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Monday, August 01, 2016

Precode Bull Loose In The Courtroom


Warren William Is The Mouthpiece (1932)

Crackerjack precode that I liked better in its first half before title character Warren William goes sappy for Sidney Fox ("She's jail-bait and dumb," warns loyal secretary Aline McMahon). Maybe its moral debasement of current times, but we want Warren and corrupt kind to prevail always, last reel bring-down having same effect on viewers who'd like to operate on me-first basis of precode brotherhood. So who needs WW in selfless mode as here? --- let alone when object of sacrifice is Fox, borrowed from Universal and a cute enough trick, but worth giving up a dynamic law practice and Depression-era wealth for? I think not, though Warren does, and that robs The Mouthpiece of credibility for me. Still, there are blazingly good moments, especially in early reels, where WW snake-charms juries, beats bank crooks at their own game, and debauches freely among underworld clientele. Said to be based on real-life lawyer Bill Fallon, forgotten now, but then a courtroom showboat of first rank and newsmaker for outlandish tricks to beat guilty verdicts. Occurred to me while watching that modern day actress and TCM Festival hostess Ileana Douglas somewhat resembles Aline McMahon. The Mouthpiece is lately out with four other precodes in Warner Archives Forbidden Hollywood: Volume Ten.

3 Comments:

Blogger Dave K said...

Illeana Douglas, granddaughter of Melvyn Douglas, comes by that striking profile honestly!

9:46 AM  
Blogger Michael said...

William Fallon may be forgotten today, but it appears that after having been good copy all through the 1920 as a mob lawyer, it was the Gene Fowler book The Great Mouthpiece (not officially the source for this movie) that made the hard-living Fallon THE model for the slick defense attorney in movies back then, evidenced by the fact that so many of them have names which are slightly altered versions of his-- Billy Flynn in Roxie Hart/Chicago, Robert Taylor's Thomas Farrell in Party Girl, etc. More than that, the image of the defense attorney seems as set as that of Sherlock Holmes— all those tall, aquiline-nosed stars with a pencil mustache and three piece suits, from Warren William to John Barrymore in State's Attorney and Counsellor at Law, Warner Baxter in Penthouse, William Powell in Lawyer Man, etc. (The one picture I could find of him suggests more a doughy-faced Irishman, but at least the the wardrobe is right.) This piece has more on his short and crooked life:

http://www.nypress.com/bill-fallon-the-great-mouthpiece-and-archetypal-amoral-criminal-defense-lawyer/

9:34 AM  
Blogger coolcatdaddy said...

I just watched this the other night. Warren William is wonderful in it. I was really impressed with the scene where he's drunk - William is one of the few actors from that period that can pull it off successfully.

I can bear his pining for the young girl a little better than you can. The story arc reminded me of "The Mind Reader", where a crook sacrifices himself to do the right thing in the end.

9:45 PM  

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