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William A. Wellman
Helen Jerome Eddy
Stephen Ashe, an upper class alcoholic defense attourney, successfully defends local mobster Ace Wilfong in a murder case. After his daughter Jan Ashe breaks her engagement to polo player Dwight Winthrop and starts an affair with Wilfong, she finds that the liason is not easily severed when she wants out. Winthrop earns Miss Ashe's true affections by killing Wilfong to break his grip on her. Now the question is, can Stephen Ashe save Winthrop with an impassioned defense speech to the jury? Written by
Gary Jackson <email@example.com>
The characters of Jan and Stephen Ashe were based on writer Adela Rogers St. Johns and her father, famed Los Angeles defense attorney Earl Rogers. Crime novelist Erle Stanley Gardner also used Earl Rogers as the basis for his most famous character - Los Angeles defense attorney Perry Mason. See more »
At 21:19, we see that gangsters are approaching, but with the car backs into the alley, too much time goes by before the gangsters actually pass by. See more »
Johnny Cochrane must've learned some legal tricks from this old movie. For example, at the beginning of the movie, Lionel Barrymore gets Clark Gable acquitted of first degree murder when he places the hat found at the scene of the crime on Clark's head ... clearly the hat is too small. The court and jury laugh, and Clark is set free!
This entire movie was great -- much better than I had expected. I saw two Norma Shearer movies recently with a similar-sounding plot recap: Their Own Desire (Norma Shearer falls for the son of her father's illicit lover), and this one, A Free Soul (Norma Shearer falls for her lawyer father's mobster client). Having watched Their Own Desire first and not being impressed with it, I wondered if I should even bother with A Free Soul. But bother I did, and I'm glad for it. It was an excellent movie.
Lionel Barrymore is the black sheep of his snooty, well-heeled family. His wife died while giving birth to their only child, Jan (Norma Shearer). Being the black sheep, Lionel raised Norma to be a "free soul", to not be afraid of anyone or anything, to not be afraid to make mistakes, and to pick herself up and dust herself off whenever she did find herself in trouble. This has apparently worked well for Norma, until she meets and eventually tries to get away from Clark Gable. Norma finally learns there are consequences to all actions, that one can't be a "free soul" without it having some type of repercussion on one's life.
We also have Lionel Barrymore (whom I always love in anything I see him in) this time very compelling as a brilliant alcoholic lawyer who loves his daughter more than anything but who ultimately doesn't know how to protect her. He disappoints her, and he disappoints himself, but in the end he seeks to right his wrongs by defending Norma's ex-fiancé (to say more would be to possibly spoil the movie).
This movie was fresh, and the characters were sympathetically developed without ever resorting to being maudlin or melodramatic. This movie was also chock-full of great lines. For example:
(Lionel to Clark, upon learning Clark wants to marry Norma) - "The only time I hate democracy is when one of you mongrels forgets where you belong!"
(Norma to Clark, trying to get Clark to quit talking and make love to her) - "Men of action are better in action; they don't talk well."
Great early pre-code movie.
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