Shadow of the Law (1930)

Passed  |   |  Crime, Drama, Mystery  |  6 June 1930 (USA)
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Ratings: 6.0/10 from 33 users  
Reviews: 1 user | 2 critic

John Nelson, a well-to-do businessman, is escorting a woman he knows as Ethel Barry to the door of her apartment suite when a man steps out of the shadows and angrily demands to know where ... See full summary »


(as Louis Gasnier)


(play), (novel), 1 more credit »
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Cast overview:
Marion Shilling ...
Edith Wentworth
Ethel Barry aka Ethel George
Tom Owens
Paul Hurst ...
Pete Shore
Colonel Wentworth
Frederick Burt ...
Detective Lt. Mike Kearney
James Durkin ...
Prison Warden
Richard Tucker ...
Lew Durkin
Walter James ...
Captain of the Guards


John Nelson, a well-to-do businessman, is escorting a woman he knows as Ethel Barry to the door of her apartment suite when a man steps out of the shadows and angrily demands to know where she has been. The embarrassed Nelson excuses himself and goes to his rooms in the same hotel. The woman rushes into his apartment followed by the man who met her in the hall. The man threatens her with violence and Nelson comes to her defense. In the ensuing fight, the man is knocked out of the window and falls to his death to the pavement many stories down. He is charged with the killing and his only witness that can prove self-defense for him has disappeared, and can not be found. Written by Les Adams <>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Two Women Want Him...One for His Money...One for His Love...And the Law Wants Him for Life! (original poster) See more »






Release Date:

6 June 1930 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

A Sombra da Lei  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.20 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


One of over 700 Paramount Productions, filmed between 1929 and 1949, which were sold to MCA/Universal in 1958 for television distribution, and have been owned and controlled by Universal ever since. See more »


Detective Lt. Mike Kearney: Next time you want to get the truth from a woman, don't send money - send a cop.
See more »


Version of The City of Silent Men (1921) See more »

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User Reviews

If you like William Powell you'll like this early talkie
19 March 2011 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

Jim Montgomery (William Powell) has an evening out with a lovely neighbor (Agnes Moorehead as Ethel) and he is hoping for a nightcap and maybe a little more than that when they arrive back at her front door, she seems nervous about letting him in and should be - an angry jealous man awaits her inside. Jim excuses himself not knowing if the man is a husband or a gangster or both. Later the neighbors can hear the man yelling and slapping Ethel around. Dressed in her nightclothes, Ethel runs into Jim's apartment and begs for his protection, but the angry man is right behind her and intends to continue the beating. Jim intervenes and tries to contain the man, and in the process the unknown man loses his balance and falls from Jim's apartment window to his death. Ethel mentions something about how she cannot have a scandal, and runs away - as in packing her things and vacating the apartment before the police even get there.

Without anyone to back up his story, Jim faces murder charges and gets life. He spends three years in prison before the warden makes him head con at the machine shop. He uses this opportunity of trust to escape by packing himself into one of the crates slated for shipment. Two years after that Jim's old cellmate, Pete, finishes his sentence and comes to where Jim is at Jim's request, a textile plant in North Carolina where Jim is now known as John Nelson. He is supervisor of the plant and practically engaged to the daughter of the plant's owner. Nobody there knows who he really is . Jim says that he's tired of hiding and wants to live out in the open but can't do so unless the mysterious Ethel agrees to an affidavit saying Jim is really innocent. He's hired private detectives who have found her but he needs Pete to go to her and convince her to speak up. He can't go himself for fear of risking arrest. Plus there is a police detective that is still looking for Jim after all these years since Jim is the only escaped con he ever trailed that he could not find. Jim gives Pete five thousand dollars to sweeten the pot for Ethel to tell the truth. Pete is an ex-con - will he take the money and run? If he doesn't can he convince Ethel to return with him? And what was so special about her identity that she wouldn't come forward in the first place? Watch and find out.

I honestly don't know why this one has such a low rating. William Powell plays his familiar dapper self although it is a bit of a shock seeing him minus his trademark moustache and in prison garb for about 15 or 20 minutes of the movie. Natalie Moorehead plays the mysterious femme fatale so well as she does in so many of these early talking films. The only bad thing I could say about it is the final showdown of the film - if you watch it you'll know what I'm talking about - is just talked about by a third party. You never see it happen, and that makes the ending somewhat unsatisfactory. Also, besides Powell and Moorehead and a cameo appearance by Regis Toomey all of the other actors in the film were pretty much unknowns. I'd say this is definitely worth your time if you like William Powell.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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