Slightly Honorable (1939)

Approved   |    |  Comedy, Crime, Drama

Slightly Honorable (1939) Poster

A lawyer is framed for the murder of a young party girl and tries to clear his name.

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  • Broderick Crawford and Ruth Terry in Slightly Honorable (1939)
  • Broderick Crawford, Pat O'Brien, and Ruth Terry in Slightly Honorable (1939)
  • Pat O'Brien, Edward Arnold, Eddy Chandler, Claire Dodd, Paul McVey, and Ruth Terry in Slightly Honorable (1939)
  • Broderick Crawford and Pat O'Brien in Slightly Honorable (1939)
  • Pat O'Brien and Ruth Terry in Slightly Honorable (1939)
  • Broderick Crawford, Pat O'Brien, Edward Arnold, Claire Dodd, and Ruth Terry in Slightly Honorable (1939)

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22 November 2016 | dougdoepke
Promising Elements Don't Combine
An attorney and his partner get caught up in a series of murders involving a crooked businessman and his crony district attorney. In fact suspicion is cast on the attorney himself as he threads his way through the thicket.

Comedy mysteries were popular during this period. The sophisticated Thin Man series was probably the best, though the many amateur sleuth series on lesser budgets also proved popular, e.g. Charlie Chan, The Saint, et al. This movie attempts the same ground, but tries to work in too many elements. Trouble is they fail to build in effective fashion. The whodunit part never really gels since little time is given to assessing the suspects, while the comedic part fares better with some good snappy lines. However, the comedic part is overridden by cutie Terry's antics that are way overblown and finally annoying. Clearly some restraint was needed, but a firm hand was lacking. Apparently credited director Garnett took sick and impresario Wanger had to step in. That may account for unevenness of the overall result.

Nonetheless, O'Brien lends the proceedings what credibility there is, while a young Crawford gets to show an uncharacteristic and somewhat comedic side. In fact the supporting cast includes many sinister faces from the period—Fowley, Richards, Dumbrille, Dodd. Now I'm as broad-minded as most movie fans, but pairing 41-year old O'Brien with teenage Terry acting like a 10-year old appears a risky bet for audiences even now. Plus, having her drop her dress moment to moment may be amusing but struggles against the questionable context. Looks like their pairing was trying to get as far away from Nick and Nora as possible.

All in all and despite the promising elements, the package is simply too unwieldy to hold together. Too bad.

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