Man in the Middle:
Unsung Classic of the Warren Court
AMONG ALL THE AMERICAN movies that take law and lawyers as their subject, the ones that are most familiar to and admired by attorneys and laypersons alike are the established classics of the years that roughly coincide with the golden age of the Warren Court: Twelve Angry Men,1 Anatomy of a Murder,2 Inherit the Wind,3 and To Kill a Mockingbird.4 However, just about everyone interested in the law-film interface seems to have overlooked one superb movie from that era whose title is far from a household name, which has never been released on videocassette and is rarely seen on cable or satellite but richly deserves the attention of everyone interested in the creative use of legal material. That movie is Man in the Middle.5
In several senses this film is not a product of the Warren years nor even an American work at all. Its story unfolds in India during World War II and most of it was shot on an estate near London.6 The director, Guy Hamilton,7 is an Englishman born in Paris. The screenwriters, the cinematographer, the composers, two of the principal actors (Trevor Howard and Alexander Knox), and countless subordinate actors and technicians are British. However, in a genuine sense, this film captures the spirit and ethos of the Warren Court more compellingly than any movie made in the United States, even To Kill a Mockingbird.
If you asked a hundred well-informed people to name the fictional lawyer character who most perfectly embodies the idealism of the Warren years, ninety or more would likely give the same answer: Atticus Finch. However, despite the excellence of both Harper Lee's 1960 novel and the 1961 movie starring Gregory Peck, Atticus really never faces a moral crisis or develops as a person in the course of the story. He is from the start and remains to the end the soul of decency as both lawyer and human being, and the client he tries to save is a black man who on the facts cannot possibly have committed the rape for which he is being tried. In Man in the Middle, the protagonist faces a very real moral crisis, one that forces him to decide whether his obligation to his client requires him to destroy his own career in order to save a person who clearly is not worth the sacrifice, and his development as a person hinges on how he resolves this dilemma.
Like To Kill a Mockingbird, Man in the Middle is based on a novel. The most fruitful approach to understanding the film is to begin with the book and its author.
The book's author, Howard Fast, was born in New York City on November 11, 1914. He graduated from George Washington High School in 1931 and began his long and productive life as a writer with the 1933 novel Two Valleys, which he published at age eighteen. His best known mainstream novels deal either with American history,8 ancient history,9 or the American Jewish experience.10 Under the pseudonym of E.V. Cunningham, he has also turned out more than twenty novels of crime and suspense. However, writing well over ninety books did not exhaust Fast's energies. He joined the Communist party, served a prison term in 1947 for contempt of Congress, became a victim of the blacklist, and started his own publishing house to release the books he wrote during the McCarthy years that his fellow victim Dalton Trumbo has called "the time of the toad."11 Fast also ran for Congress on the American Labor Party ticket and picked up enough awards to fill a cabinet. As the blacklist eased in the late Fifties, Fast's books were again issued by an established house, Crown Publishers, beginning with the historical novel Moses, Prince of Egypt (1958) and, a year later, The Winston Affair (1959).
There are huge differences between Fast's novel and the movie version of four years later, but they share a core story that will help us understand the filmmakers' innovations. Both works take place during World War II and are set in India, which Fast had covered while serving as a war correspondent for Esquire and Coronet magazines in 1945. Large numbers of British and U.S. troops are serving in the area side by side and tension between the two armies is running high. In the film adaptation of the novel, Barney Adams, a West Point graduate and wounded combat veteran whom his superiors expect to rise high and fast up the chain of command, is assigned by theater commander General Kempton as defense counsel at a court-martial. The defendant, Lieutenant Charles Winston, is a middle-aged misfit who at a military outpost in the boondocks, cold-bloodedly shot to death a sergeant in the British army named Quinn, in full view of several witnesses. In order to restore unity with their British allies, the American commanders are determined to promptly try, and hang Winston. However, since the defendant's brother-in-law happens to be a Congressman, the court-martial must be conducted not in the drumhead style of Herman Melville's Billy Budd, but in a seemly manner with the facade of due process preserved. Although never issuing Adams a direct order, General Kempton makes clear that this is a show trial and that the defense is not to press the only theory available that Winston was and still is insane.
With only a few days to prepare, Adams visits the huge military hospital where Winston was taken for diagnosis after his arrest. There, he encounters Colonel Burton, the ruthless hospital commander; Major Kaufman, the psychiatrist in charge of the neuro-psychopathic ward; and a nurse named Kate, who worships Kaufman but begins to fall in love with Adams. Visiting the isolated outpost where the murder took place, Adams interviews Major Kensington, a psychiatrist in the British army. Everyone with professional expertise admits privately to Adams that his client is insane but a "lunacy board" of military doctors with no psychiatric experience has ruled to the contrary. At a press conference before the trial, Adams responds to an Indian journalist's question with statements that "might does not make right," and "justice can only exist apart from power." Once the court-martial begins he goes all out to establish an insanity defense, clearly destroying his own military career in the process.
So much for the similarities between novel and movie. If rights to The Winston Affair had not been purchased from Fast before the film was made, he could have sued for copyright infringement and certainly would have won. But much of what makes Man in the Middle so fascinating comes not at all from the novel but from the filmmakers' often radical alterations, which affected everything from overall tone and thrust to dozens of details.
The great virtue of The Winston Affair is that, unlike most fiction set in the past, it avoids anachronism. Having spent part of 1945 as a Far East war correspondent, Fast knew what India looked, smelled and felt like when it was crowded with U.S. and British troops. His local color rings true and he organizes his novel around then current social issues, conflicts, and perceptions, without any discernible influx of story material from the late 1950s, when he wrote the book. The great deficiency of The Winston Affair is that, like so much "socially conscious" fiction, it is heavy on earnest rhetoric and light on drama. Conversely, one of the prime strengths of Man in the Middle is that Fast's "Debate on Great Issues" tone is either scrapped or is made subordinate to story and character. Nevertheless, while Fast studiously avoided anachronisms, the movie hinges on them.
What specific aspects of The Winston Affair were dropped or altered in Man in the Middle; why were those changes made; and how did the alterations affect the meaning of the movie? Answering these questions reveals much of what makes each work move to a different beat than the other.
The most sensible place to begin is with the first few paragraphs of the novel and the first minute or so of the movie. These are the only moments of either work in which Barney Adams is not present, but aside from that they have nothing in common. Howard Fast opens the novel with a banal exchange of dialogue between General Kempton and his sergeant. Guy Hamilton opens the movie with a stunning pre-credits sequence of quiet calm and graphic violence as we watch Winston stride from his quarters to the tent barracks, walk into Sergeant Quinn's canvas cubicle, take out a pistol, and pump four bullets into him. In the novel, we never see the murder at all.
Barney Adams of course is the main character in both the novel and the film, but his biography differs sharply in the two works. Fast's protagonist is twenty-eight years old, six years out of West Point, and a captain. He ranked first in military law at West Point and graduated from Harvard Law School with honors. The Barney Adams of the movie is much older, from his looks one would say in his middle forties as Robert Mitchum was when he played the role, and accordingly he holds the higher rank of Lieutenant Colonel. Mitchum's character is also a West Point graduate and a wounded combat veteran but knows next to nothing about military law and certainly never went to a civilian law school. This version of Adams has invested much more of himself in his career as a soldier, and if he sacrifices that career trying to save his pathetic and disgusting client, the stakes are much higher than they are for his counterpart in Fast's novel. This alteration also makes the movie far more dramatic.
Intertwined with these divergent backgrounds are differences in characterization. One reviewer of The Winston Affair called the novel's Barney Adams "little more real than Hawkeye or Sir Galahad."12 Another described the character as "so attractive, in fact, that it is a pity no one like him has ever existed."13 Fast himself more than once compares Adams to a Boy Scout, but the protagonist of the novel is at root an East Coast aristocrat, thoughtful, introspective, usually softspoken: a man who, even though a professional soldier, would not be out of place in a Wall Street law firm or a Louis Auchincloss novel. Robert Mitchum makes this character both more realistic and more dramatically interesting by portraying him as a sort of Philip Marlowe in khaki. The jeep driver assigned to Fast's protagonist is Corporal Baxter, a twenty-three-year-old Tennessee redneck. Driving Adams through the teeming streets of the city in India, where the novel is set, Baxter refers to the natives as "wogs" and then explains: "A wog is a nigger, local variety."14 This is the book's only reference to blacks. In the film, which is also set during the war years when the armed forces were still segregated, Mitchum's driver is still called Corporal Baxter but has become black. This is an anachronism since the film, like the novel, takes place when the armed forces were still segregated, but it is linked to one of the main elements that renders the film far more dramatic than the novel both in terms of 1963 and today.
"I could not run this hospital for a day without discipline. And I damn well could not run the Jews in it without discipline.... Has it ever occurred to you to wonder how they all manage the medical degrees and the safe berths?"15 The speaker is Colonel Burton, commander of the general hospital, first but by no means last of the villains in The Winston Affair who are characterized by their anti-Semitism. Adams in the novel responds like any good liberal of the time. "I had six Jews in my [infantry] company, but four of them were killed in action and the other two were shot up."16 Later that day, before ever talking with Winston, Adams discusses his client with the British psychiatrist Major Kensington and learns that Winston was a paranoiac who believed he was being plotted against by "international Jewry, the Elders of Zion, the whole kit and kaboodle of Nazi filth."17 Then, during a prison-cell interview with Adams, Winston calls Major Kaufman "that lousy Jew bastard" and claims that he killed Sergeant Quinn under orders from God, who is not on but literally in his side. "He stays here and burns."18 The next day, discussing the case with Adams, Kaufman describes Winston as exhibiting "a pattern of latent homosexuality" and the murdered Sergeant Quinn as "a homosexual, without any question... [who] used [Winston] opportunistically and sadistically."19 Later, over lunch with Adams, Kaufman calls Winston a man "whose twisted life process revolved around a maniacal hatred of Jews, who is a decaying cesspool of every vile chauvinism and hatred ever invented ... who spat in my face and called me a kike and a sheeny."20
In Man in the Middle, Winston gets no messages from God and refers to the psychiatrist only as "that Doctor Creepy Kaufman ... always sniveling around." Superbly portrayed by Keenan Wynn, Winston is neither a latent homosexual nor an anti-Semite. He is still paranoid to the point of psychosis but his sickness is rooted almost exclusively in what the film makers deemed more dramatic and relevant in 1963: hatred of blacks and of minorities in general.
When Adams in the novel is having his first prison-cell interview with his client, Winston asks him: "God damn it to hell, mister, what are you? A lousy kike in disguise?"21 At the exact same point in the movie, Keenan Wynn screams at Mitchum: "What are you, a lousy wog-lover?" Except for one or two very brief anti-Semitic outbursts, the Winston of Fast's novel is portrayed as a passive character, and both before and during the trial Major Kaufman assures us that the defendant is a man "whose soul is warped and corroded beyond repair, whose mind is decaying and dying.22 "Even if prevented from suicide, this disintegration will continue and the soul will die."23 The Winston of the movie is far more aggressive, his disease far more menacing; not just because we have seen him commit a vicious murder, but because of his diatribes in the prison-cell interviews with Mitchum's Barney Adams, where Winston stated:
The war is nothing. It's what's going to happen after that counts. It's going to start here in Asia. East against West. Black against white. Sergeant Quinn was not on our side, he was on the other. He was a bad influence. He was spreading sedition. He was altogether an evil man. He'd sit and spout democracy, then he'd go out... up into the hills, one of these native villages. He had women up there. Black women. I saw him! And then he'd come back and tell us about this brave new world that he and his black brothers were going to make after the war was over. I mean, Colonel, I can only take so much of that.
Neither these maniacal outbursts, nor the powerful scene where, after the last of these conversations, Winston demands that Adams get out of his cell, has a counterpart in the novel. "Nigger! Nigger! You cotton-picking jigaboo!" he screams at his black jailer. Then with a look of utter contempt at Mitchum: "Take your brother out of here." In the corridor, Mitchum has the following dialogue with the black MP sergeant:
I watched him. This was no sudden decision, Colonel. I watched him for months. I followed him. He never knew it. I used to follow him up that hill and watch him with those black witches up there. He was defiling the race, Colonel. He was defiling the white race. He wasn't fit to live in a white man's world.24
Adams: "Does he do that often?"
As Mitchum is leaving, the sergeant takes Wynn out for his daily exercise. Director Guy Hamilton places us with Mitchum, looking down into the sunken prison yard, watching Wynn pace back and forth in an enclosed stone cube that is a perfect visual correlative for his racism. From Fast's perspective the "flaw in the filming was that they omitted anti-Semitism.... The film producers were simply unwilling to deal with it." 26 From a third of a century's distance, however, Hamilton's and the screenwriters' substitution of one form of vicious prejudice for another seems designed not so much to evade controversy as to intensify it.
Jailer: "He does it."
Adams: "You don't let it bother you?"
Jailer: "Nah. The poor fella's crazy."25
The two psychiatrist characters play prominent roles in both the novel and the movie, but, except for the fact that privately they both agree that Winston is hopelessly insane, their functions in the two works are quite different. Major Kensington, as Fast wrote him, serves little dramatic purpose beyond providing non-American and, therefore in terms of the storyline, non-biased confirmation of Winston's insanity. In his first interview with Kensington, which takes place very early in the novel, Adams demands that the British major testify as a defense witness but Kensington is subsequently ordered by his own superiors not to appear at the court-martial and in fact he does not. The Kensington of the movie (Trevor Howard) volunteers his testimony and is the only witness Adams calls to establish Winston's insanity. In the novel, Adams shames Major Kaufman into turning over the report on Winston's sanity that Kaufman had prepared and Colonel Burton had suppressed, while in the movie the report reaches Adams by other means discussed below. At the court-martial according to Fast, Kaufman testifies as a defense witness and is later punished for it by being sent to a hellhole in the jungle. The Kaufman of the movie (Sam Wanamaker) is transferred before the trial to a remote outpost so that he cannot testify and is killed in a jeep accident while racing to get back and appear for the defense. In a nutshell, the film version of the struggle to save the worthless Winston carries a higher price tag than the loss of a decent person's career.
In The Winston Affair, the nurse who works under Kaufman and falls in love with Adams is Lieutenant Kate Sorenson, an officer in the U.S. Army. In Man in the Middle, she is Kate Davray (France Nuyen), a civilian, whose mixed blood involves her in the film's central issues as Fast never involves her pale counterpart in the novel. "Look at me, Barney. Look at me! I am part French, part Chinese. Can't you imagine how much I despise the Winstons of this world? But I couldn't be his executioner." The Kate character's contribution to Adams' efforts to save Winston takes quite different forms in the two works. During the lunch break on the first day of the novel's court-martial, she slips Adams a clearly insane letter Winston wrote to her while a patient in the psychiatric ward. Later she takes the stand to testify for the defense, and her evidence is confirmed by Professor Chatterjee, a local authority on graphology, who offers his expert opinion that the handwriting of the letter is that of an insane person. Since no such letter exists in the film, Chatterjee is not a character at all and Kate never appears as a witness but instead makes her contribution to the defense in a more intensely dramatic way: She steals from the hospital a carbon of Kaufman's suppressed report on Winston's sanity and then has sex with Adams in order to induce him to take the stolen report and use it.
Radical as all these changes are, they pale by comparison with the changes at the climax of each work. In the novel, the panel of nine judges, ranging in rank from Captain to Colonel, finds Winston not guilty by reason of insanity. The decision turns out not to exacerbate but rather to relieve the ill feeling between Yanks and Brits and, so that joy reigns all around, on his way back to a stateside mental hospital Winston slashes his wrists and kills himself. As one underwhelmed reviewer put it, "Readers may be reassured to find that right is absolutely O.K. and, in the end, wins." Guy Hamilton and the screenwriters vastly improved on the novel's ending by reversing, complicating, and darkening it if indeed that is what they did. In the film, there literally is no verdict scene, we are left to figure out for ourselves what the court decided, and the two clues we are given leave more than a little room for doubt. In the final scene where he is saying goodbye to France Nuyen, Mitchum remarks: "Just because you can't lick them, that doesn't mean you have to join them." The clear implication is that Winston has been found guilty and hanged.
Except that the noses of the big brass have been rubbed in their own hypocritical filth, the destruction of Adams' career, his separation from the woman he has come to love, and the loss of Major Kaufman's life have accomplished nothing. Mitchum's very last words to Nuyen "They'll make out all right" may mean that, just as at the end of Howard Fast's novel, Anglo-American unity remains as strong as ever despite the fact that the court found Winston not guilty by reason of insanity. The final moments of the film are compatible with either view we see American and British troops parading proudly side by side to the blare of martial music while Adams, in the jeep with the black driver, goes off in the opposite direction, alone.
What in the world motivated him? Why does Barney Adams ruin his career in what seems a foredoomed attempt to save a pathetic and disgusting murderer? A quick reading of The Winston Affair suggests that it is because he is a Boy Scout at heart and it is the right thing to do. A closer reading hints at another possibility. In the depth of the night between the two days of the trial, Adams thinks back to the day when at age ten "he left for military school for the first time. At the door of their house he clung to his mother, his face pressed against her, his arms around her. He thought to himself then: They'll have to tear me away from her. They'll have to tear my arms off."27 His father says to him: "Be a man now, Barney. That will be expected of you now at all times. You are the son of a soldier and the grandson of a soldier, and you are now going to learn to be a soldier yourself."28 Is his committed defense of Winston a form of subtle revenge against the military life to which family tradition had condemned him? In any event he is an honors grad of Harvard Law and will certainly have no trouble as a civilian attorney once the war is over.
For Robert Mitchum's Adams, who has no law degree and knows nothing but a soldier's life, the future will be bleaker assuming he survives the war at all. Why did this version of the character throw it all away in what not only seems to be but clearly is from the start unless you interpret "They'll make out all right" to mean the court found Winston insane a foredoomed struggle to save the defendant's life? By what steps did he reach the decision to destroy his career on Winston's behalf? Guy Hamilton and the screenwriters make it clear that Mitchum's Adams begins as a good soldier, saluting smartly and doing his commanders' bidding, content to play his role in the coming trial and get a promotion as his reward. When the junior defense team members, who are lawyers in civilian life, propose that he move to disqualify various members of the court-martial panel, Mitchum flatly refuses to consider the option. "You men are civilian lawyers. You've got a living to go back to. I make my living right here in the army, gentlemen. Can't you just see me challenging a senior officer on the ground that he's a birdbrain?" When Trevor Howard as Major Kensington offers a cynical take on the forthcoming trial, Mitchum says very little to make us disagree with the major's perspective:
You've got to go through the motions, don't you? ... Oh, come off it, I know the score. You can plead anything for Winston except insanity because if he's insane he's not guilty. Right? But he's got to be found guilty because he's to hang. And he's got to hang, if only to save the American command a good deal of embarrassment. He's got to hang because he's a murderer. He's mad all the same. The man is a paranoiac. He's an incurable psychopath.29
When France Nuyen as Kate Davray offers him the carbon of Kaufman's report, he is indignant at her for having stolen it; and when he finds it waiting for him in her living room after he has spent the night with her, he tosses it down and stalks out. Even as late as the press conference on the morning before the trial, we are left in doubt whether Mitchum really believes his own reply to the Indian journalist's question. "Justice exists only in its own right. It exists apart from power and apart from might. Expedience can have no part in justice." Certainly his fellow officers think the latter and congratulate him for it. "You know that's a good line? Expedience can have no part in justice. Good quote!"
Within the universe of the film, Mitchum's decision to go all out in Winston's defense is explained, to the extent it is explained at all, in nonlegal terms. He is moved by the unanimous consent of the professional psychiatrists Kaufman and Kensington and of minority characters like Kate and the black MP, and he's outraged at the unsubtle scheming of Colonel Burton and General Kempton to sabotage an insanity defense he had no intent of seriously pressing until their heavyhanded moves made him angry. Yet everything in the movie pushes us to supplement this internal account, to go outside the film and into the real world, not of 1944 but of 1963, where we find implied an additional answer that reverberates with echoes from the Warren court. Mitchum sacrifices himself because he is de facto a lawyer and this is his obligation to his client, regardless of the cost to others or himself.
In the typical lawyer films of the 1930s The Mouthpiece,30 Lawyer Man,31 Counsellor at Law,32 and a host of others the attorney-protagonist's clients were usually portrayed as incarnations of what Holmes, in seeking to distinguish law from morality, called the "bad man,"33 and the prevailing tone towards the profession was an overwhelming cynicism. Such typical films of our own generation as And Justice for All,34 The Penalty Phase,35 and Criminal Law36 are, if anything, even more cynical and hostile towards the legal enterprise than their counterparts from the talkies' first decade. The lawyer films from the Fifties and early Sixties tend to be far more idealistic and to feature attorney-protagonists who represent unpopular clients or causes, not only without fee but often at great personal and professional cost. One thinks of MacDonald Carey as the aptly named Douglas Madison in Don Siegel's Count the Hours, representing a migrant farmer (John Craven) charged with the brutal murders of the man and woman for whom he worked;37 of Glenn Ford as the quixotic law professor defending an innocent Chicano youth (Rafael Campos) in Trial;38 of Anthony Quayle in Alfred Hitchcock's The Wrong Man, going to court for the wrongly accused Henry Fonda;39 of Paul Newman abandoning his lucrative tax practice to represent the innocent Robert Vaughn in The Young Philadelphians;40 of Spencer Tracy defending Dick York's right to teach evolution in Inherit the Wind;41 and of Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird, defying his town's racism in a hopeless attempt to save the falsely accused black man played by Brock Peters.42 Robert Mitchum as Barney Adams in Man in the Middle stands squarely in this idealistic if not idealized tradition and may indeed culminate it: his client is a guilty monster, his cause is far from noble, and he pays a much higher price for his lawyer-like loyalty to what in the last analysis is much closer to Holmes' "bad man" than to the typical clients and causes of lawyers in the films that roughly coincide with the Warren years. "It's easy to fight for the innocent but when you fight for the sick, for the warped, for the lost, then you've got justice." Beyond this point, where could the tradition go?
Just as Mitchum paid the price for representing Keenan Wynn, so the movie pays for the power it generates. The storyline is conspicuously dependent on anachronisms, and the crucial leap that the film asks viewers to make from the murder of an English NCO for consorting with native women in the India of 1944 to the civil rights struggles in the American South of almost twenty years later might have fazed a Nijinski. The British director too often gives American roles to actors with strong British accents (most noticeably Alexander Knox as Colonel Burton) and, even where the characters are played by Americans, too often has them speak in British locutions. Mitchum's assistants, who are supposed to have been New York lawyers in civilian life, are given lines like "We worked twice round the clock on that one" and "I guess he reckons you'll fill the bill." Another nominal American says of Mitchum: "He seems to enjoy this standing up on his hind legs and saying just what he's been told to say." Asked by Trevor Howard if he'd like water in his tot of gin, Mitchum himself replies, "I'll take it neat." The film's unrealistic portrayal of certain military law matters may pass muster with younger viewers but stand out vividly to those dwindling few who served in a legal capacity during World War II and are still alive and active today.43
The film was poorly received on its first release44 and remains little known and underappreciated today,45 but I hope in this essay to have persuaded readers to seek it out nevertheless. My enthusiasm for this powerful and evocative picture is due in large part to the fact that, whatever its debt to Howard Fast's novel and Warren Court jurisprudence, it owes To Kill a Mockingbird far more. Both Harper Lee's novel and the classic film version with Gregory Peck came out between The Winston Affair in 1959 and Man in the Middle in 1963, and the lasting significance of Guy Hamilton's movie is that it does what Fast's novel, for the simple reason that it came out too soon, could not possibly have done. Mitchum's portrayal of Barney Adams creates a new type of Atticus Finch figure: tough and laconic where Atticus was loving and compassionate; representing a guilty white racist where Atticus defended a sympathetic and indisputably innocent black man in the South of the 1930s; and lacking a license to practice law but offering a more challenging and far less reassuring incarnation of the lawyerly ethos that is permanently linked with the Warren years. This is why Man in the Middle is one movie no lawyer should miss.
*Professor of Law, St. Louis University. J.D., New York University, 1967.
TWELVE ANGRY MEN (United Artists 1957).
ANATOMY OF A MURDER (Columbia 1959).
INHERIT THE WIND (United Artists 1960).
To KILL A MOCKINGBIRD (Universal-International 1962) (based on HARPER LEE, To KILL A MOCKINGBIRD (1960)).
MAN IN THE MIDDLE (Twentieth Century Fox 1963) (produced by Walter Seltzer, directed by Guy Hamilton, cinematography by Wilkie Cooper, musical score by John Barry, screenplay by Keith Waterhouse and Willis Hall). Man in the Middle was based on the novel HOWARD FAST, THE WINSTON AFFAIR (1959). It starred Robert Mitchum as Lieutenant Colonel Barney Adams, France Nuyen as Kate Davray, Barry Sullivan as General Kempton, Trevor Howard as Major Kensington, Keenan Wynn as Lieutenant Charles Winston, Sam Wanamaker as Major Kaufman, and Alexander Knox as Colonel Burton.
According to Howard Fast:
[Most of the shooting took place] on Lord Something-or-other's estate about ten miles out of London. I was in London with my family, and I watched a good bit of the filming. Bob Mitchum was wonderful. For me he was the best film actor of his time. Each day he sat quietly on the set, slowly putting away a quart of whisky. When his scene came he never flubbed a word, while the British actors were flubbing all over the place. They never had to do a second take because of Mitchum.. . . I was awed by the ability of the British filmmakers to reproduce an Indian setting there near London.
Letter from Howard Fast, Author of The Winston Affair, to Francis M. Nevins 1 (Feb. 24, 1996) (on file with author).
Hamilton began his career as assistant to the French director Julien Duvivier. The first several films he directed on his own were detective or adventure thrillers, made in Britain with British casts in the early 1950s. By the end of the decade he had graduated to mega-budgeted international co-productions like THE DEVIL'S DISCIPLE (United Artists 1959), starring Burt Lancaster, Kirk Douglas and Laurence Olivier, and A TOUCH of LARCENY (Paramount 1960) with James Mason, George Sanders, and Vera Miles. Immediately after Man in the Middle came the film for which Hamilton is perhaps most fondly remembered, GOLDFINGER (United Artists 1964), the third of the James Bond series with Sean Connery. In the Seventies he came back to direct Roger Moore's first two outings as 007, LIVE AND LET DIE (United Artists 1973) and THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN (United Artists 1974). Other Hamilton titles include FUNERAL IN BERLIN (Paramount 1967), starring Michael Caine as Len Deighton's diffident spy Harry Palmer; THE MIRROR CRACK'D (E.M. 1980), with Angela Lansbury as Agatha Christie's spinster sleuth Miss Marple; and EVIL UNDER THE SUN (E.M. 1982), with Peter Ustinov as Christie's Hercule Poirot. He seems to have been retired since 1985.
See generally HOWARD FAST, CITIZEN TOM PAINE (1943); HOWARD FAST, CONCEIVED IN LIBERTY (1939); HOWARD FAST, FREEDOM ROAD (1944).
HOWARD FAST, SPARTACUS (1951).
HOWARD FAST, THE IMMIGRANTS (1977).
DALTON TRUMBO, THE TIME OF THE TOAD: A STUDY OF INQUISITION IN AMERICA BY ONE OF THE HOLLYWOOD TEN (1949). For an account of the entertainment-world blacklist in general, see VICTOR S. NAVASKY, NAMING NAMES (1980).
Karl Nyren, New Books Appraised, 84 LIBR. J. 2520, 2520 (1959) (book review).
Anthony West, Briefly Noted, Fiction, NEW YORKER, Oct. 17, 1959, at 225 (book review).
HOWARD FAST, THE WINSTON AFFAIR 27 (1959).
Id. at 3.
Id. at 17.
Id. at 61.
Id. at 69.
Id. at 78.
Id. at 86.
Id. at 69.
Id. at 86-87.
Id. at 195.
MAN IN THE MIDDLE, supra note 5.
Letter from Howard Fast to Francis M. Nevins, supra note 6, at 1.
FAST, supra note 5, at 175-76.
Id. at 176.
MAN IN THE MIDDLE, supra note 5.
THE MOUTHPIECE (Warner Brothers 1932).
LAWYER MAN (Warner Brothers 1932).
COUNSELLOR AT LAW (Universal Pictures 1933).
Oliver W. Holmes, Jr., The Path of the Law, 10 HARV. L. REV. 457, 459 (1897).
AND JUSTICE FOR ALL (Columbia 1979).
THE PENALTY PHASE (United Artists 1986).
CRIMINAL LAW (Hemdale 1989).
COUNT THE HOURS (RKO 1952).
TRIAL (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer 1955).
THE WRONG MAN (Warner Brothers 1957).
THE YOUNG PHILADELPHIANS (Warner Brothers 1959).
INHERIT THE WIND, supra note 3.
TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, supra note 4.
A professor emeritus at St. Louis University School of Law and former career JAG officer, Howard S. Levie, criticizes the film on three major points. First, he says:
[T]he basic premise [which is also that of Fast's novel] was unreal: the assumption that in order to maintain good relations with the British it was necessary to find Winston guilty and to hang him even if he was as mad as a hatter. The British were realists, and they would have accepted a finding of insanity unless they had reason to believe that such finding was obviously unwarranted and had been reached solely in order to save a murderer merely because he was an American and the victim was British. Had I been the American general's Staff Judge Advocate [which is analogous to a corporate CEO's General Counsel] I would have advised him to seek the cooperation of the British commander and to direct the hospital commander to establish a lunacy commission consisting of an equal number of qualified British and American psychiatrists.
Letter from Howard S. Levie, Professor Emeritus at St. Louis University School of Law, to Francis M. Nevins 3 (Feb. 10, 1996) (on file with author).
Further, he says, some of the procedure at the film's court-martial seems a product of the director's and screenwriters' imaginations:
The applicable military rules of evidence [under the Articles of War in effect during World War II] were essentially the same as the civilian rules on that subject. I don't believe that an unidentified, unsigned carbon copy of a document would be admitted in evidence in any court. Of course, if the hospital commander, Colonel Burton, had admitted that he recognized it as a copy of Major Kaufman's report, the original of which had been destroyed, it could and would have been admitted even though unsigned and a carbon copy.
Id. at 2-3.
Finally, he suggests, the film may exaggerate the extent to which a military lawyer who went against his commander's wishes would suffer retaliation:
Command influence existed.... When as a new second lieutenant ... I was appointed Trial Judge Advocate (TJA) (prosecutor) of a special court-martial ... the colonel called the members of the new court and the TJA into his office and told us that when he sent a case to the court the accused was guilty and deserved the maximum sentence (which was six months). As a very recent civilian lawyer I almost fainted; as a second lieutenant I kept my mouth shut, but when it came to decisions on punishment at the trials I recommended what I considered to be appropriate and never had any repercussions.
Id. at 1-2.
Typical of contemporary reviews was that of the New York Times' Bosley Crowther, who stated:
The format of the courtroom drama has seldom been used to contain a less taut and engrossing test of justice.... [The film consists of] a slow, lethargic series of confrontations between Army men, growling and snarling at one another, and a lot of pushing papers around before the matter is finally settled (at least, I think it is settled) in a clearly irregular and tedious trial.... In addition to being slow and unconvincing, the show is also sluggishly played.... Mr. Mitchum comes on sleepwalking, grumbling and looking tough, and he stays more or less in that mood all the way through the film.... The fate of the poor insane man is not made clear at the end.
Bosley Crowther, Screen: A Courtroom Drama Opens, N.Y. TIMES, Mar. 5, 1964, at 36. The last quoted sentence is just about the only point Crowther got right.
"With such a situation, there should have been more fireworks, but Mitchum's sleepy way negated that, and the picture, which might have been a powerhouse, fizzles somewhat but still has enough innate drama to make it worth your watching." JAY R. NASH & STANLEY R. Ross, THE MOTION PICTURE GUIDE 1841 (1986). The account of the film in the Nash & Ross encyclopedia is full of errors and closes with the demonstrably wrong assertion that at the end of the court-martial, Keenan Wynn's character "is sent to a hospital rather than a gallows." Id.