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Brothers in Law (1957)

Roger Thursby is just starting out as a barrister, full of ideals but he is a bit too keen for his fellow lawyers.


Roy Boulting


Frank Harvey (screenplay), Jeffrey Dell (screenplay) | 2 more credits »
Won 1 BAFTA Film Award. See more awards »


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Cast overview, first billed only:
Henry B. Longhurst Henry B. Longhurst ... Rev. Arthur Thursby (as Henry Longhurst)
Edith Sharpe Edith Sharpe ... Mrs. Thursby
Ian Carmichael ... Roger Thursby
Henry Hewitt Henry Hewitt ... Treasurer
Richard Attenborough ... Henry Marshall
Peggy Ann Clifford Peggy Ann Clifford ... Mrs. Bristow
Nicholas Parsons Nicholas Parsons ... Charles Poole
Leslie Phillips ... Shop Assistant
Eric Barker Eric Barker ... Alec Blair
Gerald Fox Gerald Fox ... Clerk
Miles Malleson ... Kendall Grimes Q.C.
Bob McNaughton Bob McNaughton ... Robing Room Attendant
John Welsh ... Mr. Justice Fanshawe
Llewellyn Rees Llewellyn Rees ... Farrant Q.C.
Maurice Colbourne ... Official Referee


Newly qualified barrister Roger Thursby joins his flatmate as a trainee at a London law firm. Thrown in at the deep end by the absent-minded senior partner, his first few appearances in court border on the disastrous as he encounters a succession of cantankerous judges. Written by Jeremy Perkins {J-26}

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


The Screen's Happiest Comedy Event - the funny side of the legal profession as portrayed by England's top comedy makers. See more »




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Release Date:

7 June 1957 (Ireland) See more »

Also Known As:

4 in legge See more »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Mono (RCA Sound Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.66 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


By a curious coincidence, Richard Attenborough and John Schlesinger, later each to become both Oscar- and BAFTA-winners as directors (with multiple Direction BAFTAs in the case of Schlesinger, though both won additionally for producing and, in Attenborough's case, acting as well), both appear in this film as actors, long before either had directed a major motion picture (Schlesinger had only some very low-budget, independent features and television work to his name at the time, and it would be over a decade before Attenborough directed his first film, Oh! What a Lovely War (1969), for which he would go on to lose the 1970 BAFTA for Best Direction to Schlesinger and Midnight Cowboy (1969)). Aside from eventually becoming two of only a handful of Britons to ever win the Best Direction Oscar, they are also the only two to have had extensive acting careers, and Brothers in Law (1957) marked the single occasion in which they appeared in the same film, though both had had previous experience in films made by the Boulting brothers. These two legends of British directing appear together in only a single scene--Schlesinger appears as a solicitor, Attenborough as the barrister he has hired--for perhaps only 30 seconds of mutual screen time in which they exchange a mere two lines of dialogue apiece. See more »


Clerk: You start with a blue robing bag, sir. Then if you do good work for counsel, he'll give you a red one. If at the end of seven years you haven't been given a red bag - use a suitcase.
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Crazy Credits



Edited into Heroes of Comedy: Terry-Thomas (1995) See more »

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User Reviews

Very good British satire may not be everyone's cup of tea
7 January 2016 | by SimonJackSee all my reviews

"Brothers in Law" is not comedy of the slapstick, laugh-out-loud, boisterous type of the late 20th century. Nor is it of the tongue- in-cheek, dour variety common in mid-century. The humor here is in the situations with very clever scripting and dialog. Of course, that is accompanied by the usual facial expressions, looks and glances.

It was interesting to me that none of the reviewers of "Brothers in Law" took issue with any of the portrayals of barristers, judges and others in the British court system. One former barrister said that the film reminded him of his early years in law. Well I know nothing about how the courts function in England, beyond what I've seen in drama films that seem to be serious portrayals. But it is clear to me that this movie pokes a lot of fun at that side of the justice system. Yes, it's a comedy about the early years of young barristers; but it's also a very funny satire of the British courts. The satire is subtle, and the biting is camouflaged some by the humor. But it's there without question.

For instance, each of the judges in the film is mockingly portrayed. John Le Mesurier, as Judge Ryman, is the key instigator of a couple of the most hilarious situations in the film. Richard Attenborough and Ian Carmichael are very good as Henry Marshall and Roger Thursby. I hardly recognized Terry-Thomas at first. His portrayal of Alfred Green is very good, and funny.

One of the funniest and most clever scenes in the film is in a divorce case. Marshall (Attenborough) represents Mrs. Potter who is seeking the divorce. She is played superbly by Irene Handl. The presiding judge is Ryman (Le Mesurier). And, Thursby (Carmichael) is behind Marshall's bench as an observer. The case opens with Marshall questioning his client, the first witness.

Marshall, "Mrs. Potter, did your husband ever hit you?" Judge Ryman, "One moment. Please don't lead on essential matters." Marshall, "As your lordship pleases. Mrs. Potter, did he or did he not hit you?" Judge, "Really, Mr. Marshall, that's just as bad." Marshall, "With great respect, my lord, she could have said yes or no." Judge, "So she could to your first question. That was nevertheless leading." Marshall, "Very well, my lord. Mrs. Potter, how often did these assaults take place?" Judge, "Mr. Marshall! That's not only a leading question, it is a double question and in my view a most improper one. The witness has not yet said that her husband hit her." Marshall, "Well, madam, did he hit you?" Judge, "Mr. Marshall, there must be some limit to this." Marshall, "Your lordship tells me to ask a question and then when I do, your lordship complains." Judge, "That's a most improper observation." Marshall "Very well, my lord, I apologize."

Judge, "Well, let me suggest that you ask the witness how her husband treated her." Marshall, "Thank you, my lord. Mrs. Potter, how did your husband treat you?" Mrs. Potter, "Like a slave." Marshall, "Yes? … in what way?" Mrs. Potter, "Well, in every way." Marshall, "Well, uh, could you enumerate some of those ways?" Mrs. Potter, "Enumer what?" Marshall, "Give some examples?" Mrs. Potter, "It was always happening." Marshal, "What was?" Mrs. Potter, "Him treating me like that." Marshall, "Like what? How did he treat you?" Mrs. Potter, "Something terrible." Marshall, "We weren't there, Mrs. Potter. You must tell us about it." Mrs. Potter, "Well, it was going on all the time." Marshall, "What was?" Mrs. Potter, "What he did."

Just as I began to wonder how the cast could keep straight faces, I saw that they couldn't. Thursby (Carmichael) was clearly cracking up behind Marshall. He had to lower his head to conceal his laughter, and this continued as the hilarious dialog continued. Marshall, "Just tell us one thing he did." Mrs. Potter, "So many." Marshall, "It should be easy to think of one. Can you not tell his lordship one simple thing your husband did?" Mrs. Potter, "… Well, there was that time at Christmas." Marshall, "Yes?" Mrs. Potter, "… or was it at Easter?" Marshall, "Well, what happened at Easter then, Mrs. Potter?" Mrs. Potter, "Well … what was you saying again?" Marshall, "Something happened at Easter." Mrs. Potter, "Well, I don't think I'd like to tell the judge that."

I don't know if this film is an accurate portrayal of young barristers having to pay to be pupils of lawyers after they earn their law degrees. Or that it usually is years before new members of the law begin to earn much of a living. If that's the case, it's a far cry from the American system. Young attorneys are soon making very good livings in America. That may be because we're the most litigious nation in the world.

This film may seem slow to some. It won't be everyone's cup of tea. But for those who enjoy British humor, and who especially like satire, this should be a sure hit.

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