20 May 2009 | MartinHafer
Pretty good little mystery
This film was made a year before Myrna Loy catapulted to super-stardom with the Thin Man movies. At this point in her career, she was still a relatively unknown actress with a long but generally undistinguished track record. Warner Baxter, on the other hand, was the bigger star--with starring roles in 42ND STREET, THE CISCO KID (and its sequel) and THE SQUAW MAN.
Stylistically, the film is actually a lot like Baxter's B-movie series, The Crime Doctor, though in this case he plays a defense attorney who investigates crimes instead of a criminal psychiatrist who investigates crimes. Additionally, PENTHOUSE has a bit more style, polish and better acting than the Columbia Pictures series.
The film begins with Baxter getting a big-time hood off for a crime he apparently did not commit (for once). However, in a odd scene, the other lawyers in the practice vote him out because they don't want to be associated with such riffraff and attorneys who defend them (Ethics and a law practice?!?! What planet did these lawyers come from anyway?!?!). Additionally, Baxter's stuck up fiancée breaks it off with him because of the unsavory element he chooses to defend. However, Baxter really isn't a jerk lawyer--he just feels that IF the guy is actually innocent, he deserves a strong defense attorney (duh). But in this bizarre As I said above, this is a film with the odd idea of an attorney PERSONALLY investigating and solving crimes which his friends or clients are accused of committing. In reality, this never happens and I can't imagine Johnny Cochran or Robert Shapiro doing this and it's a cliché you just have to accept or else the film makes very little sense.
Along for the ride are Loy, Nat Pendleton (in one of his better and richer supporting roles) and a variety of other familiar faces (including veteran B actor, George E. Stone). It won't change your life and is a tad silly, but so well done that it's easy to forgive and enjoy.
By the way, having Myrna Loy stay in Baxter's apartment (even though they were in separate rooms) probably never would have gotten past the censors just one year later after the new Production Code would be enacted. Nor would a single man (Baxter) have been allowed to show a single girl around his bedroom.