Based on a novel by Robert Hichens, an attorney falls in love with the woman he is defending in a murder case, making his wife jealous.
Maddalena Paradine (Alida Valli) is arrested and charged with murdering her blind, wealthy, and older husband with poison. Her attorney Simon Flaquer (Charles Coburn) recommends that Anthony Keane (Gregory Peck) defend her in court. Keane meets Mrs. Paradine and is astonished at the sacrifice a woman so beautiful must have made to marry a blind man. He learns that she was poor and had other affairs before she was married. Keane tells his beautiful wife Gay (Ann Todd) about the case, and she starts becoming jealous. They have dinner with Simon, his astute daughter Judy Flaquer (Joan Tetzel), Judge Thomas Horfield (Charles Laughton), and his wife (Ethel Barrymore). Horfield sits next to Gay and puts her hand on his knee, but she spurns his attention.
Keane goes to the Paradine mansion and meets his loyal valet Andre Latour (Louis Jourdan), who is hostile and says that Mrs. Paradine is an evil woman. Keane visits Mrs. Paradine again, and she does not want him trying to show that Andre helped her husband commit suicide or that he murdered him. Keane finds that Gay has become more jealous, and he offers to withdraw from the case and go on their long awaited vacation; but she loves him and does not want him to give up such an important case.
In the trial the prosecuting attorney Joseph (Leo G. Carroll) says that Mrs. Paradine is a patient woman and implies that she married and murdered her blind husband for his money. Judge Horfield referees the trial with wry humor and detachment. Keane is known for using emotion in the courtroom, and Horfield tries to keep him on point. The valet Latour testifies that he admired the late Paradine more than anyone and was intensely loyal to him in the army and as his personal servant. Keane cross-examines Latour, who denies that he washed and dried the wine glass that had contained the poison. Keane is able to get him to admit that he did have an affair with Mrs. Paradine, and Keane suggests that Latour be prosecuted for perjury and murder.
Keane calls only one witness in defense-the prisoner Mrs. Paradine. At first she says she could have no romantic feelings for a servant, but later she comes to his defense. She admits that she was the one who washed and dried the wine glass. This startles Keane, and he confesses his limitations and withdraws from the case. Gay tells her husband Keane that she is very proud of him for having done that and urges him to continue practicing law.
Directed by the masterful Alfred Hitchcock, this drama
portrays the British legal system and explores the character of
a lawyer who can use emotion to manipulate others, but who nonetheless
is confused by his own desires and does not express his own feelings