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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
'30's comedies aren't exactly known for their subtlety and they mostly consist out of physical humor. This movie forms a great and wonderful exception to this.
This is one great subtle comedy that is mostly funny thanks to its very amusing and extreme stereotyped characters. It of course also really helps that they are being portrayed by some really great actors and are being directed by one great director; John Ford.
Will Rogers was totally great in his role. He seemed very natural with his acting but at the same time managed to play his character in a comical way. He was a greatly talented comedy actor, who was already a popular one during the silent era. He would had continued to play many more comical roles I'm sure, had he not died one year after this movie, in a plane crash piloted by the one-eyed pioneer aviator Wiley Post. Hattie McDaniel also does in this movie what she is best known for, playing a likable maid role. She is best known for her Acedemy Award winning role in "Gone with the Wind", which also made her the first black actor winning the great award.
Even though John Ford began directing movies as early as 1917, it wasn't until the '30's that his career really took off and he gained a real big celebrity status. He also isn't best known for comedies but mostly for his western's, often starring John Wayne. Till this date he is still the director with the most Academy Awards for best directing (4 of them). I think that says already enough about the qualities of this man. With this movie he also really seemed ahead of its time, by picking an all different and very humble approach of the story and comedy.
The story is actually quite simple but oh so great. It actually is quite well layered, even though the movie its simplicity might make you overlook this. It features lots of different element involving the characters in this movie, on both the comical as well as the more dramatic level. I also especially really like how the judge tries to hook up his cousin with his neighbor girl.
The movie also truly benefits from its typical southern atmosphere. The movie is set in a southern town, which shows in the movie its characters, their accents and just overall atmosphere of the entire movie.
This movie was a great pleasant surprise!
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