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This is one of a dozen or so Republic films that exist solely as preservation prints at UCLA. It is not available to the public for viewing. UCLA holds two copies, one complete and one missing one reel. The film was nominated for an Oscar in the category of Original Musical Score.
This is a taut, well written, social drama. The performances are solid
and the editing and direction are brisk.
I have waited over 50 years to see this, now finally in 2015 out on DVD from a TV print that is 20 minutes shorn of its full length, but at 52 minutes does not seem to be missing any of its core.
I won't try to describe the narrative other than to say this is the Madame X scenario, where the Madame wins and does not die to correct her moral lapses. There is even a dance shared with the son given up who does not know he is dancing with his mother, that made it into the 1946 Madame X take-off, To Each His Own, which finally won an Oscar for this female lead type (Olivia de Havilland in this case).
The decade between 1935 and 1945 allowed all studios to submit to the Academy their "best" in the four audio categories (song, sound, original score, scoring) and be guaranteed an Oscar nom, regardless of the quality of the film or the offering within the category. This, like most Republic offerings during the period, is one of those.
The score which won the nomination is mediocre and pedestrian, perfectly acceptable for a B film, but in no way remarkable. It only appears in the following scenes: Main Title and Intro; Remembrance of son; Portia prepares to go out; Clients; Home Visit; Before the Judge; Party; Murder; End Title.
To be commended are veteran character actress, Ruth Connelly, as Portia's assistant, and Frieda Inescourt herself in a stellar performance.
Now available on DVD for the first time. Worth a watch.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Just think of mother love movies of the 1930's: "Confession", "Madame
X", "Imitation of Life", "The Life of Vergie Winters", "Mother Carey's
Chickens", etc. Dozens of them....sacrificing mothers, presumed dead
mothers, secret mothers, murdering mothers, mothers on trial, and now,
mother defending the might-have-been stepmother in this Republic
version of the Faith Baldwin story where all is revealed in a remotely
short running time. Like Fanny Hurst, Faith Baldwin was a woman's
writer, many of her Cosmopolitan stories ending up on the screen
starring many of the glamorous stars of the day. Here, the mother,
lawyer, and revealer is Frieda Inescort, a second lead of major studios
who got a rare lead in a not bad soap opera playing a rather tough
character who utilizes her own past to defend the woman who has taken
her place with the man (Neil Hamilton) she once loved and might take on
the role she never had the opportunity to be: the mother to Hamilton's
All this is revealed pretty early on, but it's the story unfolding which keeps the mystery of why Inescort never got to become Hamilton's wife. The typical domineering wealthy patriarch (Clarence Kolb) had his own reasons for claiming his grandson and keeping Inescort and Hamilton apart, and even years later, he still despises her. He's not pleased at all when she shows up at the engagement party of Hamilton and fiancée Heather Angel, and it soon becomes obvious to Freida that Kolb is up to his old tricks with the fiancée. So when Angel ends up as a defendant in a murder trial, it's a reluctant Inescort who must reach back into her past and find the right defense to make amends with the past and right the wrongs done to her. There's a nice cameo by "Dead End" kid Leo Gorcey as one of Inescort's clients which shows the opposite side of what he played in all those late 1930's "tough kid" movies before the "Bowery Boys" series turned him into the world's oldest juvenile delinquent with a heart of gold.
There's approximately a reel of film missing from the DVD release of this Republic studios women's picture, but the structure of the story is still easy to follow. This is a film about forgiveness, atonement and reconciliation. Top-billed Walter Abel plays the D.A. in love with attorney Inescort (even though they are often on other sides of the bar)but this is Inescort's film all the way. It's pretty lavish by Republic standards, but history has shown that even amongst their many "B" westerns, Republic had an excellent art department, producing a few "A" pictures each year that were the equivalent technically in comparison to the five major studios. This is one of the few Republic films that was "top of the bill", warranting an excellent poster and thorough advertisement coverage in many a Hollywood fan magazine. A restored version of this would be an excellent addition to classic films which are being re-discovered and might even take its rating up a notch or two.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Having searched for this title for a very long time, I was ecstatic
when I was finally able to acquire a copy, taken from an albeit
truncated print (courtesy of Hollywood Television Service). When Dante
created his cycles, he left one out--a special place for those
executives at HTS (the television arm of Republic Pictures) who, in
their infinite wisdom and, compounded by a great display of bad taste,
determined that many of the Republic films had to be chopped up to fit
into the local TV time slots in the 1950's. Now, we're not talking
films with GONE WITH THE WIND running times. We're talking 70 minute
films cut to the standard 53m. Do the math!! That's about 20% of the
content of the movie!! OK, enough of the rant. I just happen to be a
huge fan of Republic films and have seen so many nice little B movies
hacked to bits that, after 35 years of serious collecting, I have to
let out the frustration. Now to the movie. SPOILERS COMING Portia
Merriman is a driven woman. Driven by an all consuming passion to help
the downtrodden and poor, especially women. To this end, she's quite
successful in her role as a defense attorney feared by the DA's office.
But she has a dark side. Some 20 years earlier, she entered into an
affair with the son of one of the wealthiest industrialists in the
country. The result--a son. But with nothing in the way of resources
and a less than stellar pedigree, she reluctantly signs all rights to
the boy over to the old man and heads into the sunset. Now, 20 years
later, the boy (always told his mother was dead) is returning from
England. It's not long before he meets this very nice lady at a social
gathering and a strong friendship ensues. But on the boat that brought
the boy is a girl who entered the country illegally and is now
supposedly marrying the boy's father, a real jellyfish. But when he
turns up dead, the old man decides to swing into high gear one more
time, report the girl on a moral's charge, then blame her for his son's
death. Soon, the hapless young lady is sitting in court charged with
murder. But the old man hasn't reckoned on Portia, who this time isn't
going to back down. Taking up the legal cudgels, she decides to go
after the old man with a vengeance.
Frieda Inescort stars as Portia Merriman and gives a nice performance. Neil Hamilton as her wimp of a lover, Clarence Kolb as the old man (a very nice role for him) and Walter Abel as the DA--a man who secretly loves Portia himself. A solid little B which holds up well even under the surgical knife of the HTS. One can only hope that the complete copy sitting in the UCLA archives will be released--hope does spring eternal. Bob Connors (email@example.com).
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