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William A. Wellman
Douglas Fairbanks Jr.,
James Ragan, a brilliant criminal lawyer is fed up with his lucrative practice and longs to retire to a quiet judgeship, but his reputation for legal, if not always ethical, courtroom tricks sidetracks his desire and he continues with his chosen profession. Afrer several exciting (and episodic) cases, requiring all his talents, including defending his personal bodyguard, "Moose" Hendrcks on a murder charge,he eventually get an appointment and becomes known as Judge Ragan. Written by
Les Adams <firstname.lastname@example.org>
This Columbia 1951 programmer has no connection to the RKO film of 1937. But then again it does have a connection to the vast multitude of legal films that trot out the shady-but-ultimately-noble defense lawyer character. This time that character is played by Pat O'Brien. At least O'Brien modulates his performance, keeping away from his usual brassy, fast-talking, finger-jut-to-the-lapel style. In fact, he's rather subdued, chiefly because he goes on a binge-drinking tailspin every time he feels guilty about the consequences of his shady tactics. Oddly, nobody else amongst his staff seems to mind his shenanigans one bit, including Jane Wyatt's seemingly upright citizen character who is curiously written as unquestioning and ever-faithful. It's just a b-movie of modest ambitions, but there's little action, little humor, and little threat to the main characters. The worst thing O'Brien faces is a guilty conscience and the loss of a judgeship. The best thing in the movie is Mike Mazurki. Not that he was ever a great actor, but his usually small appearances as nothing more than a thuggish prop in so many films makes his work in this film notable. He actually gets to play a thinking, normal, even smiling, human being. Sure, he's playing an ex-wrestler bodyguard named Moose, but he also shows a caring side by keeping watch over O'Brien, and is even wearing an apron and cooking in one scene! I believe he also gets more lines to speak in this film than any other he ever appeared in. And there's also a small part of a witness played by the ubiquitous Charles Lane. Of Lane, there's probably no other more famous "face" in Hollywood who appeared in so many movies without being credited.
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