Directed by: William Dieterle (Portrait of Jennie)
Starring: William Powell, Joan Blondell, David Landau, Helen Vinson, Claire Dodd
Here we are in the land of the pre-code film with William Dieterle’s Lawyer Man. the kind of wisecracking comedy-drama that Warner Bros. specialized in during the the early 1930s. William Powell plays an upstanding East Side lawyer (with a weakness for the ladies) who specializes in fighting for the underdog — and receives little or no recompense for his efforts, much to the chagrin of his loyal (and secretly in love with him) secretary, played by Joan Blondell. Things take a turn when he defeats a high-priced lawyer (Alan Dinehart), who’s so impressed by Powell’s way with a jury (he calls him a “spellbinder”) that he offers to go into partnership with him. Powell’s meteoric rise isn’t the smooth affair he might wish — of course, it isn’t, otherwise we’d have no movie. His ideals get in the way at first, but his eye for the women — embodied here by Helen Vinson and Claire Dodd — complicates matters to no end. Stylish direction by the underrated William Dieterle is a big plus, but the film’s biggest appeal lies in its pre-code snappiness (never has a cigar so obviously been more than a cigar than in the fade-out of Powell’s first scene with Dodd) and the offbeat casting of Powell as someone from the slums. Plus, you get to hear Powell speak Yiddish briefly. Since the film is only 68 minutes long, it will be preceded the Little Rascals short The Pooch (1932).
The Asheville Film Society will screen Lawyer Man Tuesday, April 16 at 8 p.m. in the Cinema Lounge of The Carolina Asheville and will be hosted by Xpress movie critics Ken Hanke and Justin Souther.
In Brief: William Powell stars as a lawyer who rises from the slums in this 1932 pre-code comedy-drama from director William Dieterle, Lawyer Man. Joan Blondell is onboard as his lovestruck secretary, who goes up — and down — with him. Along the way, he mixes with gangsters, politicians (sometimes the two are interchangeable) and two women — one duplicitous, one not — while giving the eye to just about anything in a skirt. Brisk, amusing entertainment of a kind we don’t see these days.