Mary Bancroft (Elsie Ferguson), a brilliant defense lawyer who chose a profession over motherhood, is hired to defend Nora Mason (Marian Nixon), whom she has never met, on a murder charge. During the proceedings of the trail, Mary discovers that Nora is her own daughter that she had given up as a baby. Written by
Les Adams <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Considering this is an early talkie directed by journeyman Warner Brothers director Ray Enright who learned his trade at Mack Sennett's Keystone Studios mainly as a gag writer, this is not a bad little programmer. There are several intriguing camera shots from unusual angles. The story is interesting. A brilliant defense attorney on her way up takes a difficult case not to enhance her career but because she empathizes with the young chorus girl accused of killing her father. The reason for the bonding between attorney and client becomes obvious as the plot unfolds. The lady barrister is played with flair and dignity by distinguished silent screen actress Elsie Ferguson, who reprises her role from the Broadway production of the show. This apparently is Elsie Ferguson's only surviving film. The only one she made with sound. That her father was a famous lawyer helped Ferguson in adding authenticity to the role. In some ways, her performance reminds one of a certain lawyer Senator from New York, late of Arkansas, who may be the next President of the United States. There is even a throwaway line by Feguson to the effect that it's legal for women to be successful attorneys, a subtle attack on the sexism that was rampant in Hollywood and the nation at the time. Similar artificial barriers now confront that certain Senator mentioned above.
Since it is based on a play, the film moves at a snail's pace even at 66 minutes. The murder is not shown, which would have been a big plus, catching the audience's attention near the beginning of the movie. There is way too much talk which the studios encouraged to show off the new media of sound cinema believing that audiences wanted as much chatter as possible for their money.
Overall, with the exception of Ferguson the acting is weak. The pivotal role of Nora Mason is damaged by the histrionics of Marian Nixon who was also making the transition from silent to sound. She ultimately retired from films at an early age which may have been a blessing for the industry. At the time character actor Grant Withers was making a grab for the big times and does an adequate job as Bob Lawrence. The rest are blown away by Ferguson who basically has the film to herself.
The speakeasy part of the film is one of the highlights. The Jazz Age is evoked with all its glamor and tinsel. In the precode days, more leg could be shown. So the viewer gets an eye-full. The flappers are flapping as never before, the Jazz trumpets blasting out in a carefree era that was winding down as Old Man Depression snipped away at the fluff.
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