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Judge William "Billy" Priest lives in a very patriotic (Confederate) southern town. Priest plays a laid-back, widowed judge who helps uphold the law in his toughest court case yet. In the meantime, he plays matchmaker for his young nephew. Written by
In the South, Kentucky circa 1890, we meet Judge Priest (played by Will Rogers), laid-back circuit court judge who dresses like Colonel Sanders and has bigger interests than court trials - namely lawn croquet, mint juleps, Confederate veteran social gatherings, taffy pulls, and his new-found friendship with an accused chicken thief (played by Stepin Fetchit) put on trial in his courtroom, who gives the judge tips on fishing for catfish. The judge also enjoys matchmaking for his nephew Rome (Tom Brown), a young man who has just graduated from law school and who is in love with the pretty girl next door in spite of his stuffy mama's protests (seems the girl isn't good enough for the mighty "Kentucky Priest's", mama has her eye on someone else for her son). Soon the film switches gear when our young lawyer gets his first case and defends a local man put on trial.
This film was actually quite a bit better than I was expecting - Will Rogers, whose role dominates this film (aside from Henry B. Walthall, who has a smaller, but important piece here) was more interesting in this than I have seen him in other roles, probably because he comes across as more like himself than a character. Henry B. Walthall, the handsome "Little Colonel" in "The Birth of a Nation", still looks attractive here nearly 20 years later, a real silver fox to my eyes. Hattie McDaniel plays a stereotypical black mammy, singing and hanging laundry and preparing the judge yet another mint julep in most of her scenes, yet comes across with loads of charm. Really quite an interesting film.
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