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A Free Soul

Norma Shearer , Leslie Howard , Clarence Brown    VHS Tape
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)

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4.4 out of 5 stars
4.4 out of 5 stars
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Norma Shearer And Clark Gable Ignite The Screen Jan. 21 2004
Format:VHS Tape
For those of you like myself who normally associate the great Norma Shearer with refined and very ladylike roles, a viewing of Clarence Brown's "A Free Soul", is a wonderful illustration of the great versatility of this actress who sadly is forgotten by most audiences today. Married to the legendary Irving Thalberg who had visions of Norma becoming the dignified first Lady of MGM and appearing only in prestigious productions, Norma saw otherwise and delighted in tackling "racier" roles such as that in "A Free Soul". Here she is the "free soul" of the title where she most capably plays Jan Ashe a young free thinking daughter of defense lawyer Stephen Ashe who scandalises her family and "degrades", her social standing by seeing nothing wrong with living a life of excess and in finding love in certain "undesirable" environments. Considered racy stuff in 1931 it gave Norma Shearer a most challenging acting experience and succeeded in winning for Lionel Barrymore who played her alcoholic defense Lawyer father, an Academy Award as Best Actor of the year.
Based on the writings of Adela Rogers St. John, she apparently based the character of renegade and alcoholic Stephen Ashe on her own father, a brilliant but undisciplined lawyer of great merit. "A Free Soul",begins with Stephen defending crooked gangster and conman Ace Wilfong (Clark Gable in his mesmorizing breakthrough performance). Succeeding in getting him off his charges Ace and Jan find they have an instant attraction for each other despite their very different stations in life.
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By J. Lovins TOP 50 REVIEWER
Format:VHS Tape
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) presents "A FREE SOUL" (1931) (91 min/B&W) -- Starring: Norma Shearer, Leslie Howard, Lionel Barrymore, James Gleason, Clark Gable, Lucy Beaumont

Directed by Clarence Brown

Stephen Ashe Lionel Barrymore), an upper class alcoholic defense attorney, successfully defends local mobster Ace Wilfong (Clark Gable) in a murder case. After his daughter Jan Ashe (Norma Shearer) breaks her engagement to polo player Dwight Winthrop (Leslie Howard) and starts an affair with Wilfong, she finds that the liaison is not easily severed when she wants out. Winthrop earns Miss Ashe's true affections by killing Wilfong to break his grip on her. Now the question is, can Stephen Ashe save Winthrop with an impassioned defense speech to the jury?

Based on a book by Adela Rogers St. Johns, Norma Shearer gets top billing in this aged but enjoyable soap opera, and she is very good, turning on the histrionics most effectively. But it is Lionel Barrymore who gets full honors - and a Best Actor Oscar - for his portrayal of her brilliant, tragic, lawyer father. Masterfully, he dominates his every scene. His final appearance, a tempestuous summation to a murder trial jury, is considered a classic.

Oscar Winner for Best Actor in a Leading Role (Lionel Barrymore)

Oscar Nominated for Best Actress in a Leading Role (Norma Shearer), Best Director (Clarence Brown)

* Special Footnote: -- According to the Guinness Book of World Records (2002), the film holds the record for the longest take in a commercial film, the climactic courtroom scene at 14 minutes. Since a reel of camera film only lasts 10 minutes, it was achieved by using more than one camera.
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5.0 out of 5 stars "A Free Soul" March 6 2004
By Pepper
Format:VHS Tape
The cast alone makes this a great film to own - with Lionel Barrymore before he had to succumb to a wheelchair, Clark Gable, Norma Shearer and a small part by up-and-coming Leslie Howard. Classic story of good and evil, but who cares who wins when you get to watch talent like this when it is still young and fresh.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Classic '30s Movie Sept. 17 2002
By Mitch
Format:VHS Tape
If you enjoy movies from the early 30s then this film should definitely be a hit for you. Norma Shearer is in great slinky form as a rebellious socialite taking a walk on the wild side with gorgeous but dangerous gangster, Clark Gable. The plot never dulls and there's real chemistry between the two stars. Norma really sizzles in her scenes with Clark up in his apartment - and I was surprised by the frankness of her portrayal - this was one hot gal in her day.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Surprisingly Mature Melodrama For 1930's Nov. 29 2001
Format:VHS Tape
Norma Shearer stars as the free soul, a woman with bad judgement who falls in love with brutal crime king Clark Gable, a man recently defended in court by her alcoholic father, Lionel Barrymore. She's already engaged to polo champ Leslie Howard, a much better match in the eyes of her family. The film is surprisingly adult in its presentation of Shearer's relationship with Gable, as well as in Barrymore's alcoholism. The performances are a mixed bag. This was one of Shearer's early sound films, and she's still playing to the back row as if it were a silent film - lots of dramatic hand gestures and lurching about. She never completely lost some of those mannerisms in her acting, which is too bad, because in her quieter moments she is fine. Barrymore has the showiest part, and he makes the most of it, with his justly famous courtroom speech a highlight. Howard was a great actor in the right roles, but this wasn't one of them, and as in certain other films, he's pretty bland. But it's Clark Gable that impresses the most in one of his first roles. The film comes alive when he's on screen, bringing an intensity and explosiveness to his gangster character, and showing how even early on in his career he had the screen presence that would make him a legend. The writing is pretty good and the direction is a little creaky, but the film is worth a look as a worthy example of Hollywood filmmaking in the early days of sound.
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