This is my entry in the Til Death Us Do Part Blogathon hosted by Cinemaven
Raymond Burr made a memorable career out of playing a famous lawyer, Perry Mason, on TV for years. He must've have honed his chops in this movie. Here he plays a lawyer who defends a woman he loves, a woman who just happens to be the wife of his best friend, a wife who is on trial because she is accused of murdering her husband. Burr defends her because he believes her story. She shot her husband, but it was in self-defense because she thought he was going to kill her first. (OK, so the lawyer is not entirely as goody-two-shoes as Mason. After all, you would never believe Perry Mason would have an affair with a married woman... For that matter you probably wouldn't believe Jessica Fletcher, Angela Lansbury's most memorable character, would have an extra-marital affair either...)
Please Murder Me! (1956)
As stated above, Burr plays an attorney, Craig Carlson. Reminiscent of Double Indemnity, Carlson goes to his office (after having purchased a gun, shown during the opening credits), and begins recording a note. The note he is recording is for DA Ray Willis (John Dehner). He details his original relationship with one of his best friends and former war buddy, Joe Leeds (Dick Foran). He intimates to Willis that he expects to be murdered within the hour, and goes into detail about the background. A few weeks before, Carlson had gone to Leeds and admitted to having an affair with Leeds' wife, Myra (Angela Lansbury). He wanted Leeds to consent to a divorce, since Myra no longer loved Leeds and the two wanted to get married.
Leeds is reluctant, but asks for a few days to think about it. A short time later, Leeds writes a letter, and gives it to his associate, Lou Kazarian (Robert Griffin), to be mailed, then leaves to talk to his wife. We see Leeds walk in to his bedroom where Myra is waiting, and with a wild look in his eyes, closes the door. Moments later a shot rings out.
Myra claims that Leeds was going to kill her and she shot him in self-defense. Carlson defends her against the accusation that she intentionally murdered her husband, led by D.A. Willis.
In an effort to persuade the jury that she is innocent, Carlson reveals that Myra and he were lovers, and that she had no reason to really murder her husband; that all she wanted was a divorce.
If this were all, the movie would just be a domestic drama, albeit with a death involved. But after the trial, while celebrating her success at the trial with Carlson at a party, Kazarian shows up and apologizes for the delay in giving him the letter that Leeds wrote just before he died.
In it Leeds admits that he finally had learned that Myra had never loved him and only married him for his money. He also wrote that Myra was really in love with an artist, Carl Holt (Lamont Johnson).
Carlson realizes that Myra hoodwinked him, and that she did indeed murder her husband (although it should be as no surprise to anyone who knows this type of movie in the first place), and that she never really loved him, Carlson, either. Carlson begins a systematic plan to drive Myra to the point where she will have to kill him, Carlson. He tells her he plans to reveal her guilt to Holt (and the rest of the world). The driving effort of Carlson to accomplish his plan to drive Myra to do what she has to do to prevent him from ruining her plans is the saving grace of the film. Up until this point it was a cheapjack film noir, and it may still be, but Burr and Lansbury pull off a great battle of wills, and it is fun to watch Lansbury's face as she tries to second guess what Burr is doing.
I can only hope that if you find a copy of this film it is better than the quality of the one I got. The sound is horrible on my copy (either that or I'm going deaf in my old age). Or maybe there just isn't any interest in any interest in re-mastering what is probably a barely remembered knockoff. Still I think it makes for a fairly interesting look into the second tier of the film noir world.
Enjoy the drive home folks.