You Tube has done another service putting this film on it. Otherwise all I had was a description in a book by Leslie Halliwell.
Halliwell writes of MY LEARNED FRIEND in his book HALLIWELL'S HUNDRED, where he discusses movies that are flawed but good viewing. The flaw here was that Will Hay was in the last comedy of his great career but looked ill. It really did not effect the movie as much as say Stan Laurel's appearance in ATOLL K did, but it was obvious that Hay had looked better (less pale) only a year or two earlier. Still for an ill man he gives a strong comic performance, backed by two good ones by Claude Hurlbert and Mervyn Johns. Apparently he also directed some scenes.
Hay is a seedy ex-barrister named William Fitch, first seen in court where he is being tried for fraud. He has been writing letters to wealthy people apparently lying to get them to give him money. The case has been handed (reluctantly) to Hurlbert as barrister (in training) Charles Babbington. He's been in training nearly ten years, and still is considered less promising than some new men on the job. If he loses the case he will be thrown out of the law firm he is in.
And he loses. The apparently open-and-shut case gives Hay a grand old time playing off Babbington with his indignation and incompetence and the magistrate who rapidly realizes Fitch is smarter than he seems. He has apparently written under a female name for money. Nonsense, says Fitch, his middle name is Evelyn and he had documents to prove it. He writes that he has three tots in front of him, He did - they were three glasses of beer in the pub he wrote the letter in!. The case is dismissed as is Babbington's career in the law.
Fitch latches on the downcast Babbington in a pub and buys him a drink while they discuss their futures. A possible partnership is put on hold when one Arthur Grimshawe (Johns) pops up. He was unfortunate to have Fitch represent him nearly twenty years earlier in a case about forgery - apparently Grimshawe was innocent but framed. He has just finished his term in prison, and he has started plans to hunt down everyone who sent him to prison and kill them. One is his former barrister. Fitch and Babbington are horrified hearing this, and their feelings are compounded when they shortly hear that the judge at the trial has just mysteriously drowned in the Serpentine.
The film follows our two well-meaning bunglers trying to catch up and stop the murderous Grimshawe (who is always not only one or two steps ahead but actually able to pop up almost anywhere to give them little clues to the next killing of this false witness or that one). They try to warn a crime kingpin and manage to help create a riot in his gang's headquarters. They try to save an actress and destroy a theatrical production of a "pantomime" of Aladin. Finally they realize the diabolic final murder, which is a replica of a famous attempted seventeenth century event. Only this one is better organized. It leads to Fitch and Babbington nearly wrecking a London landmark.
Words can't really describe the fun of this film, with scenes like a hapless Babbington watching as his property is stolen in the gangster's lair, and he is picked up by a woman who threatens him with her hair pin. Fitch tries to warn one victim and ends up willingly forgetting his mission to try fleecing the same victim in a poker game! Grimshawe moves silently step by step, allowing everyone to fall over their own feet while the waters part for his. If one recalls Johns' marvelous performance as the trapped architect with the recurring nightmare in DEAD OF NIGHT, his performance as the gleeful and vengeful Grimshawe suggests that his architect might have had a happier future in some prison or asylum than we first thought.
In short, MY LEARNED FRIEND was (despite Hays appearance) a good final movie turn for a great comic mind. It certainly is well worth searching out and seeing.