Counsellor At Law

Counsellor At Law

Director: William Wyler, John Barrymore, Bebe Daniels, Doris Kenyon

Cast: William Wyler, John Barrymore, Bebe Daniels, Doris Kenyon

     
 
The first Universal Studios title to surface from Kino International on DVD -- part of the company's William Wyler Collection -- is a stunning little gem of a DVD. It looks and sounds twice as fresh as the 35mm print that this reviewer saw at Film Forum just six weeks before the disc release, mastered off of a seemingly almost perfectly preserved source. The fabric of

Overview

The first Universal Studios title to surface from Kino International on DVD -- part of the company's William Wyler Collection -- is a stunning little gem of a DVD. It looks and sounds twice as fresh as the 35mm print that this reviewer saw at Film Forum just six weeks before the disc release, mastered off of a seemingly almost perfectly preserved source. The fabric of the dress that Thelma Todd's and Mayo Methot's characters are wearing when they appear in the opening scene glows and flows and ripples like it's in the same room with the viewer; and the art deco design used in the film (which is confined to a single office set) is so beautifully delineated that this film will be a special delight to anyone with a big screen monitor. Even in the medium shots, you can make out texture of the characters' hair. The only flaws of any significance that this reviewer could spot came at just over 41 minutes in, where there are a handful of missing frames that most viewers wouldn't notice, and some dark spots in the print at 53 minutes in. The audio is mastered at a nice, high level, which allows one to hear the fast-paced, edgy dialogue in sharp detail and the array of accents and nuances that are essential to the subtext of the plot -- and all of it enhances the value of what is arguably the best performance that John Barrymore ever gave on screen. Short of owning a preservation quality 35mm print and having a full-size screen to show it on, this is the best way to see it. Indeed, this is a direct-to-DVD release, as Counsellor At Law has never been issued on videocassette. The movie is broken into nine chapters, which is just about perfect -- the movie is broken down into that many major sections, and the chapters match the major plot progressions. The only bonus is an array of a couple of dozen still photographs depicting Wyler at various phases of his life and career, including his World War II-era work with the crew of the bomber The Memphis Belle. The disc opens up automatically to a cleverly designed triptych-style menu.Adapted from the play by Elmer Rice, Counsellor-at-Law is the story of a successful Jewish lawyer George Simon (John Barrymore) who finds it's lonely at the top. Simon's wife (Doris Kenyon) and children look down upon him because of his humble upbringings, while his mother reprimands him for turning his back on his heritage. Simon is threatened with disbarment when a rival digs up a big wormy can of legal wrongdoing in Simon's past, but this is only the beginning of the end. When the beleaguered lawyer discovers that his wife has been unfaithful, he looks out the window of his Empire State Building office and contemplates suicide. Simon is brought to his senses by his faithful secretary (Bebe Daniels), who has loved him all along. Filled with vivid character vignettes and blessed with energetic direction by William Wyler, Counsellor-at-Law is one of the best "lawyer" films of the 1930s.

Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble - Kryssa Schemmerling
One of Hollywood’s most versatile and prolific directors, William Wyler is best known for his stately classics of the 1940s and ‘50s -- The Heiress, Roman Holiday, Ben-Hur. What a revelation, then, to come across this 1933 gem. Unfolding with the speed, wit, and sophistication of a Howard Hawks screwball comedy, Counselor at Law stars the great John Barrymore as a successful Jewish lawyer who remains loyal to his Lower East Side roots even as a white-shoe rival from the Protestant old guard tries to have him disbarred. The film’s frankness about the class wars seems daring, even by contemporary standards, and it sports some refreshingly risqué pre-Code banter. Counselor, which is based on an Elmer Rice play, takes place entirely within a suite of elegant law offices in the upper reaches of the Empire State Building -- the spectacular set is a masterpiece of Art Deco design. Yet the performances are so energetic, the dialogue so sharp, and the direction so deft, that the film never feels stage-bound. Barrymore, for all his archaic, over-the-top theatricality, has an intensity that could give any modern-day Method actor a run for his money: His every gesture offers a window into the troubled, complex, and contradictory nature of the character. There is also a strong and moving turn by Bebe Daniels as the loyal secretary who harbors an unspoken love for him. Touching on issues still relevant today (insider trading, for instance), the bracing Counselor at Law showcases Wyler and Barrymore at their finest.

Product Details

Release Date:
11/05/2002
UPC:
0738329026127
Original Release:
1933
Rating:
NR
Source:
Kino Video
Presentation:
[B&W]

Special Features

Includes a gallery of rare photographs surveying the career of director William Wyler

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
John Barrymore George Simon
Bebe Daniels Regina Gordon
Doris Kenyon Cora Simon
Onslow Stevens John P. Tedesco
Isabel Jewell Bessie Green
Melvyn Douglas Roy Darwin
Marvin Kline Herbert Weinberg
John Qualen Breitstein
Clara Langsner Lena Simon
T.H. Manning Peter J. Malone
Vincent Sherman Harry Becker
Victor Adams David Simon
Frederick Burton Crayfield
Bobby Gordon Henry Susskind
Mayo Methot Zedorah Chapman
Barbara Perry Dorothy
Richard Quine Richard
Thelma Todd Lillian La Rue

Technical Credits
William Wyler Director
Norbert F. Brodin Cinematographer
Charles Hall Production Designer
Henry Henigson Producer
Carl Laemmle Producer
Dan Mandell Editor
Elmer Rice Screenwriter

Scene Index

Side #1 --
   Start Film
   Scene Select
   Photo Gallery

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