A Free Soul (1931)

La belle Norma again, although I liked this rather less than The Divorcee, but then again I don’t think I’ve ever particularly cared much for films about alcoholics for some reason. Mind you, back in 1931 the Academy disagreed with me and gave Lionel Barrymore the best actor Oscar for his turn as the pisshead barrister. He comes of a *very* good family of patrician snobs for whom he is, purely and simply, not good enough, and neither is his daughter (Shearer) who he’s raised to be the same sort of non-conformist spirit he was, except not so much of a furious boozehound. Her trouble comes instead from one of the old man’s clients, a crook who he’s just got off a murder rap… and who he thinks isn’t fit for his daughter. Complications ensue, etc. Supposedly home to the longest monologue in Hollywood history, this 14-minute whopper actually runs closer to two (did the people from Guinness actually see the film to verify the claim?), and thank god/dess for that cos I don’t know how much longer I could’ve managed it. It seems like much more of a 1930s movie than The Divorcee did somehow (that film’s story could be updated to the present easily enough—just the handling would no doubt be way different—much more so than A Free Soul probably could), and much more stagey and stiff, and weighed down with a heavier sense of melodrama that’s harder to swallow. For me the film’s primary saving grace is Clark Gable as the crook, a speakeasy proprietor who initially projects a roguish but charming confidence before revealing darker depths; it was after this film that Gable was really elevated to golden age stardom and iconic status. I suppose the other leads are OK, but on the whole they and the film didn’t really do an awful lot for me.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s