The Man Who Talked Too Much (1940)
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Of the three leads from these three films, George Brent in "The Man Who Talked Too Much" is probably the most poorly cast. While a fine actor, it is harder to imagine him playing a rather crooked individual--whereas Warren William and Edward G. Robinson are a bit more at home with such roles. Also, I will admit it up front that the plot is really hard to believe. So, to enjoy the film you just have to accept that Brent could be bad and the rest of the plot. If you can't, the film just won't work very well.
The film begins with Brent playing a prosecuting attorney, Stephen Forbes. He convicts a man for murder and is quite pleased with himself--until they learn he was innocent. To make things worse (and HIGHLY contrived), they find out only seconds before the execution and they cannot reach the warden in time to stop it! Forbes is horrified and quits his job--which isn't too surprising. Now in private practice, he has a hard time making ends meet. But, when mobsters find out how talented he is, he immediately becomes a success--to the horror of his younger and very idealistic brother. What follows is amazingly contrived (you just have to see it) but also enjoyable in a brainless sort of way. Not a bad film--but one that could have been better.
UPDATE: I finally got to see the original version, "The Mouthpiece". It's significantly better...and a lot racier!
This all happens in the first few minutes. It's giving nothing away. The rest of the movie involves Brent's deciding to make some money and starting to defend shady characters. His loyal secretary Virginia Bruce goes with him. (What a beauty she was! Such a haunting look.) His brother William Lundigan has graduated from law school. Etc. Brenda Marshall has too small a role. It hops the track but in some ways is an early noir.
"The Man Who Talked Too Much" is a 1940 film that is a remake of a 1932 film, "The Mouthpiece" starring Warren William. I haven't actually seen "The Mouthpiece," and the trivia here says that this script wasn't completed at the time of production, so I'm assuming this is a reworking. In 1955, this movie was remade as "Illegal" starring Edgar G. Robinson, which I saw and liked, with the exception of one plot hole.
The basic story is this: A district attorney, Steven Forbes (George Brent) sends an innocent man to the gas chamber, quits, and becomes a defense attorney. He has a hard time making ends meet until he becomes an attorney for the mob. Once he hits the big time as a mob lawyer, he hires an assistant, Celia, and his brother John. John (William Lundigan) and Celia (Brenda Marshall) fall in love. John is concerned about the honesty of the firm, but his efforts to correct the situation get him into big trouble.
Though the basic premise is the same in each story, in "Illegal," the brother business is changed and the person in trouble is his assistant, played by Nina Foch.
This is an okay story. Despite the holes in "Illegal," I liked it better, Robinson being a stronger actor than George Brent.
George Brent plays our protagonist and he's a hard driving Assistant District Attorney who mistakenly convicts an innocent man and the real culprit does not confess until it is too late. Feeling a lot of remorse he leaves the DA's office and goes into private practice with faithful secretary Virginia Bruce. But he's not getting any good paying clients until he gets off Henry Armetta for assaulting one of Richard Barthelmess's hoods. Impressed with his work Barthelmess puts Brent on permanent retainer.
With that a change comes over Brent that his idealistic younger brother William Lundigan doesn't like. After that Lundigan who is a newly minted attorney himself does something that in real life would get him disbarred.
What it is I won't reveal, but instead of disbarment he gets framed for murder and it's up to Brent to save him by whatever means necessary.
What Lundigan does in fact is what turned me off to this film which is a sincere effort by the cast and director. Lundigan's legal dilemma as shown in the film has been dealt with before on the big screen and small. In fact Tom Cruise in The Firm had the same situation and he handled much better than Lundigan.
Check Robinson's film also it's far better done.
The movie flies by so it may be worth 76 minutes of a viewer's time as a reminder of Hollywood's long-standing tradition of disparaging the legal profession.