Classic movie site with rare images (no web grabs!), original ads, and behind-the-scenes photos, with informative and insightful commentary. We like to have fun with movies!
Archive and Links
grbrpix@aol.com
Search Index Here




Friday, February 03, 2017

Where The Killer Announces His Crime


Lionel Barrymore Has Guilty Hands (1931)

Former D.A. and now defense lawyer Lionel Barrymore argues that some murders are justified and should be committed. Within a reel, he'll translate the theory to action. Thus was tale told in a hurry as 69 minutes ticked down. Barrymore brags of sending fifty men to electrocution for crimes they needn't have been caught for, and acquitting twice that number by brilliant circumvent of justice. Audiences had reason to figure he was right for screens glutted by shysters that never lost, except by their own hubris. Everyone loved a winner, however way he won, as Depression claws sunk deeper, and not for a moment do we want Barrymore brought to book for his killing done on behalf of dewy daughter Madge Evans. Only a most bizarre application of fate can square account here, as happened when others dynamic as Barrymore tried bending social order to personal ends. Here was how precode dealt men like LB, Warren William, Bill Powell, others who'd not be quelled by mortal means. We preferred them above mere law, and sometimes had joy of their evading it altogether (a happy solution not limited to men, as witness Kay Francis and Ruth Chatterton dealing death on screen and evading justice).


Lionel Barrymore was a character acting star for long as he could stand, or eventually, sit. Him being in credits was reason a lot of people went to MGM pictures through the 30's and 40's. His talking sensation in A Free Soul made it easier to bear the loss of Lon Chaney, who undoubtedly would have done a lot of the Barrymore sound parts had he lived. Many defined Great Performance as what Lionel gave in A Free Soul. His courtroom speech and collapse was excerpted by Metro in several "best moment" compiles they did over subsequent years. An Academy Award came of effort many (and eventually LB himself) would call ham, but folks then liked talent let loose, bravura not to be damped when a known dynamo like Barrymore swung his bat. Would we want him held back in the Gillespie pictures, or It's A Wonderful Life? Colleagues revered Lionel. I've read of Bogart deferring utterly to him for Key Largo, Gable doing a same in Lone Star. You can watch them fairly bask in the old man's force field. Mickey Rooney did his affectionate mimic of Barrymore years after Lionel was gone and for a most part forgotten.


Guilty Hands is a fun puzzle despite our full-knowing the doer. Barrymore tells the victim straight that he's going to die and nothing will stop it, a heck of a thrust to action that follows. From commit of the act, LB runs perverse investigation of the murder he's done, then dressed as a suicide. This, then, is no mystery in conventional sense. Director was W.S. Van Dyke, so things stride along (some trades at the time credited Barrymore with co-direction). Kay Francis is discard mistress of the departed who has Lionel's number and tries unmasking him, these two much enlivening a second half going head-to-head (Kay very much the old man's histrionic equal). LB even does a jury speech minus a courtroom, Francis sole target of his verbal wrath. If you need reason to watch Guilty Hands, here's highlight that will do. This was another of those elderly Metros that went years out of circulation until TCM unearthed it. Now there's Volume Ten of Forbidden Hollywood from Warner Archive that spotlights Guilty Hands with four other precodes. Like all DVD sets from this series, it's a pleasure and a must.

2 Comments:

Blogger Dave K said...

Saw this a while back on Warner Instant and really liked it. Am used to seeing LB playing outright goodies or outright baddies... always a joy to see him in a sympathetic role shaded with a little ethical flexibility!

1:06 PM  
Blogger Kevin K. said...

TNT ran this eons ago -- great movie with a truly unique climax.

Next time you watch it, pay close attention to the end of (I believe) the first scene in the train. Ad I recall, Lionel is about to leave the car, then sticks his head back in for one final line of dialogue. He looks exactly like his brother John. It's eerie, as if John suddenly took Lionel's place.

11:16 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home

grbrpix@aol.com
  • December 2005
  • January 2006
  • February 2006
  • March 2006
  • April 2006
  • May 2006
  • June 2006
  • July 2006
  • August 2006
  • September 2006
  • October 2006
  • November 2006
  • December 2006
  • January 2007
  • February 2007
  • March 2007
  • April 2007
  • May 2007
  • June 2007
  • July 2007
  • August 2007
  • September 2007
  • October 2007
  • November 2007
  • December 2007
  • January 2008
  • February 2008
  • March 2008
  • April 2008
  • May 2008
  • June 2008
  • July 2008
  • August 2008
  • September 2008
  • October 2008
  • November 2008
  • December 2008
  • January 2009
  • February 2009
  • March 2009
  • April 2009
  • May 2009
  • June 2009
  • July 2009
  • August 2009
  • September 2009
  • October 2009
  • November 2009
  • December 2009
  • January 2010
  • February 2010
  • March 2010
  • April 2010
  • May 2010
  • June 2010
  • July 2010
  • August 2010
  • September 2010
  • October 2010
  • November 2010
  • December 2010
  • January 2011
  • February 2011
  • March 2011
  • April 2011
  • May 2011
  • June 2011
  • July 2011
  • August 2011
  • September 2011
  • October 2011
  • November 2011
  • December 2011
  • January 2012
  • February 2012
  • March 2012
  • April 2012
  • May 2012
  • June 2012
  • July 2012
  • August 2012
  • September 2012
  • October 2012
  • November 2012
  • December 2012
  • January 2013
  • February 2013
  • March 2013
  • April 2013
  • May 2013
  • June 2013
  • July 2013
  • August 2013
  • September 2013
  • October 2013
  • November 2013
  • December 2013
  • January 2014
  • February 2014
  • March 2014
  • April 2014
  • May 2014
  • June 2014
  • July 2014
  • August 2014
  • September 2014
  • October 2014
  • November 2014
  • December 2014
  • January 2015
  • February 2015
  • March 2015
  • April 2015
  • May 2015
  • June 2015
  • July 2015
  • August 2015
  • September 2015
  • October 2015
  • November 2015
  • December 2015
  • January 2016
  • February 2016
  • March 2016
  • April 2016
  • May 2016
  • June 2016
  • July 2016
  • August 2016
  • September 2016
  • October 2016
  • November 2016
  • December 2016
  • January 2017
  • February 2017
  • March 2017
  • April 2017