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  • That song, mentioned above, played throughout the film. William Powell is "Lawyer Man" in this 1932 film also starring Joan Blondell, Allen Jenkins, Helen Vinson, and Claire Dodd.

    Powell plays Anton "Tony" Adam, a lower east side attorney with a small practice. He comes to the notice of a higher-priced attorney who invites him to become a partner. His secretary (Joan Blondell) of course goes with him. But Adam runs into trouble almost immediately when he takes a breach of promise case. The case is merely a setup by the corrupt political machine to frame him. Adam is thrown out of the partnership. On the face of it, he decides that if he can't beat 'em, join 'em. Actually, he has something else in mind.

    Powell is very good, but he's too uptown to be a lower east side lawyer. The role was more suited for other contract players, such as Jimmy Cagney or Humphrey Bogart. Blondell is great as a secretary who's smarter than her boss, in love with him, and can see his mistakes before he even makes them.

    William Powell is worth seeing in anything, even something he's not quite right for, and Joan Blondell is always a delight. This was probably a B film as it's pretty short.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Tony (William Powell) is a lawyer of the people with an eye for the ladies. Olga (Joan Blondell) is his secretary and conscience. Granville Bentley (Allan Dinehart), a corporation lawyer, sees him in action and offers him a partnership. Babs (Helen Vinson) Granville's sister is also interested. Gilmurry the D.A. (David Landau) wants Tony to come into his organization as well.

    Ginny (Claire Dodd) needs help - "that's what happens when a smart lawyer gets mixed up with a dumb blonde" - she has love letters from a certain doctor - she wants to bring a breach of promise suit against him or at least sue him for thousands of dollars or does she???? Of course she calls on Tony and plays him for a sap. Bentley, meanwhile urges him to leave it alone and dissolves the partnership, Babs refuses to see him and Gilmurry thinks he's a "washout". He is determined to prove them wrong - he is going to play "dirty" - no job will be too demeaning. "a small time mouse planning to be a big time rat"!!!

    An elderly man comes to see him - he has a case against Gilmurry but no lawyer will take it. Tony does and wins a settlement out of court. Gilmurry is impressed and makes him Assistant District Attorney. Tony then gets some information on the doctor - he has been defrauding the city. The end of the movie sees Tony going back to where he started - to the little people that need his help.

    Helen Vinson was on hand as Babs Bentley, the sister of corporation lawyer Granville Bentley. She was always at her best in brittle, society "bad girl" roles - occasionally she would play a warm hearted "good girl" like Helen in "I Was a Fugitive From a Chain Gang" and proved she could handle these roles easily as well.

    Claire Dodd, in my opinion, was the most memorable bad girl of the 30s. She started out as a showgirl in films such as "Our Blushing Brides" (1930) and "Whoopee" (1930). For me her two stand out films are "Footlight Parade" (1933) where she plays Joan Blondell's old "friend" and "Roberta" (1934) as Randolph Scott's snooty fiancée. Both films have some classic one liners. In "Lawyer Man" she plays Ginny.

    Sterling Holloway also has a small scene as Olga's bar buddy who tells her exactly how things are. Allen Jenkins and Jack La Rue play two of Gilmurry's henchman who can be bribed with cream cake!!!!

    The music is nice too, including hits of the day - "Say It Isn't So", "I Guess I'll Have to Change My Plans", "If I Could Be With You" and "You've Got That Thing".

    Recommended.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    I just saw this in a local theater retro series of Pre-Code Hollywood films. I always liked Warner Brothers films of this era, be they hard hitting gangster or social dramas or fun musicals. Though there are serious issues touched on here (political corruption in the judicial system) it's handled with a light touch. William Powell is good as the title character Anton 'Tony' Adam and Joan Blondell is bubbly as his secretary/love interest Olga.

    Since the movie is a scant 72 minutes, things move along well, but you do get an episodic feel overall. Another 10 minutes could have fleshed out or explained a few plot points. And is it me or were Helen Vinson and Claire Dodd, two gals the skirt chasing Tony tangles with, twins? They kept popping in and out of the plot and it took me a few seconds each times to figure out who was who. Both were blonds, which doesn't help matters.

    For the Pre-Code curious there are two comical suggestive bits. One being Tony's case of mistaken identity as he's gam watching. Another, how his cigar reacts to a prospective tryst with Dodd.

    Possible Spoiler Alert....

    One reviewer mentioned here a lack of chemistry between Powell and Blondell and I lay the blame of director William Dieterle, who did a fine job overall. Olga pines for Tony, warns him of his womanizing but waits hopefully for him to make the first move. One kept waiting for her to storm into his office (as she does often) hop onto his lap and let him know how she feels. She never does.

    When last seen, Tony and Olga go back downtown, so Tony can champion the cause of the downtrodden. And they are happily arm in arm. It suggests they are now a couple...but one passionate kiss would have made their relationship clearer.
  • William Powell plays an ambitious bush league lawyer who goes to work for a high-class law firm, taking along his trusted secretary Joan Blondell. It isn't long before Powell's clashing with a corrupt political boss and getting involved with the wrong women. When things come crashing down for him, Powell vows to become successful no matter what tactics he has to use.

    Enjoyable Pre-Coder from Warner Bros with nice work from Powell and the always dynamite Joan Blondell. She's great here, throwing in one snappy rejoinder after another. Kinda hard to believe anybody would look twice at another woman if they had sexy young Blondell as an option, but perhaps that's more my personal taste. The supporting cast is nice. The script is fun, though nothing groundbreaking. It's all pretty simple and familiar stuff but well-done and entertaining.
  • This film moves too fast for introspective angst or art design to be an issue, so if you want that go watch an MGM or Paramount film of the period. Instead the film focuses on rapid fire dialog and keeping the plot moving. What makes this one a cut above most films of the early 30's are the players, in particular the dapper and charming William Powell as East Side lawyer Tony Adam and brassy Joan Blondell as Olga, his secretary who wants things to be more than they are between herself and Tony. Sparks do fly from time to time, and when they do it just doesn't quite work on the romantic level - rather like picturing James Cagney and Myrna Loy as romantic leads in a film.

    When the film opens Tony is a lawyer with a hole in the wall office on the East Side of New York City. He's defending neighborhood hoods and ripped off struggling businessmen, but he wants more - he wants to be a big shot. He gets what he wants and then some and the film shows his trek through the ups and downs of an uptown practice, his run-ins with the corrupt political boss of the city that can't decide if he wants to hire Tony or rub him out, and the high society ladies who use him and lose him along the way.

    The final speech by Tony as he makes a crucial career decision will have you going huh?? where did that come from?? as there has been no indication that Tony is learning anything from any of this up to the last two minutes. Still it's enjoyable to see darts flying from Joan Blondell's eyes and William Powell unruffled in the the face of bullets, ballots, or blackmail. I'd recommend this one to anyone who enjoys the precodes, and in particular the fast moving WB precodes.
  • A Pre-Code movie that would be G-rated by today's standards, "Lawyer Man" is entertaining and good fun but should be billed as a drama/comedy, if you can imagine such. It moves very quickly as its star, William Powell, goes from honest, hard-working lawyer to shyster and back in 72 easy minutes. The problem is that, apart from Powell, all the other characters are two-dimensional, and are seemingly there for Powell to bounce lines off. David Landau, especially, was criminally wasted (no pun intended) as the 'big boss' and king-maker. Despite his role, he was likable while enduring endless insults from Powell. Most men in his position probably would have had Powell 'rubbed out' early on.

    That said, there is a lot to like in this picture. First off, there is Powell himself, elegant and dapper while miscast as a lower East Side lawyer representing lower class shlubs. There is also Joan Blondell, in her customary role as the torch-bearing secretary overlooked by Powell. There is Alan Dinehart, an excellent 30's character actor with a part that was too small for his talent. Despite the seriousness of the plot, much of it is played for laughs. In one amusing scene, two hit men turn soft in a goofy confrontation with Powell. Throw in some laughs via Blondell wise cracks, and you have a basically good-natured movie which I would rate a seven.

    P.S. Do you like old standards? This picture has some of the best you can hear nowadays on the soundtrack, played in the background by a 30's band.
  • Lawyer Man casts William Powell as an attorney with a storefront practice on the Lower East Side of New York where he makes a living of sorts defending indigent or close to indigent clients for meager fees. But he's got talent and white shoe lawyer Alan Dinehart invites him into his firm even though Powell has gotten on the wrong side of political boss David Landau. Helen Vinson who is Dinehart's sister also takes a shine to Powell.

    But Powell also has actress Claire Dodd doing a number as well on him with a phony breach of promise suit that lands Powell in one big jackpot. Only faithful secretary Joan Blondell stands by him.

    This to me was obviously a film that was meant for James Cagney and Cagney probably turned it down. Powell was a guy who did belong on the Upper East Side with the white shoe firm, Cagney would have been perfect casting as the fish out of water.

    Joan Blondell is always good and there's a nice performance by Allen Jenkins as a hood who Powell defends and who later comes through for him in an hour of need.

    Despite miscasting Lawyer Man is still a decent film though it will never be on the top ten list of films of William Powell.
  • Lawyer Man (1932)

    *** (out of 4)

    Nice little "B" movie from Warner about lawyer Anton Adam (William Powell) who moves up the ladder once he shows he's not afraid to take on a crooked political man (David Landau). At first Adam is riding high but he's double-crossed by an actress (Claire Dodd) secretly working for the political man and soon he loses everything but he's got one shot at redemption. LAWYER MAN isn't anything ground-breaking and you're certainly not going to spot it on any lists of the greatest films ever made but if you're a fan of the cast then there's quite a bit here to enjoy. I think the best thing going for the picture is the performance by Powell who once again comes off very believable in the part. He certainly comes across smart enough to where you can believe he's this intelligent lawyer but he also got a certain charm that makes you like him and there's just a dignity that the actor brings to the role. He's surrounding with a great supporting cast including Joan Blondell who plays his secretary who also has a crush on him. Landau nearly walks away with the film as only he can. That certain toughness that he brings the character but he isn't tough in the same way Cagney or Bogart was. Instead, he's more laid back and quiet about the whole thing. Dodd is nice and sexy in her few scenes in the picture and Allen Jenkins is his usual fun self playing a tough guy. The screenplay itself really doesn't offer us anything we haven't seen before but I think it builds up a nice character with the main lawyer. There's a certain integrity that the character turns out to have and this here really makes it all the more fun to see the events play out.
  • Despite two very winning star players, this picture is all surface: a trite story with no depth of characterization whatsoever, constructed of an unusually large number of very brief scenes which move the plot along but are not sufficiently developed to generate any feeling for the characters. The potential "meat" of the story concerns a presumed crisis of conscience for William Powell as a very capable but too ambitious attorney, along with his relationship with radiant Joan Blondell as the secretary/Girl Friday he takes for granted. Lots of potential here, all of it sacrificed to keep the plot moving.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    This is a pretty good little picture from Warner Brothers. However, it's a good bit better than it should have been thanks to another solid and thoroughly enjoyable performance by William Powell.

    The film begins with Powell playing Tony Adam--an attorney who works in the poorer section of New York with the common folk. However, he's very ambitious and have visions of power and fame--and this seems reasonable as he's a very, very good lawyer. However, he gets on the wrong side of the wrong guy and soon his career is on the skids. When Tony is eventually able to rebuild his practice and is actually hired as the Assistant District Attorney, he's ready for a bit of justice--and revenge. But can he buck the same political party that appointed him? And what of the hoods that no doubt work for these folks? And, on the personal side, what about his long-suffering secretary who is head-over-heels for him (Joan Blondell)?

    In addition to Powell, Blondell is quite good. However, the highlights of the film involved Powell's interactions with two thugs, Allan Jenkins and Jack La Rue--and you just have to see these portions of the film to see what I mean. Enjoyable and well worth seeing.
  • Really liked 'Lawyer Man's' premise and thought to myself quickly that this had potential to be a great film. Have loved Joan Blondell and especially William Powell in other films and was interested to see how Powell would fare in a role quite different for him. William Dieterle wasn't one of the greatest directors in my view and some films were better (much better in a few cases) than others, but his best work was absolutely great.

    'Lawyer Man' was not quite great. Two thirds of it actually to me was great and extremely entertaining, one third not so much when things got less plausible. Dieterle did do better, as well as worse, films but 'Lawyer Man' is a solid representation of him. Same goes for Blondell, who was nearly always was a bright spot in her work, and for Powell, who always gave it one hundred percent and had a commanding presence in everything he did.

    Both Powell and Blondell are great here. Especially Powell, whose suave charisma, easy-going charm and intensity really shines in a type of role that people wouldn't usually associate him typically with. Blondell is pert, lovely to watch and has a good deal of energy. They gel very well together. The supporting cast are solid too, although generally the supporting characters themselves could have been better fleshed out. David Landau plays his crook with a heart sort of character without over-playing or looking bored. Dieterle makes sure that the energy and intrigue doesn't slip.

    It has a slick, professional look and much of 'Lawyer Man' goes at a lively pace, having a good deal of content without cluttering and it doesn't feel padded. Two thirds of the story is hugely compelling with lots of tension and intrigue and little obviousness, further benefitting from a sharp script with a surprisingly cynical edge on politics and legal ethics handled thoughtfully and not in a preachy way.

    Sadly didn't think that the final third was as good, where credibility is pushed and strained to the limit. The pace also didn't feel as tight.

    Also felt that the film ends a little too patly and pretty predictably and it is a shame that the supporting characters are not developed enough, most being there as mainly plot devices.

    Overall though, well worth seeing for namely Powell. 7/10
  • Warning: Spoilers
    I have mixed feelings about this film.

    On the negative side, it seems to wander around for a very long time before we get any idea of where it's heading.

    On the positive side -- William Powell. There are a few actors (Jack Nicholson and Clark Gable are examples) who are interesting to watch...even in bad movies...although this is not a bad movie (it's not great, but better than the typical film in 1932). William Powell is another of those actors. Someone truly special. And it's interesting to watch him here. Another thing interesting here are the scenes of New York City...real scenes...not staged.

    One thing to watch for, sort of early in the film, is what he does with his cigar when he meets a lovely lady. Definitely pre-code! However, there is also a sense that in today's standards, Powell's character would be considered uncouth in the way he looks at women.

    Another thing notable about this film -- particularly if you are familiar with traditional pop -- is the score. Quite a few familiar tunes throughout the film.

    Joan Blondell is quite good as Powell's sdcretary...who is clearly also in love with him...and wins him in the end. David Landau is fine as one of the crooked bosses, albeit one with a heart.

    The question really is -- does this film truly make sense. The ways things go back and forth between good and evil and Landau being sorta good and sorta bad...well, I'm not quite sure it all makes sense...but it is fun!
  • gbill-7487731 December 2019
    Just an average pre-Code film, this one about corruption in New York politics and the legal system, but elevated because of William Powell (the streetwise lawyer who isn't afraid to take on the system) and Joan Blondell (his plucky secretary who isn't afraid to chastise him for his various indiscretions). Part of the amusement is Powell's wandering eyes; he ogles women walking by, unwittingly leers at Blondell's legs while she's getting her shoes shined, and even seems to admire the backside of a small statue of Lady Justice after turning her around on his desk. While admiring the svelte form of a beautiful actress sitting in front of him with her plunging neckline (Claire Dodd), he slowly tilts his cigar upwards in his mouth in a mock erection, which for 1932 cracked me up. Blondell is adorable, showing her frustration and devotion to Powell and tossing out lines like "I smelled trouble the minute that long blonde started throwing those bedroom eyes on you," but she isn't given enough to do. The setup to the film was decent enough, but it meanders around while trying to pit Powell against the corrupt local boss (David Landau), a character who isn't strong enough considering his position. There isn't enough edge in the plot relative to the depiction of corruption, and not enough clarity to make it a strong drama or romance. It's mildly entertaining though, and of special interest because it was the only time Powell and Blondell worked together, two actors I'm fond of.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    William Powell was a master of the double take. I can't think of any actor who used it more often or better for comic effect. In "Lawyer Man," he must have done a dozen or more double takes. They range from the obvious scene stoppers of a knowing look on his face and turn of the head, to more subtle light pauses with a stern or amusing look as if to catch a breath. We see the first big one in the opening scene when he is stepping out of his office building onto an open market street on New York's East Side.

    An iceman is delivering a block of ice and is entering the building with it over his shoulder. Powell's character, Anton Adam, says, "Good morning, Jake. How's the ice business?" Iceman, "Not so hot." Powell pauses a second and turns his head toward the iceman who has passed him in the doorway. There's no way the audience could miss the humor of the dialog with Powell's double take that allows just enough time for it to sink in. One might say the double take multiplies (doubles) the comedy of the lines.

    This movie isn't billed as a comedy, and one can see why. It's one of the earliest films about city machine politics and corruption, and shady aspects of a political justice system. But, this drama and crime movie has a good dose of comedy. It's mostly in Powell's character, rather than situations. This is the story about a New York East Side (of the 1930s) lawyer who makes good and moves up to Park Avenue.

    Adam has been in the East Side defending the poor and the down and out for some years. He is well known and liked in the neighborhood, and by the cops and by others in his profession. He then tackles a case that beats the political machinery. That starts him on a rise and track of prominence. After a double-cross by the machine connections, his reputation is hurt among the high-class set. So, he starts over defending low-life criminals and others. But now he takes some shady cases and charges them accordingly. He has become a shyster, in his own words. There's nothing in the film that indicates he did anything illegal himself, but that he was defending a lot of people who were shady operators and getting them off. He wins and builds himself back up.

    When he gets appointed assistant district attorney, he comments about being back on the right side of the law. Indeed, Anton Adam's character seems to have high ideals about justice. In a very early scene, he turns down a case from a man who he says must come to justice. When the man leaves and Adam's secretary comes into the office, Adam says of the guy, "Just a small-time mouse trying to be a big time rat."

    Joan Blondell is Olga Michaels, Adam's long-time and faithful secretary and confidant. She's crazy in love with the guy, but keeps her composure, and he doesn't know it until toward the end of the film. Adam has one weakness, which we see in his glances at pretty women. It's likely more in his head than in practice, though, because when he gets with an attractive stage performer, he is shy and awkward.

    Olga knows his weakness, and some of the humor of the film is when she brings him up short for it. An exchange between the two sums up the situation. Olga, "I worked for a successful man once, and you know why he was a success?" Anton, "Sure, because you worked for him." Olga, "No! 'Cause he left the dames alone." After the double- cross, Olga says to Anton, "That's what happens when a smart lawyer gets mixed up with a dumb blonde."

    The supporting cast in "Lawyer Man" are all very good. David Landau is especially good as John Gilmurry who runs the local political machine. Alan Dinehart plays Granville Bentley, the Park Avenue attorney whom Adam beats in a big case and who then invites Adam to be his partner. Claire Dodd is very good as Virginia St. Johns and Allen Jenkins plays a usual heavy or hooligan role as Izzy Levine.

    This is a very good film that most adults should enjoy. Here are a couple more favorite lines from the movie.

    Olga, "Who's gonna take your case?" Anton, "I am. I know. I have a sap for a client."

    Olga, "Remember, I told you about taking these cases against those big uptown lawyers. They got too much pull." Anton, "Yeah, well I got a lot of push."

    On a historical note for younger generations, the iceman was a common site in America before the mid-20th century. In the years before electric refrigerators, the iceman delivered blocks of ice to homes that had iceboxes. The lady of the house would use an ice pick to chip the ice block into pieces to fit in the top of the icebox. The term "icebox" continued to be used for decades, referring to the refrigerator. More than a few early crime movies had murders committed with ice picks. I doubt if one could be found in a 21st century home.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    The dashing William Powell was hot in 1932, and with this as well as two classic romantic teamings with Kay Francis, all was right at Warner Brothers for him. It's a shame that his roles seemed to be more of the Warren William variety than what he would find later on at MGM, and what seemed promising for him at the start ended up being only a very short stay at the Hollywood studio known for making some of the grittiest films in the business.

    Like movie lawyers of the time, he's a sharp cookie who gets a bad reputation for winning practically every case, so his enemies all gather around him to tear him down. Secretary Joan Blondell is there by his side every step of the way, obviously so in love with him to the point where she basically mothers him. Dinner partner Sterling Holloway reminds her of how he warned her about falling in love with the boss, but that doesn't stop Ms. Blondell from being jealous of practically every female client who comes in. His enemies utilize a beautiful actress to destroy him in a false breach of promise suit, and before long, Powell is persona non gratta. He's found drunk in a bar, but before long, he's back on his feet again, obviously having more than just luck and the talent of fighting a good argument. Has he really learned anything? Probably not!

    Even if the story really isn't so hot or truly believable, this is Warner Brothers precode at its raunchiest, filled with witty lines and an excellent script. So having style over substance in this case does make it better, as does the presence of a fabulous array of Warner Brothers' best talents. Helen Vinson and Claire Dodd add gritty beauty to the proceedings, while Blondell's eye-popping close-ups make her unforgettable. This year alone, she had ten films out, and as a result, was considered one of the hardest working actresses in Hollywood. She doesn't have her usual share of wisecracks, but she's still excellent. David Landau is also a memorable villain. While this is far from the champagne that Powell would find in his MGM roles, it ain't quite Schlitz, either.
  • It's a Powell showcase as he transitions from obscure gentlemanly lawyer to high-powered legal-eagle. Corruption is rife in Adam's (Powell) big city. After crossing head racketeer Gilmurry (Landau), Adam loses his standing in a respectable legal firm. So he decides to play the game their crooked way, and does so with maximo success, using people for his own ends. Only his intensely loyal and lovelorn secretary (Blondell) sticks with his ruthless climb.

    There's not much patented Powell charm here. Instead, he moves abruptly from quiet reserve to ruthless assertion, becoming a not very likable character in the process. Surprisingly for Warner Bros. and a gangster theme, there's no machine gun splatter or snarling thugs. Instead of city streets, criminal conduct here is more civilized, taking place in office suites and judicial chambers. Still, the shenanigans can't be taken too seriously since comedy relief pops in and out. The movie's real suspense lies in wondering how Adam's turnaround will end. In short, what sort of reckoning will there be. Can't say I was happy with the resolution that unfortunately retreats from 30's pre-Code toughness. It's like the Code is already in effect. All in all, the movie's not very memorable despite presence of two of the studio's leading performers—maybe because they're playing somewhat outside their strong suits.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    . . . to warn America of her final Death Throes due in January, 2020. LAWYER MAN shows viewers that the so-called U.S. "Justice" system is riddled with loopholes, exceptions, and contradictions chiseled into "settled law" to solely protect the interests of Corrupt Fat Cat Communist Corporate One Per Centers. Initially "honest" attorney (what an ironic oxymoron that is!) "Tony" starts out representing the "Little Guy" against "The Machine" during this offering from the prolific Warner Bros. prophetic prognosticators, However, the local mob boss (pulling all the puppet strings of the region's government) "Gilmurry" immediately co-opts Tony's brains, just as the current White House occupant has done on the national level Today. Then, as Now, anyone drawn to the "legal" profession, "law" enforcement, or military "service" knows that they are just a KGB President's pardon away from being excused for any blatant Crime against Humanity which gives them personal jollies to commit. (Occupations which once were passed down many generations with pride are now an international laughing stock and source of ridicule for their empty hypocrisy.) Just as next month's U.S. Senate Kangaroo Court "show trial" will be a meaningless exercise in blathering, LAWYER MAN warns young Americans to steer clean of the criminal-creating "legal" profession!