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Counsellor at Law (1933)

Passed | | Comedy, Drama | 25 December 1933 (USA)
Successful attorney has his Jewish heritage and poverty-stricken background brought home to him when he learns his wife has been unfaithful.

Director:

William Wyler

Writers:

Elmer Rice (play), Elmer Rice (screenplay)
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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
John Barrymore ... George Simon
Bebe Daniels ... Regina 'Rexy' Gordon
Doris Kenyon ... Cora Simon
Isabel Jewell ... Bessie Green
Melvyn Douglas ... Roy Darwin
Onslow Stevens ... John P. Tedesco
Thelma Todd ... Lillian La Rue
Clara Langsner Clara Langsner ... Lena Simon
John Hammond Dailey John Hammond Dailey ... Charlie McFadden (as J. Hammond Dailey)
Mayo Methot ... Zedorah Chapman
Robert Gordon Robert Gordon ... Henry Susskind (as Bobby Gordon)
Malka Kornstein Malka Kornstein ... Sarah Becker
Vincent Sherman ... Harry Becker
Marvin Kline Marvin Kline ... Herbert Howard Weinberg
T.H. Manning ... Peter J. Malone
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Storyline

Crackerjack lawyer George Simon is a workaholic, and a successful one, at that. Having just gotten a woman acquited of a murder charge, he is juggling cases ranging from breaking a will to quashing the disorderly conduct charges against the son of a woman he knew in the old neighborhood, before he became a hot shot counsellor. He adores his wife Cora, who feels she married a bit below her station. His step-children think so, too. His secretary Rexy adores him, although he is oblivious to the fact. Threatened with losing his practice due to a discretion in a case seven years earlier, his wife leaves for Europe until the scandal blows over, and he comes to realize (just in time) who his true friends are. Written by Ron Kerrigan <mvg@whidbey.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

Great is the word for...COUNSELLOR AT LAW!

Genres:

Comedy | Drama

Certificate:

Passed | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English | Italian | Yiddish

Release Date:

25 December 1933 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Counsellor at Law See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Universal Pictures See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Noiseless Recording Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The play opened on Broadway at the Plymouth Theatre in on September 12, 1932 and closed May 27, 1933 after 120 performances. Many members of the original New York cast reprised their roles in the film version, including John Hammond Dailey, Malka Kornstein, Marvin Kline, T.H. Manning, John Qualen, Angela Jacobs, Elmer Brown, Conway Washburne and Vincent Sherman, who appeared in a Chicago production of the play. The starring role was portrayed on stage by Paul Muni, who, based on his humble beginnings in Yiddish theater, turned down the film version to avoid being typecast in Hollywood. See more »

Quotes

Bessie Green: [answering a call] I thought you were dead and buried. Well sure I missed you, like Booth missed Lincoln. What do you think I've been doing, sitting around the house embroidering doilies?
See more »

Connections

Version of Repertory Theatre: Counsellor-at-Law (1948) See more »

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User Reviews

 
Vincent Sherman steals the spotlight in his scene with Barrymore...
28 September 2005 | by DoylenfSee all my reviews

Not long ago I bought a copy of STUDIO AFFAIRS by Vincent Sherman (director of many Warner melodramas starring either Bette Davis or Joan Crawford), and among his film credits was one he made when he was a very young stage actor repeating his role for the film version of COUNSELLOR AT LAW. Here he plays the young activist Communist who gets beaten up in Union Square for preaching anti-government rhetoric.

He all but steals the thunder from JOHN BARRYMORE, who is of course the star of this seldom seen film from the early '30s that gave William Wyler his first opportunity to click as director of an A film.

Barrymore is a Jewish lawyer from a humble background who finds himself facing serious charges that could lead to his being disbarred from practice. At the same time, he discovers that his wife would rather go on with her European trip than stand by him--and furthermore, suspects that she is having an affair with another lawyer (Melvyn Douglas).

As if one director in an acting role isn't enough, you also get a chance to see Richard Quine as one of Barrymore's bratty kids--Quine went on to be featured in a number of MGM films before turning his talents to directing.

Only drawback: the whole film is directed at a breathless pace, words coming forth fast and furious in a manner not even Roz Russell could top in her best Girl Friday mode. The art deco office sets are fascinating (the story supposedly takes place in the Empire State Building), but the dialog is handled by Barrymore and others in such speedy bursts of speech that you better listen carefully to catch whatever nuances there are. This was a style common in the early '30s but it can get a little too breathless at times.

Surprisingly, Barrymore handles all the fast dialog with skill (if a bit overly melodramatic at times). And yet, all in all, interest is maintained throughout. Isabel Jewell as a busy receptionist gives a comical but stereotyped turn as a switchboard operator.


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