Mouthpiece, The (1932)
Directed by James Flood & Elliott Nugent, with a screenplay by Joseph Jackson (Smart Money (1931)), this excellent drama features a terrific performance by the great Warren William in the title role. Terrific support is provided by Aline MacMahon (Dragon Seed (1944)), Ralph Ince, and Guy Kibbee (Berton Churchill plays a Judge, uncredited) among others. The story is about an assistant District Attorney Vince Day (William) who's life is changed such that he becomes the nemesis of his former office as the lawyer that successfully defends guilty, but high paying clients against prosecution. William's credible performance is on the same level as John Barrymore's portrayal in Counsellor at Law (1933), which followed a year later.
The film opens with assistant D.A. Vince Day giving a powerful, and ultimately convincing closing argument for the conviction, and death penalty sentencing, of Robert Wilson (Emerson Treacy, uncredited), a man accused of murder. Minimizing the defense's case, Day says that "the chain of circumstantial evidence is a strong one, with no weak links". With Vince sweating out the final minutes on the eve of Wilson's execution, District Attorney Forbes (Walter Walker) receives a confession from another man for the crime and desperately tries to reach the prison before the sentence can be carried out. Unfortunately, he is too late and Vince vows never to prosecute another case.
After a drunken binge at his regular establishment, whose bartender is played by Kibbee, Vince is convinced to "snap out of it" and begin again as "the mouthpiece" for those who have money, the real criminals. After helping another client "get off" with a dramatic courtroom stunt, he knocks out "snorting" boxer Pondapolis (Stanley Fields), Vince's new practice is thriving as he's learned a flair for the dramatic. With Miss Hickey (MacMahon) as his secretary, Vince helps a series of the city's more notorious citizens avoid prosecution as he becomes a thorn in his former employer's side. One of the film's best sequences involves Vince assisting an admitted embezzler (John Wray) escape prosecution by manipulating his boss (Morgan Wallace) into signing an agreement and then keeping $10,000 of the remaining loot as his own. The scene in which Vince justifies his fee in front of Smith and Walker is hilarious! Vince also begins an unofficial partnership with bail bondsman J. B. Roscoe (Ince), when one of their co-clients Joe Garland (Jack La Rue) skips town temporarily.
Vince is also a skirt chasing flirt who can't resist a pretty young thing sent over by the employment agency, despite the fact that she cannot type. Warned by Hickey, whose relationship with Vince is not unlike James Bond's with Miss Moneypenny, Vince pursues Celia Farraday (Sidney Fox) with abandon, even after he learns of her engagement to Johnny Morris (William Janney). The ubiquitous Charles Lane plays a desk clerk at a hotel. He impresses her with more courtroom dramatics, swallowing a whole bottle of poison to achieve a verdict of not guilty for murderer Tony Rocco (J. Carrol Naish) before he rushes to have his stomach pumped, but she eventually causes him to face up to what he's become. Another great scene in the film involves MacMahon's character taking charge and sobering up the drunken lawyer, after she's found him passed out at Kibbee's bar. Though the second half of the film is less exciting than the first, that doesn't keep me from highly recommending it to anyone who enjoys great movies, or questions William's acting skills.
According to imdb.com, Paulette Goddard plays a blonde in the party scene, and Selmer Jackson plays a prison guard; both are uncredited.