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Monday, July 29, 2013

A Free Soul (1931)

A willful and independent socialite (Norma Shearer) has been raised by her alcoholic attorney father (Lionel Barrymore in his Oscar winning role), the black sheep of his family. He has urged her to live her life the way she sees fit rather than let society dictate her actions. But when she dumps her fiance (Leslie Howard) and takes up with a crude gangster (Clark Gable), he violently objects to the relationship. This is one creaky old melodrama with very little to recommend it! One can see the seeds of Shearer's irritating "great lady of MGM" performances germinating, she poses rather than acts and it's all too much though it's preferable to Barrymore's shamelessly hammy performance. It's the kind of film that can turn neophytes off classic Hollywood films forever. Phony and mawkish with one good thing going for it, Clark Gable. This was his breakthrough performance which took him out of the supporting player category to leading man. He's both dangerously seductive and charismatic here and one can see why Shearer would be drawn to him rather than the dull, pasty faced Leslie Howard. Directed by Clarence Brown. With James Gleason and Lucy Beaumont.

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