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23 out of 24 people found the following review useful:

A warm, adult comedy-drama! A rare look into mid-life crisis and living one's dreams!

Author: Tom Sanchez from Los Angeles, California
26 June 2002

"The Judge Steps Out" is superb in all aspects. The script is intelligent, wise, and (for 1949)an avant-garde take on personal fulfillment vs. responsibility to society.

The acting is outstanding and believable throughout. Alexander Knox never had a role this showy nor as demanding. Ann Sothern's acting demonstrates what a fine and underutilized dramatic actress she was. The unlikely yet thoroughly convincing romance between Knox's and Sothern's characters is heartbreaking in it's beauty. Frieda Inescort scored in her characterization as Knox's wife, in which she displays far more maturity and insight than movie "wronged wives" usually displayed.

The use of staged sets and location shooting, plus the lyrical, sometimes stirring score fit seamlessly together and are so right for the film.

"The Judge Steps Out" may have been released in 1949 and films today may display grittier content in portraying drama but "The Judge Steps Out" is an adult drama in every sense of the term that few other films since have been able to match for honesty of subject matter and honesty in how the characters act and react to the situations in the film. A gem and a classic waiting to given its rightful place in American film!

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23 out of 26 people found the following review useful:

Nearly steps past production code but chickens out.

Author: gdgoodmanky from McDaniels, KY
13 December 2004

This is a movie that was almost great, but the had to force the ending to fit the "Hays Office" guidelines. You wanted to scream at the judge not to be a whiner and go back to a wife clearly ill-suited for him. But Proper Morality wins out. Though they stretch it out till nearly the last minute of the film.

Still this is a nice showcase for too often overlooked actors. Lead actor Alexander Knox is best known for the stodgy Woodrow Wilson biopic, but here shows a delicate comedic sense. Ann Southern was never more appealing. George Tobias showed why he never seemed to be out of work. Whitford Kaye nearly steals the movie as the wise country doctor. And the great Ian Wolfe is marvelously smarmy as only he could be.

This is a movie that could have been longer as it zips right along, and a few scenes were not developed enough (especially the romance and the relationship of Peggy and Nan).

Pity this one got sandbagged by conventionalism, but is mighty tasty till then.

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19 out of 19 people found the following review useful:

Way ahead of its time

8/10
Author: misterblister69 from United States
29 August 2006

The previous post says it all. "The Judge Steps Out" shows a mid-life crisis decades before the term was popular. Alexander Knox's judge is transformed from uptight Bostonian to thoughtful seeker of something better than social standing, a man who loves Ann Sothern and their new life together--without marriage! There are glimpses of Los Angeles' San Fernando Valley years before it developed into the LA metropolis--the highway outside their door is now Ventura Blvd./the 101 freeway. For those who have never considered leaving it all and coming to California for the easy-going lifestyle, this film shows why so many traveled there--the judge finds himself swinging in a hammock, enjoying the garden, the comfortable clothes (big change from New England garb) and the neighborly dreamers. Ann Sothern is perfect as a woman who has lost a child and still has love in her heart. Don't miss this film!

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17 out of 17 people found the following review useful:

worth seeing!

Author: whitecargo from PA, USA
10 October 2000

This is a really sweet, gentle film of the kind that just couldnt be made these days. Its worth seeing by either men or women who like a simple story dealing with emotions, life choices, ideas on obligation and responsibility, and role models of the 1940's. Its got some real nice scenes in it that emphasize American values. Good shots of the American landscape and road culture as well. Made in a time before we started jumping at shadows and when every man walking alone by the side of the road was not a suspected serial-killer. If you like vagabond stories then see this one. Little known, but fine actor Alexander Knox in the male lead, Ann Sheridan supporting. Worth a look. Somewhat of a tear jerker at the end.

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16 out of 16 people found the following review useful:

One To See!

10/10
Author: Paul Chapman from Troy, Michigan
25 July 2001

After watching this film, you wonder why the superb Canadian character actor Alexander Knox did not get many better roles after his Best Actor Oscar nomination for the classic "Wilson" in 1945. This role, as a Boston probate judge who "drops out," Knox co-wrote for himself. Ann Sothern is her usual cute, lovable self and the cast of character actors in this one reads like a who's who of Hollywood 1940's character actors. Fine family fair and bring a handkerchief. You won't be disappointed!!

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3 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

Knox is stodgy, but film is very appealing

7/10
Author: vincentlynch-moonoi from United States
1 December 2012

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Whenever I watch a film with Alexander Knox, I'm always torn. I find him to be an appealing actor, but I often find him -- as one source said -- somber. And that is, perhaps, the problem with this film, which was completed in 1947, but not released for 2 years! It's a very pleasant film, but -- at least during the first half -- it sort of ambles along in a way that makes it difficult to hold your attention. The second half is better, so I saw it through till the end, and I'm glad I did -- it has enough nice moments to be worthwhile.

The plot is simple, but appealing. A stuffy judge (Knox) who is under-appreciated by his wife disappears for a while and falls in love with the owner of a roadside café (Southern) who is having difficulty adopting a young girl. Considering the era of the film -- circa 1950 -- you kinda know the judge will end up going back to his wife to "do the right thing", even though you really wish he would get a divorce and marry Ann Southern! But, also, that ending does fit the judge's character best.

There is one bit of casting here that, in my view, is just horrid. Florence Bates was a wonderful character actress and a welcome addition to most any film. But here she plays a Mexican mama type, and it is so out of character! On the other hand, Alexander Knox's co-star -- Ann Southern is wonderful here. I would have to say it is one of her more appealing roles, but I have long felt that today Ann Southern is a much forgotten and a truly underestimated actress.

George Tobias was a busy character actor for many years, and it's easy to see why in this film. He just had a very pleasant screen persona. Also, watch for the venerable H.B. Warner and Martha Hyer. And Ian Wolfe, whose parts are often small but memorable, has a nice role here as the judge's assistant -- still short screen time, but key to the story.

I'm not one to want films to be remade, but a remake here would be great...although it would need to take place in the same era to be credible.

Despite the somberness of Knox's lead character (that's not to say it's a bad performance), this is a film worth watching.

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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

undercover judge

7/10
Author: pensman from United States
1 December 2012

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Not a lot new here but a nice diversion for either a rainy or snowy day. Judge Thomas Bailey suffers a status seeking wife and is consumed by his career as a judge. When an opportunity to disappear presents itself, Bailey ends up in California where he finds his locus once again; and also Ann Southern. But a renewed Bailey has to head back to Boston to rewrite a bad decision, divorce his wife, and return to the warm embrace of California and, of course, Ann Southern. I believe most recently this theme was well explored in Castaway with Tom Hanks and "Wilson" standing in for Ann Southern. This film ends with a clear adult choice for the judge however whereas we can only anticipate a more romantic conclusion to Hank's adventures.

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2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

What was it with that STUPID, STUPID CODE - I HATE IT

9/10
Author: blanche-2 from United States
18 August 2015

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Alexander Knox plays a judge so fed up with his life and the pressures on him that he disappears in "The Judge Steps Out," an absolutely wonderful film from 1949 that fell victim to the Hayes Code.

Knox is Judge Thomas Bailey, a judge living in Boston with his family. He loves what he does, but he's unappreciated by his family. His wife (Frieda Inescort) is a social climber and doesn't think he makes enough money.

When their daughter (Martha Hyer) is about to be married, she puts the screws to him for a fortune to pay for it, crying that she can't face her friends with some cheap wedding. At the wedding, he's encouraged to go for a plum job in Washington, arranged by his daughter's new father-in-law.

Bailey has no interest in the job but agrees to go and see what it's all about. En route, he becomes ill, and finds a doctor who tells him he's sick, all right -- of life -- and actually convinces him to go fishing with him.

On leaving again, Bailey writes a wire to his wife and, running for his train, asks the doctor to send it. As he looks out of the train, he sees the doctor rip it up.

Bailey blows the job off and goes on a great adventure, ultimately winding up at a small 24-hour café in California where he's hired a a short order cook by the owner, Peggy (Ann Sothern). The two fall in love, and he decides to settle down with her.

Then something happens that causes him to realize that he made a mistake in a case he decided, and has to go back to Boston to make things right, which ultimately will help Peggy in her own situation of trying to adopt a young girl, Nan (Sharyn Moffett). He plans to return.

He may plan it, but we know the Hayes Code won't permit it.

Though this film ends partially satisfactorily, it's not what anyone watching wants. Granted, there have been enough changes that will make both his and Peggy's life much happier, but all anyone wants is for the two of them to stay together. Yuck.

What a wonderful, warm film, with Ann Sothern never more beautiful and Knox very sympathetic as the judge.

For some reason, this film took two years to be released. Something tells me there was another ending that couldn't get past the censors.

One reason I hate the code is that it made every single movie so predictable. Yet you'd always hope, and it was so cruel.

One thing that got by the censors (in my opinion) is that Bailey and Peggy slept together - it's subtle but there. When she wakes up and stretches, she is taking up one side of the bed and looks over to her left. He isn't there but we know he was. Also the dialogue later indicates to us that's what happened.

I didn't expect to love this film - it was on my recording device so I watched it -- but I did love it. I recommend it to anyone. One becomes involved with the characters and really cares about what happens.

Beautiful job of directing by Boris Ingster, who wrote the screenplay with Knox. Ingster ultimately became a big TV producer, but he directed another fine film, Stranger on the Third Floor.

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2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

A flower is ready to bloom and doesn't

8/10
Author: henryhertzhobbit from United States
16 June 2014

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This movie may start off too slow for contemporary audiences but it held my interest from the start for all three viewings of the movie right up to the end. I am kicking myself for not recording it the third time on DVR. My only excuse is that I didn't know TCM was showing it until I switched to it in progress. I have watched it again a fourth time and this time recorded it on DVR to enjoy it again.

This movie starts with a judge named Judge Thomas Bailey who gets a chance most people won't have - to see himself through other people's senses. He doesn't like what he sees and hits the road. He ends up at a diner in warm California. Life is blissful until the owner of the diner loses her beloved adopted child Nan. From there things really take off and everything goes well until the very end.

The movie actually was filmed from January through late March 1947. But the movie was held up over two years by Joseph Breen who was enforcing the Hays Code. Despite the name, Breen was in command of the Hays Code office longer than almost anybody else.

Okay. where is there a problem? It is too bad that Borris Ingster, the Director and Writer wasn't allowed to finish it the way he wanted to finish it. Everybody else seems to see that the judge would go back to his wife but she seemed resigned to her fate of living the rest of her life without him. That isn't completely what is going on in my mind. If it took seeing Peggy and Nan to make him realize he had decided one of his cases wrong, how many more cases did he foul up on? I am pretty sure Borris Ingster thought of that. By going back to his former life he may be making an even bigger mistake than going the other way in his effect on the people around him being a positive one rather than a negative one. In other words doing what may have been considered the wrong thing may have been doing the right thing, not just for the judge but others. It isn't just about the love relationship between the judge and Peggy. It is also about the effect the judge's life had on others around him.

You may want to say, remake the movie. Alas, you only have one chance for an era film and when it is gone it is gone. You can never do it again. About the only remake I have watched that is better than the original is Flubber. So I feel cheated to not be able to see this movie finished the way it should have been finished. What really happened? We will never know.

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On vacation from yourself.

8/10
Author: MartinHafer from Bradenton, Florida
29 June 2017

Alexander Knox plays Judge Bailey, a very well respected judge. However, despite his success he's not a happy guy. He's henpecked by his wife and daughter and he seems to be going through the motions in life. Because of this, when by chance he misses a train, he sets off on an aimless adventure...and the world thinks he's dead! The aimless wandering leads him to a diner in California and a sweet lady who runs the place (Ann Sothern). He gets a job here and tells no one he's a judge. However, over time he comes to realize a lot about himself as well as himself as a judge.

This is an excellent drama, and one of the few that Alexander Knox made. Despite being Oscar nominated for playing the lead in "Wilson", this Canadian actor didn't make all that many films in the States...and here he shows what a shame this is because he's go good. An excellent mid-life crisis film...one that shines due to him and some lovely writing.

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