A Free Soul (1931)

Passed  |   |  Crime, Drama, Romance  |  20 June 1931 (USA)
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Ratings: 6.7/10 from 1,481 users  
Reviews: 33 user | 19 critic

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 <garyjack5@cogeco.ca>

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?


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 »


In the emotional scene when Shearer promises to give up Gable, Barrymore's hair changes between close-ups and medium shots. See more »


Jan Ashe: Said he, and suddenly the moonbeams turn to worms - and crawl away.
See more »


Referenced in Hot Cross Bunny (1948) 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

Lionel Barrymore Gives An Oscar Winning Acting Lesson
23 April 2000 | by (Forest Ranch, CA) – See all my reviews

They are alike, this father & daughter. Liberal, passionate, willful - they live life on their own terms, disdaining their narrow-minded relations. Few regrets & even fewer apologies cloud either conscious - yet each harbors a character trait that threatens to destroy them. Hers is emotional instability; his, acute alcoholism. Although both will make bad choices that will haunt them, each will continue to see their reflection in the other, unique & individual, A FREE SOUL.

Based on a book by Adela Rogers St. Johns, Norma Shearer gets top billing in this aged but enjoyable soap opera, and she is very good, turning on the histrionics most effectively. But it is Lionel Barrymore who gets full honors - and a Best Actor Oscar - for his portrayal of her brilliant, tragic, lawyer father. Masterfully, he dominates his every scene. His final appearance, a tempestuous summation to a murder trial jury, is considered a classic.

Playing the two very different men in Shearer's life are Clark Gable & Leslie Howard. Gable is excellent, oozing the virility that was about to make him a huge star. Howard deftly underplays his less flashy role and becomes the film's calm center. James Gleason as Barrymore's factotum, and Lucy Beaumont as Barrymore's patrician mother, both give memorable performances. Film mavens will spot Edward Brophy as one of Gable's henchmen & master stutterer Roscoe Ates as the man in the washroom window.

40 of 42 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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