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  • J. Edgar Hoover, Chief of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, was never one to shy away from any "favorable" publicity, and also was not adverse to making a buck or two on the side. He wrote a book, "Persons in Hiding," and had no problem acquiring a publisher (magazine and book), nor any problem finding a Hollywood studio readily willing to acquire the film rights. He made 'em an offer they couldn't refuse. Who, in their right mind, was going to say no to Mr. Hoover?

    Paramount acquired the rights to "Persons in Hiding" and squeezed four films out of the book..."Persons in Hiding," "Undercover Doctor," "Queen of the Mob" and "Parole Fixer." Hoover also wrote the following message that is used up front on "Disbarred": "In the background of almost every crime is a crooked lawyer. The records of the Federal Bureau of Investigation show that the lawyer-criminal is the friend of the hold-up man---the confidant of bank robbers and the hub of bribery activities. He is the brains by which the underworld manages to thrive and to outwit law enforcement. This type of man deserves to be behind prison bars with his clients" (signed) J. Edgar Hoover, Chief of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

    J. Edgar was not one for pussyfooting around the bush. So, in addition to using this message on the film, Paramount also incorporated it into the six-sheet poster---"Behind every crook is a Crooked Lawyer"-J. Edgar Hoover---and also on several of the newspaper ads, all of which varied slightly from the message Hoover wrote by leaving out qualifiers or changing the verbiage and context slightly. There is no record that Hoover ever complained to Paramout about being "misquoted." "Disbarred" then set out to prove Mr. Hoover's case against lawyers: The Bar Association disbars attorney Tyler Cradon (Otto Krueger) when it appears he was implicated in the murder of a prominent vice crusader. Cradon, not wishing to be without an income,is impressed by the way Joan Carroll (Gail Patrick) handled a small-town murder, poses as a real estate agent and offers to get her into a law firm of a friend of his. Placed in the office of Roberts (Clay Clement), running a front for Cradon, Joan is taught every trick of the trade. With her cases all prepared for her, she goes from one courtroom victory to another, soon becoming the darling of the underworld and the despair of all law-enforcing authorities. Her performances impress the young assistant district attorney, Bradley Kent (Robert Preston), and they begin a budding romance in spite of the fact that Kent criticizes her connections.

    But when Roberts asks her to defend a notorious racketeer who has murdered a policeman, she realizes that Kent was right and immediately joins the district attorney's office as a deputy. Learning that the authorities are on Roberts' trail, she goes to see Cradon, whom she still believes to be a hard-working, honest real estate agent, to warn him about the kind of company he is keeping.

    By accident she learns that Cradon is---oh, the horror---the worst of all human beings---a lawyer who defends criminals---and it doesn't take many more frames before the audience is delivered the message promised on the three-sheet poster from this film...The Lowdown on the Crooked Mouthpiece Racket!
  • Otto Kruger is a criminal defense attorney who has just been disbarred for being caught doing all the things he shouldn't. He bids gangster Sidney Toler goodbye and flies off to be a rich gentleman of leisure. However, his plane is forced down in a small city. There he sees novice lawyer Gail Russell get a man off and comes up with a plan. He'll set up his own mob and use Miss Russell as a front, lawyering to get his gangsters out of prison, doing all the jury tampering, false witnesses and so forth without telling her. ADA Robert Preston is convinced she's honest, but smells a dead fish somewhere.

    It's an uninspiringly written script by Lillie Hayward and Robert Presnell Sr., but it's been given the imprimatur of J. Edgar Hoover, claiming that it's bad lawyers who are ruining the country. I say it's dull scripts, with not one witty line nor character that varies noticeably from a stereotype, for whom we are supposed to cheer. Kruger's suave rotter is all right, but Miss Russell's smart lawyer who can't figure anything out is a waste of celluloid.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    The always great Gail Patrick is commanding and determined in this Paramount crime drama where she takes on a job in Otto Kruger's law firm, unaware that he's been disbarred. As she discovers that her clients mainly gangsters and racketeers, she realizes that she's been fooled, in spits of being no fool. Assistant D.A. Robert Preston (looking quite young!) romances her to expose the criminal rackets, putting her in danger even though she's a suspect in being involved in the rackets she's unknowingly defending.

    One of many short, B racket films made in the 1930's and 40's, this is moderate entertainment if not completely developed or believable. Moonlighting from his role as good guy Charlie Chan, Sidney Toler looks odd without his Asian makeup, utilizing a bad European accent to try to change his identity. Kruger is appropriately smarmy, while Helen MacKellar adds some sympathy in her part of Kruger's assistant who is viciously tossed aside when Patrick comes along. No surprises, but some suspense. Robert Florey directs with the style he would later utilize in a few classic film noir, but overall, this is just rather ordinary in spite of a fine character actress proving that she could be a decent leading lady. Just a shame she lacks a better script.