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Saturday, February 28, 2015

LAWYER MAN (1932)

Everybody’s just going thru the motions in this undercooked programmer that stars William Powell as a talented, but struggling lawyer (with deliciously bad hair-styling) trading in his unwashed Lower East Side clientele for a high-powered Park Avenue firm, better grooming & dishable ladies to represent. Loyal, down-to-earth secretary Joan Blondell moves uptown with him, but stays grounded as Powell crashes & burns in the rarified altitude before plotting revenge on the political machine & nobs who done ‘im wrong. Nicely paced by William Dieterle in his light early manner, with typically memorable support from tasty Warners contract players. But the script skips over the details of Powell’s botched cases & his legal comeback, leaving all the situations & issues vague to the point of abstraction. They might as well be filming a diagram. With little chemistry between Powell’s arch, ironic manner and Blondell’s earthy warmth, you get something less than the sum of the film’s already modest parts. Still worth a look for that awful hair (very Clarence Darrow) and for lenser Robert Kurrle’s penultimate credit before his early death.

DOUBLE-BILL: Wiseguy lawyer pics were a dime a dozen at the time. Try THE MOUTHPIECE/’32, also from Warners, for a much better example of the form. Starring Warren William at his sleazy best, it hit theaters just a few months before this one.

SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: Listen up for a bit of Yiddish from William Powell. James Cagney did the same that year in TAXI!/’32, but with more gusto since he’d picked some up from the neighbors as a kid.

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