Frank Overton played a DA on the Defenders

Frank Overton was a marvelous character actor who appeared in the recurring role of District Attorney William Bryant on the Defenders. Overton was  dignified and handsome with a flowing voice that drew attention to his role.   Overton and E.G. Marshall were courtroom adversaries but with a deep mutual respect.   In the movies, Overton’s most memorable role was that of General Bogan in the doomsday thriller  Fail Safe.

This is a summary of the The Defenders show the Invisible Badge.  The title refers to Charles Terranova’s view of his job as Prosecuting Attorney.  William Shatner plays Charles  Terranova

Charles Terranova is a young assistant District attorney. He prosecuted an elderly man for bookmaking and the man was found guilty. The bookmaker’s daughter contacts Paddy Birch for help. Birch is a political fixer – for a fee he uses his political contacts to get people what they want. Birch tells the bookmaker’s daughter that for $2,000 Terranova will tell the Judge to dismiss the case prior to sentencing. The bookmaker’s daughter waits outside a restaurant where Terranova is having lunch while Birch goes in to make the payoff. When Birch asks Terranova to dismiss the case, Terranova says that’s what he already intends to do.  No payoff being required, Birch keeps the money but does not tell the bookmaker’s daughter.  After the case against her father is dismissed, the bookmaker’s daughter turns Terranova in for taking a bribe.

What goes on here is a brilliant show of constructive tension as  DA Bill Bryan  interacts with Paddy Birch, Charles Terranova,  Mrs. Terra Nova, and Defenders Lawrence and Kenneth Preston.  For a good 20 minutes  Bryan virtually steals the show.

Paddy Burch is in the District Attorney’s office telling Mr. Bryan about the bribe.   Based mainly on his charge,  the Grand Jury indited Terranova.  After arriving at work,  Terranova finds his office cleaned out and goes to Bryan.  Coming with Terranova is Lawrence Preston, who will represent  young Terranova.   The DA does not like like prosecuting  one of the lawyers under his supervision.   He likes Charlie but has no choice but prosecuting him.   Bryan asked Paddy Burch to enter his office.  Terranova  is shocked and angered that he could lose his job and face a 10 year sentence based on the word of a con artist and political hack.   Lawrence Preston is angered as well but calms Terranova and they leave.

Afterword,  Mr. Bryan calls Burch back into his office.  “Paddy”, he says in anger, “you had better be telling the truth or so help me I’ll throw the book at you.”

After all of this,  Mrs Terranova  goes to the DA without her husband’s knowledge.  The strait laced Terranova would never have done this.  Mrs Terranova  doesn’t  understand that this visit,  as said earlier, could result in further  bribery changes against Charley and bury him in a virtual avalanche of accusations.   DA Bryan, showing concern for the Terranovas,  agreed not to mention this office visit.   He already has  enough information to follow up  with the indictment.

A conviction for Terranova means means disbarment,  a 10 year prison sentence, and a wreck of his whole life.   She then asks Bill Bryan how he can prosecute her  husband,  especially with their close working relationship.   Bryan states he cannot do his job if he lets personal considerations into the equation.   His entire focus is convict, convict, convict.   Not taking this approach makes him responsible for the entire process.  In addition to the prosecutor,  he becomes the defense attorney, the judge, the jury, and perhaps even the newspaper reporters.

Yet there is one time in this story where DA Bryan shows his concern for gathering all evidence.  In a private room, Lawrence ask Bryan to call a witness who will provide a complete picture of exactly what happened.  DA Bryan asks “Larry, you want me to call a person that will actually help you get the acquittal.  Why should I do this?’  Lawrence counters “Because you want a just verdict and you are a good guy.   Bryan agrees and calls the witness.  He is amazed that Lawrence, after all these years, still retains an optimist view of the human race. It is a marvelous clash between lawyers that is memorable.

At the trial, Birch can’t explain why he didn’t take his usual fee in this case. The bookmaker’s daughter has to be removed from the courtroom after her testimony because she starts screaming that everybody always wants to take advantage of her and her father. The  Judge in the bookmaker’s case is called to the stand and reveals himself to be a hanging judge who only dismissed the case because Terranova agreed to take responsibility for it.

Lawrence asks Terranova,  now on the witness stand, why he wanted the judge to dismiss the charge.  Charles explains his view of the case matched against his own ideals.   Basically Terranova says that the law must be an instrument of social justice.  In this case, the amount was so small  that  it could hardly be called bookmaking.  The arrest occurred only because a drive was on  against the rackets .  Finally Lawrence asks him Terranova  “Did you accept a bribe to dismiss the charges?  Terronova says no he did not.

The jury returned a verdict of not guilty.  Mr Bryan congratulates both  Terranova and the Prestons.  Bryan says he is glad to lose this one and looks forward to working with him.  Bryan turns to the protagonist and says.  “Paddy, this jury seems to think you pocketed the money.  In addition, they say you are guilty of perjury.  Maybe you will  have better luck with another jury.  But I doubt it.”  Bryan  wants to be the DA Paddy’s trial.

Frank Overton make this story great.


The Horses Eyes

You see will where this fits in with the synopsis.

Will,  Barbara, and Kate are waiting to hear about the Physicians’ talk with Alec in the bedroom.   Vic arrives at the Barb near dawn, believing Alec dead, and when told otherwise, grows anxious.  He leaves abruptly and heads to the hills where he and Dave have hidden the rifles.  As this happens, the Doctor comes out of the bedroom and tells them  that Alec is now blind.  This is no surprise. In a business visit to Chicago, the very best eye doctors told Alec that he will be blind within 6 to 8 months.  All the fall did was hasten the


What was said next is where we get the term “horse sense”.  A horse will always avoid danger regardless of any from the owner or anyone else.

Lockhart: “I want  to know who pushed Alec  from the ledge.

Doctor Doctor:  At his age and with failing eyesight, Alec had no business riding a horse.

Once again Lockhart that “No Alec was pushed off.  There is nothing wrong with the horse’s eyes.”   


I hope some if you have seen the classic 1955 western, The Man from Laramie.  It will make my point much easier.

Cavalry captain Will Lockhart poses as a wagon train driver bringing supplies from Laramie to the small town of Coronado in order to investigate an attack by rifle-toting Indians on an Army patrol, which claimed his brother’s life. In Coronado, Will is disconcerted to find a repeating rifle at Barbara Waggoman’s mercantile store and learns that it was part of a trade with an Apache.

The following day, as Will and his men load up their wagons with salt, they are attacked by Barbara’s cousin, Dave Waggoman, who accuses Will of stealing and orders his men to rope and drag Will, then set fire to the wagons and shoot the mules. Vic Hansbro, foreman of the Waggoman Barb Ranch, arrives and orders Dave away. Will pays off his men, but old Charley O’Leary offers to stay behind, suggesting that, as his mother was an Apache, he could question the local Indians about rifles.

Will returns to Barbara’s store and she explains that her uncle Alec owns the town and she despises him for ruining her recently deceased father. Later, Will confronts Dave in town and when Vic attempts to break up the brawl, he and Will fight. Rancher Kate Canaday stops Dave from interfering, and the fight is halted only by the arrival of Alec, who demands that Will leave Coronado. Kate, who was once engaged to Alec, invites Will to her ranch, the Half Moon, and Will accepts, despite advice from town drunk Chris Boldt.

Back in town, Barbara chastises Vic, her fiancé, for appeasing Alec, but Vic insists he is invaluable to the Barb. Meanwhile, at the Half Moon, Kate offers Will a job as her foreman, but he declines, explaining that he is only in town seeking his brother’s killer. At Alec’s invitation, Will goes to the Barb, where Alec gives him restitution money, but refuses to explain why he never took action about the cavalry massacre, which occurred on his land. Later, outside of town, Will meets Charley, who discloses that the Apaches are expecting a shipment of rifles. When Will and Charley realize they have been followed, Charley heads to town and Will discovers Boldt, who offers to sell him information.

Later that evening, Will is attacked by Boldt, but after Will knocks him down, Boldt flees. Will then stops by a church celebration and learns from the priest that rifles were used by the Indians during the attack on the cavalry. On his way back to his room, Will is arrested by Sheriff Tom Quigby and accused of murdering Boldt, who was found dead shortly after his confrontation with Will.

The next day, Alec visits Will in jail and offers to arrange for a lawyer and a friendly judge, if Will agrees to leave town. When Will asks Alec why he is determined to get him out of town, Alec confesses that he is plagued by a dream in which a stranger kills Dave. Will dismisses Alec’s dream and refuses his help. Kate then bails Will out and insists he become

The Half Moon foreman. Meanwhile, at the Barb, Alec lectures Dave about his disinterest in the business side of the ranch, but Dave demands that Alec fire Vic so that he can take charge. Vic rides in with the news that Kate has hired Will and that the men suspect Will is a hired gun. Later in private, Alec confesses to Vic that he has lost most of his eyesight and pleads with Vic to protect Dave, assuring him a portion of the Barb at his death, a promise overheard by Dave.

When Dave and his men run into Will herding Kate’s cattle, Dave fires at him, but is wounded in the hand. Dave orders his men to capture Will and shoots him in the hand as revenge. Dave then heads into the mountains, where he uncovers a wagonload of rifles and sends smoke signals to the Indians, which attract Vic, with whom he has been selling arms to the Indians in hopes of creating instability in the region.

Dave insists that they should give the Indians the rifles immediately so that they will attack the Half Moon, but Vic explains that the Barb will also be attacked. After complaining about his lack of authority, Dave draws on Vic, who shoots him dead. Vic brings Dave’s body back to the Barb, while Kate and Barbara tend to Will at the Half Moon. The following day after Dave’s funeral, Alec rides out alone to the Half Moon to shoot Will, but cannot see well enough to aim.

A few days later, Alec questions Vic about the excessive cost of equipment, and when Vic blames Dave, Alec accuses him of purchasing rifles illegally. Despite Vic’s attempts to dissuade him, Alec insists on searching for the rifles. Meanwhile, Will meets Charley, who shows him deep rutted wagon tracks, which the men then follow. Vic accompanies Alec into the hills and admits buying the rifles, but insists that it was Dave’s idea. When Vic maintains that he has been more of a son to Alec than Dave, Alec is angered, and in the ensuing tussle, Vic pushes Alec down a steep ravine.*

Will later finds Alec unconscious and takes him to the Half Moon. The doctor reports that Alec is now completely blind, but will recover. Vic arrives at the Barb near dawn, believing Alec dead, and when told otherwise, grows anxious. When Alec regains consciousness he asks for Will and reveals his discovery of the rifles and that Vic is the man in his dreams. Will goes in search of Vic and finds him with the rifle wagon, signaling the Apaches. The men fight and Will forces Vic to push the wagon over a cliff before the Indians’ arrival.

Vic then escapes, but is killed by the outraged Apaches. Later, Alec and Kate make wedding plans, while Will prepares to depart after telling Barbara he hopes to see her when she returns East.