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TV Reviews : St. John Memoir Sets the Scene for ‘Final Verdict’

“Final Verdict” (at 5, 7, 9 and 11 tonight on TNT cable) is a slice of hothouse “L.A. Law” as practiced by the city’s legendary criminal attorney Earl Rogers.

What lifts the production above conventional courtroom drama is that the experience is seen through the eyes of the lawyer’s 10-year-old daughter (who would grow up to be the famous newspaper woman Adela Rogers St. John and whose memoir, “Nora,” is the basis of this movie).

Treat Williams makes a dashing but fallible Earl Rogers (whose private demon was booze), and 14-year-old Olivia Burnette is his devoted, at times cloying daughter, whose feverish affection enjoys a fetching urgency.

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The cases Rogers takes on are tawdry but they do introduce his innovative cross-examination and trailblazing legal techniques.

The production’s most felicitous feature, though, is its 1919 Bunker Hill setting, redolent of wide Victorian porches and lawns and fading vestiges of horse-drawn trolleys. And downtown L.A., where a little girl accompanies her dad on his errands, is a three-penny opera world of thieves, murderers, jails and courthouses. But it’s also her Wonderland. Once, she even secretly follows her father into a downtown brothel.

These adventures were the genesis of Adela Rogers St. John’s fabulous journalism career. She lived until 1988. Earl Rogers died in 1922.


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