Society Lawyer (1939)

77-78 mins | Drama | 21 March 1939

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HISTORY

Working titles for this film were Penthouse and Night in Manhattan . Arthur Somer Roche's novel also appeared as a serial in Hearst's International-Cosmopolitan (publication date undetermined). According to a HR pre-production news item, Melvyn Douglas was originally slated to star opposite Virginia Bruce. Society Lawyer was actor Herbert Mundin's last film before his death in 1939. A Mar 1939 HR news item notes that a plagiarism suit filed by Robert Brister and Harry T. Bliven against M-G-M for use of the title was dismissed on 6 Mar 1939. The picture was a remake of the 1933 M-G-M film Penthouse (see above). Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett, who wrote the screenplay for the 1933 film, received co-writing credit with Leon Gordon and Hugo Butler. Although Goodrich and Hacket were still working at M-G-M in 1939, it is probable that their contribution to Society Lawyer was solely the work they did on Penthouse . Many scenes and lines of dialogue in the two films are ... More Less

Working titles for this film were Penthouse and Night in Manhattan . Arthur Somer Roche's novel also appeared as a serial in Hearst's International-Cosmopolitan (publication date undetermined). According to a HR pre-production news item, Melvyn Douglas was originally slated to star opposite Virginia Bruce. Society Lawyer was actor Herbert Mundin's last film before his death in 1939. A Mar 1939 HR news item notes that a plagiarism suit filed by Robert Brister and Harry T. Bliven against M-G-M for use of the title was dismissed on 6 Mar 1939. The picture was a remake of the 1933 M-G-M film Penthouse (see above). Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett, who wrote the screenplay for the 1933 film, received co-writing credit with Leon Gordon and Hugo Butler. Although Goodrich and Hacket were still working at M-G-M in 1939, it is probable that their contribution to Society Lawyer was solely the work they did on Penthouse . Many scenes and lines of dialogue in the two films are identical. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
24 Mar 39
p. 3.
Film Daily
3 Apr 39
p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter
16 Jan 39
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
10 Feb 39
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
18 Feb 39
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
7 Mar 39
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
16 Mar 39
p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter
25 Mar 39
p. 4.
Motion Picture Daily
28 Mar 39
p. 5.
Motion Picture Herald
1 Apr 39
p. 30.
New York Times
31 Mar 39
p. 19.
Variety
5 Apr 39
p. 15.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
PHOTOGRAPHY
Photog
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Art dir assoc
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
SET DECORATOR
Set dec
COSTUMES
Ward
MUSIC
Mus dir
Mus dir
Mus score
Orch
SOUND
Rec dir
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel Penthouse by Arthur Somers Roche (New York, 1935).
SONGS
"I'm in Love with the Honorable Mr. So & So," words and music by Sam Coslow.
COMPOSER
DETAILS
Alternate Titles:
Penthouse
Night in Manhattan
Release Date:
21 March 1939
Production Date:
10 February--3 March 1939
Copyright Claimant:
Loew's Inc.
Copyright Date:
31 March 1939
Copyright Number:
LP8769
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Sound System
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
77-78
Length(in reels):
8
Country:
United States
PCA No:
5198
Passed by NBR:
Yes
SYNOPSIS

Socialite Sue Leonard thinks that her fiancé, society lawyer Christopher Durant, should stop defending gangsters such as Tony Gazotti, whom he has just gotten acquitted on a murder charge. That opinion is shared by Chris's conservative law firm, headed by Sue's father, who reluctantly asks Chris to resign. Sue breaks her engagement to Chris, who graciously gives his blessing to her relationship with their mutual friend, Phil Siddall. Phil then severes his ties to Judy Barton, angering Judy enough to threaten him and call her old boyfriend, gangster Jim Crelliman. Crelliman is still angry with Judy for throwing him over for Phil, but pretends that he still cares for her. After she arrives at a party at Crelliman's apartment, he insists that she publicly tell Phil, whom he has also invited to the party, they are through. At the party, Crelliman asks them to go out on the terrace, and while he is dancing with someone else, shots are heard, and Phil is discovered standing over Judy's body with a revolver. The next morning, Sue asks Chris's help to defend Phil, and he agrees. Despite the evidence, Chris believes in Phil's innocence and asks Tony, who is Crelliman's rival, for help. Tony then introduces Chris to Pat Abbott, a singer in Tony's nightclub, who was Judy's friend and upstairs neighbor. She agrees to help Chris and stay at his apartment until the case is settled. When police Lieutenant Stevens, a friend of Chris, shows him photos of Judy's body, he is convinced that she could not have been shot by Phil, but by someone from above the terrace. By accident, ... +


Socialite Sue Leonard thinks that her fiancé, society lawyer Christopher Durant, should stop defending gangsters such as Tony Gazotti, whom he has just gotten acquitted on a murder charge. That opinion is shared by Chris's conservative law firm, headed by Sue's father, who reluctantly asks Chris to resign. Sue breaks her engagement to Chris, who graciously gives his blessing to her relationship with their mutual friend, Phil Siddall. Phil then severes his ties to Judy Barton, angering Judy enough to threaten him and call her old boyfriend, gangster Jim Crelliman. Crelliman is still angry with Judy for throwing him over for Phil, but pretends that he still cares for her. After she arrives at a party at Crelliman's apartment, he insists that she publicly tell Phil, whom he has also invited to the party, they are through. At the party, Crelliman asks them to go out on the terrace, and while he is dancing with someone else, shots are heard, and Phil is discovered standing over Judy's body with a revolver. The next morning, Sue asks Chris's help to defend Phil, and he agrees. Despite the evidence, Chris believes in Phil's innocence and asks Tony, who is Crelliman's rival, for help. Tony then introduces Chris to Pat Abbott, a singer in Tony's nightclub, who was Judy's friend and upstairs neighbor. She agrees to help Chris and stay at his apartment until the case is settled. When police Lieutenant Stevens, a friend of Chris, shows him photos of Judy's body, he is convinced that she could not have been shot by Phil, but by someone from above the terrace. By accident, Pat reveals that Judy used to pawn things with a man named Frederick Schmidt, who is a friend of Crelliman's and the same man who swore that Phil bought the murder weapon from him. After questioning Schmidt, Chris learns from Tony that Schmidt has just been murdered. Searching for clues in Pat's apartment, which overlooks the terrace where Judy was killed, Chris is interrupted by Crelliman, who threatens Chris, then draws a gun. Chris overpowers him and escapes, then enters the apartment of Crelliman's henchman, Tim Murtock, with a passkey provided by Tony, and discovers that it has the exact angle from which Judy was shot. With the aid of the elevator operator, Chris gets away from the building and is found by Tony, who tells him the name of the bar where Murtock is. Seeing Pat leave the bar with Murtock, Chris becomes angry, then summons Stevens to Crelliman's apartment. When Pat arrives, she tells him that she lured Murtock away from his apartment for Chris's protection and Chris realizes that he has fallen in love with her. He then asks Pat to go to Crelliman's and get him onto the terrace, while Chris takes Stevens to Murtock's apartment to observe. By pretending to be working on a frame-up of his own, Chris gets a confession out of Murtock, who admits that he shot Judy for Crelliman. Now seeing that Pat is in danger, Chris and the police go to Crelliman's apartment and find that Tony shot Crelliman to save Pat and was mortally wounded himself. Back at Chris's, his butler Layton eavesdrops on a call from Sue and tells Pat that Chris is going to marry her and take them all to Europe. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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