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>
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 »
This film is so rare that probably few people have heard of it. What a terrible shame! The only copy I have was taped from cable TV several years ago. I
never dreamed that I would be reading such appreciation of this little treasure by so many others! There should be a movement afoot to try to bring this
wonderful work out of obscurity, at least to get it on video!
I have read that John Barrymore considered himself miscast here. But I think he was the best possible choice for this film role (played on Broadway by Paul
Muni). At a time when Hitler was just coming to power, I wouldn't want to
imagine the response by the average U.S. moviegoer toward an actual Jewish
actor trying to elicit sympathy for the personal struggles of a Jewish man trying to get himself accepted into Gentile society in this way.
As for the office setting, well, I work for a New York law firm, and this film hits the target dead on! It evokes perfectly the scurry of New York office life, as well as the latest technologies, the fashions and the speech patterns of the period, like that adorable switchboard operator! Bravo to William Wyler!
I have seen many, many John Barrymore movies, and I agree with everyone
else writing here that this must certainly be his best surviving performance, his monument, for those of us who never saw his Richard III or Hamlet. It's even
better than "Twentieth Century" and "Grand Hotel". In an era when silent-movie histrionics was still evident in the acting style, his performance is subtle, nuanced, very modern and deeply affecting, especially in that final scene!
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