CRIMINAL LAWYER (1937) is the second film reviewed from the Warner Archive's new Lee Tracy RKO 4-Film Collection. It follows last night's review of BEHIND THE HEADLINES (1937).
CRIMINAL LAWYER, at 72 minutes, is the longest film in the set. It's a pretty good story about an ambitious attorney, Barry Brandon (Tracy).
Defense attorney Brandon is in the pay of mobster Larkin (Eduardo Ciannelli), but he soon moves on to serve as district attorney. Brandon's wealthy girlfriend Betty (Betty Lawford) and her father (Frank M. Thomas) plan to push Brandon all the way to the governor's office.
Poor but honest Madge Carter (Margot Grahame of NIGHT WAITRESS and TWO IN THE DARK) meets Brandon in night court and soon becomes his secretary and occasional cook. Brandon falls in love with Madge but to his chagrin he marries Betty one night while he's drunk.
All aspects of Brandon's life are clarified when Madge is forced to testify on Larkin's behalf when he's charged with murder.
This was an enjoyable film with a nicely modulated performance by Tracy. The fast-talking Tracy could be loud and obnoxious in some of his films, but he shows well-rounded acting talent in some quietly moving scenes in this film.
Grahame is appealing as the secretary carrying a torch for her boss. Incidentally, Lawford, who plays the other woman, was a cousin of Peter Lawford; her film career was mostly over as of the year CRIMINAL LAWYER was released, save for a pair of films in the mid '40s.
The supporting cast includes Erik Rhodes, doing one of his "Fred and Ginger" type characters as an accented crooner. Look for the great Charles Lane in a small role as a defense lawyer.
CRIMINAL LAWYER was directed by Christy Cabanne and Edward Killy. It was filmed by David Abel.
As with BEHIND THE HEADLINES, CRIMINAL LAWYER is a good print. There are no extras.
Coming soon, reviews of the other two films in the set, CRASHING HOLLYWOOD (1938) and FIXER DUGAN (1939).
Thanks to the Warner Archive for providing a review copy of this DVD collection. Warner Archive releases are MOD (manufactured on demand) and may be ordered from the Warner Archive Collection at the WBShop.