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Dying Joan Ames meets criminal Dan Hardesty on a luxury liner as he is being transported back to America by policeman Steve Burke to face execution. Joan and Dan fall in love, their fates unbeknownst to one another.
Every shady lawyer must have some moral guide looking over their shoulder.
Don't let hard-looking Jack Holt fool you. He may not crack a smile very easily and seems sometimes to be a bit too shady, but there's a charm behind his sleazy lawyer here who takes on high voltage criminal cases to help free the defendant, no matter how guilty that defendant actually is. He goes to a law school graduation and tells the class that they've picked the wrong profession to go into. That doesn't deter pretty Jean Arthur from visiting him in his office and offering to work for him for free just so she can get some experience. She basically becomes his right hand woman and eventually his conscience when he takes on the case of an obviously guilty kidnapper even after the mother of the victim pleas with Arthur to get him to turn down the case.
There's something very artificial in the way this legal drama is played out, even though Holt seems perfectly cast as a shady lawyer. The problem is that Arthur's highly moral character seems like one that he would fire immediately after she got on his case about his lack of ethics. She treats him like a child in a few scenes, and when all of a sudden, their working relationship takes a romantic turn, all I could do was cry "eew", especially after seeing them playing father and daughter in the same year's "Whirlpool". Nat Pendleton plays a dumb cluck who works running errands for Holt, while character funny man Donald Meek is absolutely wasted as one of his law clerks. Sara Padden is very touching as the mother of the kidnapping victim (a six year old), even though she looks more like his grandmother.
Another moment that struck me as phony was the scene where the prosecuting attorney is handed a note by his assistant which says, "He's pulling practically every dirty trick in the book. Not very ethical." Even if the kidnapping case is straight from the headlines with the Lindbergh baby, this doesn't land as far as other recent attorney movies did, such as "The Mouthpiece", "Lawyer Man" and especially "Counsellor at Law".
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