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Smooth as Silk

Smooth as Silk(1946)

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Acclaimed attorney Mark Fenton successfully clears young playboy Don Elliott of a drunk driving, hit-and-run charge. Afterward, Fenton asks Don's uncle, theatrical producer Stephen Elliott, if he would consider casting Fenton's girl friend, Paula Marlowe, in his new stage play, but Elliott refuses. Later at Paula's apartment, the actress welcomes her newly arrived sister Susan, and later takes her to dinner with Fenton. Paula is dismayed by Elliott's refusal to hire her, but mollified somewhat by the expensive bracelet that Fenton gives her. Fenton introduces the women to District Attorney John Kimball and attorney Fletcher Holiday, who notice Don at the bar drinking heavily and remark on the likelihood that Don will inherit his uncle's vast fortune, which arouses Paula's interest. She hastily arranges to meet Don and invites him to her apartment later that evening. Soon, unknown to Fenton, Paula is seeing Don regularly. Paula mentions to Don her interest in Elliott's play, but he assures her that the part of a liar and conniver does not suit her and refuses to mention her to his uncle. When Don stops his habitual drinking to please Paula, Elliott grows curious and asks to meet his nephew's girl friend. Although Susan does not approve of Paula's activities, she agrees to accompany her sister to dinner at the Elliotts'. There Paula, who has discovered that Don will not inherit his uncle's fortune should he marry before the age of thirty, privately insinuates to Elliott that Don is really interested in Susan. When Paula admits she would like the part in Elliott's play, he consults his faithful butler, Wolcott, who approves, and Paula is cast in the part. Paula begins dating Elliott while continuing to string along Fenton and ignore Don, who resumes drinking in despair. The opening of Elliott's play is a success, and at the party afterward, Paula is confronted by an angry Fenton and a romantic Elliott, who proposes and announces the engagement to the crowd. When Fenton attacks Elliott, Paula is furious and demands he leave. Fenton resorts to having both Paula and Elliott followed and soon learns about an argument between Elliott and Don, who later threatens his uncle. Fenton then visits Susan, aware Paula will not be in, and claims he has come to apologize for his fight with Elliott. When Susan leaves to get drinks, Fenton secretly steals some jewelry and a cigarette butt from Paula's room. Later, Fenton breaks into Elliott's home and threatens him with a gun, declaring his intention to kill him and frame Paula for the murder, thereby forcing her to depend on him to be acquitted. Elliott frantically offers to break his engagement with Paula, but the attorney kills Elliott and leaves behind the articles incriminating Paula. Shortly afterward Paula arrives and finds Elliott's body. Fenton returns through the front door, pretending to have just arrived to apologize for the brawl and assures Paula he will handle the situation. After sending Paula away, Fenton contacts Kimball and goes so far as to confess to the murder, but the district attorney suspects Fenton is merely covering for Paula. Upon finding the planted evidence at the scene, Kimball summons Paula, while Fenton, insisting on his own guilt, asks Holiday to represent him. Holiday accepts, but is so successful at shifting blame to Paula that Fenton grows worried his plan is going too well and that Paula will be found guilty. To prevent that outcome, Fenton visits Don and convinces him that he killed Elliott while drunk. After Fenton leaves, Don calls Kimball to confess to the murder and vaguely threatens suicide. When he mentions that Fenton has just departed, Kimball rushes to the Elliott home. Fenton arrives at his home to find a message from Don, claiming he has lost his nerve. Fenton returns to the Elliotts' with the intention of killing Don and making it look like suicide. After Fenton incriminates himself and is about to kill Don, Kimball and the police, who have arranged the frame-up, appear and arrest Fenton for Elliott's murder.