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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.


William Wyler


Elmer Rice (play), Elmer Rice (screenplay)




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


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


John Barrymore as Master of the destinies of his hundreds of clients- yet a failure in holding the love of a woman! (Print Ad-Register-Herald, ((Pine Plains, NY)) 4 January 1934) See more »


Comedy | Drama


Passed | See all certifications »

Did You Know?


According to DeWitt Bodeen "Counsellor at Law" was the first film in which Barrymore suffered a prolonged bout of memory loss. Called back for retakes. the sober actor did 56 unsuccessful takes for director William Wyler, who postponed it to the following morning when a still sober Barrymore did it on the first take. See more »


Bessie Green: Who's calling, please? Mr. McKey? K as in kitty?
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User Reviews

Hard-boiled and fast-paced social commentary with John Barrymore in great form
13 November 2006 | by Camera-ObscuraSee all my reviews

Based upon the play "Counsellor at Law" by Elmer Rice, John Barrymore shines in this depression-era drama as George Simon, a Jewish lawyer who frantically juggles the scandals, crimes and crises that pass through his art deco office high in the Empire State Building. Simon is far from perfect and engages in insider trading and bleeds funds from wealthy clients, while tending to the needs of the less fortunate New Yorkers who come from his own working-class background. Everything seems to be going pretty well for him, but when a political enemy uncovers a past legal indiscretion and begins disbarment proceedings, Simon's socialite non-Jewish wife (Doris Kenyon) walks out on him and seeks comfort in the arms of another man (Melvyn Douglas). With the unflagging support of his faithful secretary (Bebe Dabiels in a truly magnificent performance) Simon attempts to exercise his legal skills to defend his reputation and protect those who rely upon him for justice.

Is George Simon a modern-day Robin Hood? In a sense he is, but he is far from perfect. Simon doesn't seem to grasp the many of his wrong-doings and largely blames his downfall on the outside world. John Barrymore gives a rich and very credible performance as a rags-to-riches Jewish lawyer, despite his Waspish appearance and Bebe Dabiels as his loyal secretary Miss 'Rexy' Gordon really gives a stand-out performance. A typical film of the era, fast-paced, and very stagy with the camera never moving out of the office, but thanks to Wyler's crisp direction and a superb cast this still makes very agreeable viewing, although the ending is so abrupt, I had to rewind in order to see what happened in order to see the last twenty minutes again. Everything goes so incredibly fast, attention must be paid.

Camera Obscura --- 8/10

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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 »
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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Noiseless Recording Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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