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Erich von Stroheim
Crackerjack lawyer George Simon is a workaholic, and a successful one, at that. Having just gotten a woman acquited of a murder charge, he is juggling cases ranging from breaking a will to quashing the disorderly conduct charges against the son of a woman he knew in the old neighborhood, before he became a hot shot counsellor. He adores his wife Cora, who feels she married a bit below her station. His step-children think so, too. His secretary Rexy adores him, although he is oblivious to the fact. Threatened with losing his practice due to a discretion in a case seven years earlier, his wife leaves for Europe until the scandal blows over, and he comes to realize (just in time) who his true friends are. Written by
Ron Kerrigan <firstname.lastname@example.org>
According to DeWitt Bodeen "Counsellor at Law" was the first film in which Barrymore suffered a prolonged bout of memory loss. Called back for retakes. the sober actor did 56 unsuccessful takes for director William Wyler, who postponed it to the following morning when a still sober Barrymore did it on the first take. See more »
While not technically lost, I call it this because very very few people have heard of it and it is not usually mentioned in discussions of John Barrymore's work. I only sought out the video after I saw it listed in the front of my Leonard Maltin guide in his list of 50 seldom-seen but great films. While his list is too heavily influenced by modern movies (more than half the list are movies just made within the last few years), this one one of the few older films listed. And, since I have adore older Hollywood films, I ran out to find a copy ASAP.
What did I like about the film? Well, first I have always loved John Barrymore films (apart from a few turkeys he made just before he died) and he is as good as you'll ever see him. Second, I really liked the film's moral compass. While Barrymore is the hero of the story, he is far from perfect and offers a more 3-dimensional sort of leading man. While he does so much of his work to help the poor and down-trodden, he is not averse to lying, insider stock trading or making a fast buck. Third, the supporting cast was very strong and full of unusual characters (aside from what I felt was an annoyingly written character, the receptionist). My favorite old films always feature a good ensemble cast for support. Fourth, it dares to be different. This lawyer is NOT Perry Mason (Warren Williams' series was very popular at the time this film was made) or like any one I have seen on film. Fifth, while the film COULD have been stagy given that all the action takes place in the building where the law firm is, its brisk pace keeps it from falling flat.
While I loved the pacing, this also brings me to about the only negative in the film. While the action is brisk, sometimes the dialog is a little TOO BRISK. Occasionally I found myself struggling to keep up with the rapid-fire dialog at the beginning of the film! Be sure to turn on your television's Closed Captioning!
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