Valerie (1957) Is Full of Surprises
With a box description that reads “An upstanding Civil War vet is tried for the attempted murder of his wife and the murder of her parents,” Valerie, a 1957 western/courtroom drama sounds a little predictable. The first surprise is that it is not a by-the-numbers potboiler. The second is that it is quite good.
Starring Anita Ekberg as the beautiful Valerie Horvat Garth, Sterling Hayden as her husband John Garth, and Anthony Steel as Reverend Steven Blake, Valerie centers around the differing courtroom testimony of the three principals as they recount the events leading to the murder of Valerie’s parents and her attempted murder. There is no question that husband John Garth was the triggerman, but he claims self-defense and an unfaithful wife.
As Garth’s trial begins, he has the sympathy of all the townsfolk who view Valerie as a scheming, money-grubbing tramp, and Valerie lies unconscious in the hospital. According to the new minister in town, Valerie was a troubled young woman who seemed to want help, but always refused it. According to John Garth, Valerie was a selfish, cheating wife who married him only for his money, yet wouldn’t even consummate the marriage; she tried to seduce his brother and was having an affair with the minister.
Sterling Haden is believable as the wronged husband, but so is Anthony Steel as the new guy in town who is still regarded with a little suspicion. After Garth testifies, his unctuous lawyer moves to have the case dismissed, but the judge announces that Valerie is conscious, and although she is unable to come to the courtroom, she can testify. Everyone moves to the infirmary where Valerie gives her version of events, after being urged to tell the truth by her brother-in-law.Continued on the next page