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Joseph J. Clark,
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William 'Stage' Boyd
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 <email@example.com>
Quite simply, the finest movie about lawyers ever made
Tragically, "Counsellor at Law" has never been released on video, so only pirate copies are available. I strongly advise you to get hold of one because the film is unquestionably a 10 on IMDB's scale--probably the best movie about a lawyer ever made. Another possibility is to see the play by Elmer Rice which the movie follows quite closely and which is presented in little theaters around the country from time to time.
Start with John Barrymore's absolutely unforgettable portrayal of attorney George Simon. Continue with the stunning art deco set and the direction which moves the action along at about 200 miles per hour. Most important, the film, which is set entirely in Simon's office, illustrates a tremendous range of business and personal problems confronting the high-powered New York lawyer in the 1930's.
On the personal side, Simon is an up from the gutter Jew who has made it big-time in the waspy world of New York law and business. He's married to an aristocratic non-Jewish woman who seems to despise him (along with her ungrateful kids). So one big theme of the film is the conflict between Simon's poverty-stricken past (his very common mother, his nogoodnick brother) and his newly acquired upper-class status in the non-Jewish community. Simon has feet in both camps and the conflict is revealing and very poignant.
On the business side, Simon has relationships with his partner, with the other lawyers in his firm, and with his staff--each one clearly and unforgettably etched (you'll never forget the telephone operator). He sees a range of clients and confronts a range of ethical problems. He's very tough when he needs to be, and has a huge soft heart as well. He cares deeply about his clients, and that has gotten him into trouble--big trouble.
Not to spoil the story, this film will knock your socks off. Although there have been hundreds of lawyer movies since 1933, none surpass this brilliant film for its insight into the life of the lawyer and into the perils of vertical class mobility.
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