A Free Soul (1931)

CLARENCE BROWN

Bil’s rating (out of 5):   BB.5

USA, 1931.  .  Screenplay by , dialogue by , based on the play by , from the novel by .  Cinematography by .  Produced by Clarence Brown.  Music by .  Production Design by Cedric Gibbons.  Costume Design by .  Film Editing by

It’s obvious that this was considered top-notch drama in its day, but by today’s standards it’s hopelessly melodramatic. Norma Shearer plays a society girl who ‘goes bad’ when she lives with a sexy gangster (Clark Gable, making a star of himself in the process) and ruins her family name. Her alcoholic father (Lionel Barrymore) has to defend her classy suitor (Leslie Howard, the living coma) when he kills Gable to protect Shearer from further shame. Shearer, who was a superb performer in the early days of talkies, clenches her hands and wails a lot, Barrymore makes endless speeches, and Gable smolders. A definite product of its time, hardly worth a second glance today.

Academy Award:  Best Actor (Lionel Barrymore)
Nominations: Best Actress (Norma Shearer); Best Directing (Clarence Brown)

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