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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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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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5.0 out of 5 stars Great pre-Code father / daughter movie July 31 2001
By "alixy"
Format:VHS Tape
Stephen and Jan Ashe aren't your typical father/daughter team. Although both belong to a stuffy wealthy family, they are both free spirits who want to do their own thing. Jan's thing is an affair with a gangster named Ace Wilfong, who successfully beat a murder rap thanks to her dad's legal expertise! Stephen's thing is alcohol. Stephen's reaction to Jan's rejection of a suitable beau (played by Leslie Howard) and the pursuit of Wilfong leads them into a deal where Jan agrees to give up Wilfong, and Stephen gives up the bottle. When Stephen returns to drinking, Jan returns to Wilfong, and her former fiancee settles the score when Wilfong tries to get rough with her. The courtroom scene at the end of the movie is excellent and moving, as Stephen defends her former fiancee in court.
Lionel Barrymore won an Oscar for his portrayal of Stephen Ashe and deserved it. He is a fine, underrated actor and his performance in "A Free Soul" deserves to be seen by audiences of today. Norma Shearer is also memorable as Jan, and fans of Gable will enjoy him as the rotten gangster, Ace Wilfong. This movie comes highly recommended.
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4.0 out of 5 stars It Made Gable a Star Nov. 26 2001
Format:VHS Tape
For that reason alone, "A Free Soul" is worth a gander, but I think you'll find it interesting enough even without that distinction.
Norma Shearer is The Free Soul in question, a wealthy young woman who's looking for kicks and gets slaps in the face when she decides to walk on the wild side by dating Clark Gable, an underworld thug. At first she's turned on by the rough treatment she gets from Gable, especially as it disturbs her boring fiancee Leslie Howard. Her dad is something of a Free Soul too; Lionel Barrymore is an attorney who's squandered his abilities at the bottom of a bottle, a sort of black sheep role model for his impressionable daughter. Things go from bad to worse for Norma et al., and there's a murder and a sensational courtroom climax before we're done.
Just keep your eye on Gable--you'll see that you didn't need to be a crystal ball to tell that hunk was going to be a big star!
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars "A Free Soul (1931) ... Shearer/Barrymore/Howard/Gable ... Clarence...
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... Read more
Published on Aug. 25 2011 by J. Lovins
3.0 out of 5 stars So "Free" The Story Almost Flies Away
"A Free Soul" on paper seemed like a knock-out. I simply can't believe the movie doesn't reach the intensity and emotion that could have been. Read more
Published on July 10 2004 by Alex Udvary
5.0 out of 5 stars "A Free Soul"
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... Read more
Published on March 6 2004 by Pepper
4.0 out of 5 stars Classic '30s Movie
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... Read more
Published on Sept. 17 2002 by Mitch
5.0 out of 5 stars AN ACE TO YOUR FACE
Lionel Barrymore shines in his interpretation of Stephen Ashe, a brilliant but alcoholic lawyer who succeeds in defending dashing gangster Ace Wilfong (30 year-old Gable) on a... Read more
Published on Jan. 3 2000 by "scotsladdie"
5.0 out of 5 stars What a Moving, Heartfelt 95 minutes!
Gable, Barrymore, Howard and Shearer are superbly cast as people from different worlds who cross paths in a tour-de-force film. Read more
Published on Aug. 9 1999
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