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Robert Z. Leonard
Rod La Rocque,
Mary Dugan, a Broadway showgirl, is charged with murder in the knifing death of her wealthy lover, and goes on trial for her life. When her defense counsel appears to bungle his job, Mary's brother Jimmy, a newly licensed attorney, jumps into the case to defend his sister. Jimmy's courtroom style is unconventional, but he seems to be holding his own against the prosecuting attorney... until a surprise testimony changes the course of the trial.Written by
Dan Navarro <email@example.com>
After a ponderous start and despite the stable camera (we get long and medium shots and close-ups) and directed by the unknown Bayard Veiller (who also wrote the Broadway play), the story really takes off after about 15-20 minutes.
Norma Shearer in her starring talkie debut is good in the talkie parts but overacts badly in the reaction shots. But a fascinating pre-Code look at the trial of a "bad" girl. Once the trial gets going and the story gets more complicated it's quite fascinating. Lewis Stone and H.B. Warner are the lawyers, Raymond Hackett is the brother, Lilyan Tashman is a snooty showgirl, Olive Tell is Mrs. Rice, Myra Hampton (another showgirl) is hilarious--she can't say "thick," and Adrienne D'Ambricourt is the maid. They are all quite good.
Although stagy by modern standards and a little hammy, for a 1929 talkie it's quite engrossing. I notice that the actors have to place themselves in odd positions to fit into the camera shots. For example, during interrogation scenes, the opposing lawyer comes and stands behind the questioning lawyer. And as with most early talkies the editing is bad, with many shots held long after the dialog has stopped.
Another stagy tactic is that when the witnesses talk, they turn toward "the jury" which is the camera (and us).
A very impressive talkie debut for Norma Shearer.
Oh... Hackett and Hampton were married when they made this film. After their divorce in 1935, Hackett would marry silent-screen superstar Blanche Sweet. They remained married til Hackett's death in 1958.
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