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A Free Soul (1931)

Passed  |   |  Crime, Drama, Romance  |  20 June 1931 (USA)
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An alcoholic lawyer who successfully defended a notorious gambler on a murder charge objects when his free-spirited daughter becomes romantically involved with him.



(from the book by), (dialogue continuity), 5 more credits »
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Won 1 Oscar. Another 2 nominations. See more awards »
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Complete credited cast:
Ace Wilfong
Lucy Beaumont ...
Grandma Ashe


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 <>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


She wasn't a divorcee but she believed that strangers could kiss! See more »


Crime | Drama | Romance


Passed | See all certifications »




Release Date:

20 June 1931 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Free Souls  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


(Turner library print)

Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


When the final version of the movie went before Hollywood censors, they demanded that MGM cut the scene where Norma Shearer lays on the bed and suggestively asks Clark Gable to put his arms around her. The studio ignored the demand and released the film uncut. 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 »


[after Ace and Jan are shot at, he takes her to his hideaway]
Ace Wilfong, Gangster Defendant: Slouch, tell her why the Hardy mob tried to fix me up. Tell her the facts, Slouch.
Slouch: Well, the mug that was rubbed out, Miss, was a snooper of the chief's running with the Hardy mob, slipping us the lowdown. Hardy gets hep to it and he puts the rat on the spot. They nab the boss's "kelly" and plants it. Your old man jaws him out and the Hardy mob grabs the typewriters and the ukeleles.
See more »


Featured in MGM Parade: Episode #1.3 (1955) See more »


By the River Sainte Marie
(1931) (uncredited)
Music by Harry Warren
Played as background music during the restaurant scene
See more »

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User Reviews

Not With My Daughter
5 November 2007 | by (Buffalo, New York) – See all my reviews

For those of you who did not have the dubious pleasure of seeing one of Elizabeth Taylor's lesser films, The Girl Who Had Everything, here's the original film it was taken from. A Free Soul is the story of a girl who misuses the freedom her father gave her in her upbringing.

The film is based on a story Adela Rogers St. John wrote, that drew from her relationship with her father, famed criminal defense attorney Earl Rogers. Rogers set the mold for the famous criminal attorneys we've seen in action down to today. Unfortunately he was a man with a severe drinking problem which in the end got the better of him.

He did not come from the upper crust that Lionel Barrymore as Stephen Ashe comes from. In fact the real Earl Rogers's father was a minister. Yet Barrymore creates a compelling and brilliant, but dissolute figure who raises his daughter to be broadminded and tolerant and to despise some of the snobs from her class.

Norma Shearer takes the lessons to heart only too well. She leaves stalwart beau, polo playing Leslie Howard, for gambler/racketeer Clark Gable. Gable's a client of Barrymore's who Barrymore got off on a gambit that Johnnie Cochran used successfully defending O.J. Simpson and he's rather full of himself.

Barrymore turns out to be a bit of a snob himself in the end, telling Gable he's not good enough for his little girl. Of course Norma has her own ideas.

This film was the first really big break for Clark Gable. Movie audiences went for his animal magnetism in a big way. Even though Barrymore won the Best Actor Oscar for his performance by virtue of an unforgettable courtroom speech at the finish, it was Gable who got all the newspaper print.

Norma Shearer got a Best Actress nomination, but lost to fellow MGM contract player Marie Dressler for Min and Bill. A Free Soul which was a pre-Code film, explored the theme of sexual satisfaction ever so gingerly, but in a way after 1935 could not be seen for thirty years on the screen. Shearer is also giving one of her best screen performances.

Leslie Howard I'm afraid had real little to do, but look patient and noble as the society polo player. Howard exuded class and distinction even when he's penniless as in The Petrified Forest. So much the better for him when he's dressed in tails.

A Free Soul is light years better than The Girl Who Had Everything and holds up very well for today's audience.

35 of 35 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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