Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
Actors: John Barrymore, Bebe Daniels, Doris Kenyon, Isabel Jewell, Melvyn Douglas
Director: William Wyler
Having apprenticed on 15 B-Westerns and melodramas for his uncle Carl Laemmle at Universal, William Wyler signaled his readiness to take a big step up in class with this expertly directed movie about, well, class. John Bar... more »
Barrymore & Wyler Rule in Counsellor-At-Law
Robert M. Fells | Centreville, VA USA | 11/18/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"At last, one of the major omissions of the video revolution has been rectified with this dvd (and vhs) release of William Wyler's first major directoral effort. And if anybody ever questioned why John Barrymore was so highly regarded in his day, this film will resolve any controversy in Mr. Barrymore's favor. This release restores a true classic to general circulation (The Movie Channel ran it a few times several years ago.)Universal balked at paying Barrymore's typically huge salary and hired him at the rate of $25,000 per week for a total of two weeks' employment. Despite fast work by Wyler and Barrymore, (all other non-Barrymore scenes were filmed after the star was off the payroll) more time was needed and Barrymore ended up working one more week. These terms were a come-down for Barrymore who had enjoyed multiple-film deals with Warners ($200,000 per film, for five films), MGM and RKO only a short time before. John Barrymore had been a star in films since 1914 (well before his "Hamlet" in the theater) and was virtually the only film star of his vintage who successfully transitioned to "talkies." But by 1933, years of alcohol abuse were taking their toll on the 51 year old actor and producers began to distrust him.Ironically, no longer offered long term agreements with major studios, this one-shot deal at Universal and another at Columbia in February 1934, (the screwball comedy, "Twentieth Century") turned out to be the best two films Barrymore ever made. Counsellor At Law shows Barrymore as the finest dramatic actor of his generation and launched Wyler on a remarkable career; Twentieth Century (long available on VHS) shows him as the finest farceur of his era and launched Hollywood's cycle of screwball comedies (it didn't hurt the career of director Howard Hawks either). Alas, Barrymore himself would not be a beneficiary of either film and would be reduced to supporting roles by the mid 1930s, ending up spoofing himself on radio right up to his death in 1942. But then this is the stuff that legends are made of. The fine KINO VIDEO transfer for the dvd version captures the vividness of the film when it was new and makes 1933 seem as though it wasn't so long ago. Bravo!"
Hamlet goes to Court
Brad Baker | Atherton, Ca United States | 11/13/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Frenetic, hard-driving New York lawyer George Simon double charges his wealthy clients,and bails out social mis-casts with his own money. Avoiding boredom, he dabbles in insider trading. Simon has risen to the top, but a former court case suddenly threatens him with scandal and ruin. Simon is paired with a wife who does not love him; and a secretary who does...Elmer Rice's brilliant Broadway play "Counsellor at Law" was purchased for the screen in 1933 by Universal. The studio asked Paul Muni to repeat his leading role. He declined. They nervously signed John Barrymore; they weren't disappointed. Aided by Melvyn Douglas, Thelma Todd, and Bebe Daniels, Barrymore put aside affectation and delivered a gritty, lightening-paced performance. Never seen on television or video before, "Counsellor at Law" has just been released on DVD. Kino Films obtained a sparkling master print, and provided digital restoration. A jump cut in the final reel(hiding possible film damage) is it's only flaw. "Counsellor at Law" boasts a photo gallery with 40 rare stills from the director's estate. The film was a watershed event for both director and star. William Wyler had apprenticed at MGM and Universal since the 20's. His successful direction of "Counsellor at Law" propeled his long career, perhaps peaking with 1959's "Ben Hur". Star Jack Barrymore was moving in a different orbit. With shooting on "Counsellor at Law" completed, he was asked back for some re-takes. But in shot-after-shot, he could not complete the scene. A new rumor swirled around Hollywood back-lots. John Barrymore's memory had finally faltered. Despite a classic effort, this was sadly the last A-Picture in which Barrymore received top billing."
Fernando Silva | Santiago de Chile. | 09/15/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I just wanted to share with you folks, my experience and feelings upon watching this GREAT pre-code, thoroughly enjoyable, entertaining, excellently acted, fast paced, non-stop dialogue, ....This film alone shows John Barrymore at his best (as a ruthless lawyer of humble origins), I won't say anything more, in order to not spoil it....but he's top of the tops in this early Universal pictures release....kudos for KINO, for releasing a decent copy (DVD) of this gem. Bebe Daniels is outstanding as his scretary...Isabel Jewell, great as unnerving telephone operator, little known Doris Kenyon, very good as Barrymore's socialite wife... also in it an early performance by reliable Melvyn Douglas and Thelma Todd too...What more can one ask?
William Wyler is definitely one of the best american directors of all time!!!"
Another undiscovered jewel!
nom-de-nick | United States | 01/04/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"IT's a pity this isn't better known. As others have said, it's not only one of Barymore's finest performances on film (surpassing even Grand Hotel! His character here is not made super-noble or villainous, but simply and believeably human, not an easy thing for an actor to achieve), but a wonderful commentary, on several levels, of the fortunate and not-so-fortunate members of society at the peaking of the Depression. Some of it even holds true today. The scenery is superb down to the last detail, the direction and camerawork are razor-sharp, and the acting is just about perfect in every role, even the bits. So why only 4 stars? The film's only flaw, albeit a tiny one, is that the otherwise super-snappy dialogue gets a little stagy at times. Still, this pales next to the mivoe as a whole. A keeper!"