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Criminal Lawyer (1937)

Approved | | Action, Crime, Drama | 29 January 1937 (USA)
Barry Brandon, a criminal lawyer, visits the night club of Denny Larkin, his primary client, with Betty Walker, a spoiled society girl. The police raid the club and Brandon pleads that the ... See full summary »

Directors:

, (uncredited)

Writers:

(screen play), (screen play) | 1 more credit »
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Cast

Complete credited cast:
...
...
...
Larkin
Erik Rhodes ...
Bandini
...
Betty Walker
...
William Walker
...
Brandon's Assistant
William Stack ...
District Attorney Hopkins
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Storyline

Barry Brandon, a criminal lawyer, visits the night club of Denny Larkin, his primary client, with Betty Walker, a spoiled society girl. The police raid the club and Brandon pleads that the whole group is guilty, just to get even with Larkin for a rebuke. On the same night in court, Madge Carter is on trial for disorderly conduct, and Brandon volunteers to defend her, and proves the case against her if a frame-up. Finding that she is penniless, Brandon hires her as his secretary, and falls in love with her. Brandon is appointed district attorney and has ambitions of becoming the state governor. Having dinner at Betty's home, she maneuvers him, while he is drunk, into marrying her. Later, Madge is a witness when Larkin shoots down a fellow gangster. By threatening Brandon's life, he forces her to commit perjury at his trial, and say he fired in self-defense. Brandon, the prosecuting attorney (who has had his marriage to Betty annulled) knows she is lying but doesn't know why. Written by Les Adams <longhorn1939@suddenlink.net>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

Sacrificing His Own Ambition to Be Governor For a Woman's Love. (original poster) See more »

Genres:

Action | Crime | Drama | Romance

Certificate:

Approved
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Details

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

29 January 1937 (USA)  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

 »
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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

(RCA Victor System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?

Quotes

Betty Walker: [Toasting each other after Brandon's success at a criminal trial earlier] Here's to the loopholes of the Law!
Brandon: Forget the Law. I'd rather dedicate a brief to the Southern gentleman who first concocted a Mint Julep.
Betty Walker: [laughs] If you're defending a Southern gentleman, Barry, for my money, he's not guilty.
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Connections

Remake of State's Attorney (1932) See more »

Soundtracks

Tonight, Lover, Tonight
(1937)
Music by Jack Stern
Lyrics by Harry Tobias
Played on piano and sung by Erik Rhodes (uncredited) at the party
Reprised a cappella by him later
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User Reviews

Flawed Tracy vehicle with typically lively lead turn
8 April 2010 | by (advicetothelovelorn.blogspot.com) – See all my reviews

Following his sacking from MGM in 1934, motormouth comedian Lee Tracy struck a three-picture deal with Columbia, before making a heap of low-budget star vehicles over at RKO. Though the RKO movies vary in quality, they do acknowledge Tracy's standing as a uniquely gifted, fast-talking leading man near the peak of his powers, and are largely tailored to his talents.

One such RKO film is Criminal Lawyer (Christy Cabanne, 1937). It's in many ways a standard Tracy film and, as such, an absolute riot. Taking the basic set-up of The Nuisance - Tracy is a shyster whose success in the courtroom is based more on theatrics and tricks than conventional legal practice - the writers also toss in the gangster subplots familiar from Blessed Event and Advice to the Lovelorn. The result is very similar to the William Powell movie Lawyer Man, though bizarrely that 1932 film chose not to show any of the courtroom sequences to which it frequently referred.

The plot here has Tracy's barrister-come-showman becoming DA and trying to shake off his nefarious former sponsor. Hilariously, the tagline of the film gives away its entire storyline. What does the poster think it is - Halliwell's? Without telling you exactly what happens, I'll just say that as Tracy spars with hateful hood Eduardo Ciannelli, a woman (Margot Grahame) enters the picture, becoming Tracy's cook, secretary and confidante. That makes his sometime girlfriend (Betty Lawford) very jealous, setting up a slightly melodramatic final third that isn't as strong as the rest of the picture.

Erik Rhodes provides plenty of comic support playing his patented amorous Italian (as seen in The Gay Divorcée, Top Hat and The Smartest Girl in the World), but as usual it's Tracy's show. Just seeing him on screen makes me happy, since he's never tired, or lacklustre, or sub-par. He's always just magnificently, spectacularly Tracy-ish. When the script is sharp, he's impossibly good, but he also elevates so-so sequences. His interrogation of a woman accused of murder recalls his pyrotechnics in Blessed Event, talking Allen Jenkins through a trip to the electric chair, and he imbues the climactic scene with an improbable credibility as well as a compulsive watchability. My 21st Tracy film is flawed, certainly, but yet another must for fans of the actor.


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