Society Lawyer (1939)
Walter Pidgeon plays a “well to do” lawyer who has just helped secure an innocent verdict for a known criminal played by Leo Carrillo. Carrillo is so thankful he offers Pidgeon a bonus and a place in his organization. Pidgeon declines because although he knew Carrillo was innocent of that particular murder he doesn’t want to associate with him. Carrillo assigns two of his thugs to protect Pidgeon anyway knowing his rivals are probably not happy with Pidgeon’s success in getting him “off”. Pidgeon’s partners in the law firm are unhappy with his very association with Carrillo so they force him out. And during the time Pidgeon was involved in the trial et al his girlfriend Sue (Frances Mercer) fell in love with his associate Phil Siddall (Lee Bowman) who had been keeping her company. Siddall is reluctant to pursue Sue until Pidgeon wanting her to be happy says it’s alright. Siddall then breaks his current relationship to Judy Barton (Ann Morriss) who had dated a different mob leader Jim Crelliman previously. When Barton returns to Crelliman (Eduardo Ciannelli) he decides to get revenge for his earlier “jilting”. He asks Barton to prove her love by inviting Siddall over and telling him off permanently. When Siddall arrives Crelliman suggests she does it outside on the balcony. Seconds later a shot is heard and rushing to the balcony the party sees Barton dead with Siddall holding the gun. Sue rushes to Pidgeon to enlist his help in clearing Siddall. Just then the phone rings and the caller threatens Pidgeon to stay away from defending Siddall. This of course convinces Pidgeon to take the case. He enlists the help of Carrillo a rival of Crelliman’s and Carrillo introduces him to Pat Abbott played by Virginia Bruce. Pat lives in the apartment building coincidentally owned by Crelliman that was the site of Barton’s murder. Pidgeon realizes that Pat knows enough to help him “get” Crelliman and protects her by insisting she stay at his place. His butler Layton played amusingly by Herbert Mundin is told to help by keeping Pat there. There’s really not a lot of intrigue to the story from that point on and it ends pretty much as expected.
This film is a less inspired remake of a much better pre-code picture made with a better cast six years earlier as Penthouse.