6.7/10
1,570
36 user 18 critic

A Free Soul (1931)

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

Director:

Writers:

(from the book by), (dialogue continuity) | 1 more credit »
Reviews
Won 1 Oscar. Another 2 nominations. See more awards »
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Cast

Complete credited cast:
...
...
...
...
...
Eddie
Lucy Beaumont ...
Grandma Ashe
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Storyline

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 <garyjack5@cogeco.ca>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

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

Genres:

Crime | Drama | Romance

Certificate:

Passed | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

20 June 1931 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Free Souls  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

 »
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Technical Specs

Runtime:

(Turner library print)

Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

According to the Guinness Book of World Records (2002), the movie holds the record for the longest take in a commercial film, the climactic courtroom scene at 14 minutes. Since a reel of camera film only lasts 10 minutes, it was achieved by using more than one camera. See more »

Goofs

At 3:31, Eddie is putting creamer in the coffee for a second time. See more »

Quotes

Stephen Ashe, Defense Attorney: I wish my mother belonged to some other family.
See more »

Connections

Featured in Complicated Women (2003) See more »

Soundtracks

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

 
I think the world of the acting, the story, and the modern issues so plainly confronted
29 January 2010 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

A Free Soul (1931)

Clark Gable says, "I'm telling you." And Norma Shearer, dressed in a sexy silk dress, replies, "Oh no, you're not. Nobody is."

That sums up this astonishing movie. I can't believe A Free Soul is so little known, or that so many viewers don't get the depth of its meaning then...and now. Throw in three of the most amazing actors of the early 1930s--Lionel Barrymore, Clark Gable, and Norma Shearer--and you can't help be impressed, and moved, and intrigued. It's about strength of character (three or four characters, in fact). It's about being a modern person, and having modern problems. And it's about facing them, openly, honestly.

So what holds it back? Well, for one thing, it has a lot of talk, a lot of simple dialog about some very not simple things. If you accept the characters and their need to talk, you will see a very honest confrontation with alcoholism, and with what is at first a kind of sex addiction, or what is later developed to be simply unbridled love for a man outside of marriage. But the parallel between two temptations is real, and rather powerful, and the sacrifices each of the two afflicted characters make is intense. Barrymore (as the one nipping the bottle) and Shearer (as the one too much in love, or in love with lovemaking) play their parts perfectly. They have moments of extraordinary clarity, and moments of abandonment. And they confront each other in a way that is completely reasonable.

There are other aspects here worth at least lifting an eyebrow at, namely the very close relationship, almost as platonic lovers, between these two. Gable as a lovable but brutal and deceptive gangster is perfect, too--gorgeous and hard, charming and untrustworthy. The milieu is well developed, from barroom to hotel room to courtroom. This isn't a Warner Brothers knock-you-out crime film, it isn't even Three on a Match, for an example of a compromise between a woman's picture and a gangster flick. It's a heady drama, beautifully laid out and progressively involving, with director Clarence Brown (famous for a whole string of such interpersonal, romantic dramas over several decades) knowing what makes a film really matter.


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