stevens visits Henry, who says he plans to make a break in order to die before execution. John Saunders is brought in saying he had a right to kill because of Henry's theory. Dr. Stevens sees Henry does not make a break. Dr. Stevens gets a letter from Henry explaining his fallacies behind judging life and death.

This thoughtful melodrama explores whether murder can be justified in some circumstances; but the philosopher comes to realize that judging life and death by an individual sets a bad example that is claimed by many criminals.

Copyright © 2002 by Sanderson Beck

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