A Free Soul
|A Free Soul|
theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Clarence Brown|
|Produced by||Clarence Brown
Irving Thalberg (uncredited)
|Written by||Dialogue continuity by
|Based on||A Free Soul (1927 novel)
by Adela Rogers St. Johns
A Free Soul (1928 play)
by Willard Mack (uncredited)
|Edited by||Hugh Wynn|
A Free Soul is a 1931 American pre-Code film that tells the story of an alcoholic San Francisco defense attorney who must defend his daughter's ex-boyfriend on a charge of murdering the mobster she had started a relationship with; a mobster whom her father had previously got an acquittal for on a murder charge. A Free Soul stars Norma Shearer, Leslie Howard, Lionel Barrymore, and Clark Gable.
A Free Soul became famous for a sequence where Barrymore delivers a monologue that is said to be the main reason he won the Academy Award for Best Actor that year. Gable made such an impression in the role of a gangster who pushes Shearer around that he was catapulted from supporting player to leading man, a position he held for the rest of his career.
- Norma Shearer as Jan Ashe
- Leslie Howard as Dwight Winthrop
- Lionel Barrymore as Stephen Ashe
- Clark Gable as Ace Wilfong
- James Gleason as Eddie
- Lucy Beaumont as Grandma Ashe
A Free Soul was written by John Meehan (dialogue continuity) and Becky Gardiner (adaptation) from the 1928 play by Willard Mack, which was based on the 1927 novel A Free Soul by Adela Rogers St. Johns. However, according to MGM publicity material, the story on which this film was based first appeared serially in Hearst's International with Cosmopolitan magazine starting in September 1926. Although onscreen credits list only the book by Adela Rogers St. Johns, contemporary reviews list both the novel and Willard Mack's play. Uncredited contribution is also assigned to Philip Dunning, Dorothy Farnum and John Lynch.
According to the Guinness World Records (2002), A Free Soul holds the record for the longest take in a commercial film, the final courtroom scene at 14 minutes. Since a reel of camera film lasts only 10 minutes, the take was achieved by using more than one camera.
The Canadian Pharmacists Association protested what they claimed was an unfair portrayal of druggists in the film. Minor deletions were made in the film by local censors following its release, and Ireland banned the film altogether. In 1936, the Production Code Administration recommended that the studio withdraw its application for reissue certification of the picture or face a possible rejection.
The film was a big hit - according to MGM records it earned $889,000 in the US and Canada and $533,000 elsewhere resulting in a profit of $244,000.
- Best Actor: Lionel Barrymore
A Free Soul was released on DVD by Warner Home Video on March 8, 2008 (along with The Divorcee, also starring Norma Shearer), as one of five Pre-Code films in the "TCM Archives - Forbidden Hollywood Collection, Vol. 2" DVD box set.
- "A Free Soul". American Film Institute. Retrieved March 5, 2014.
- The Eddie Mannix Ledger, Los Angeles: Margaret Herrick Library, Center for Motion Picture Study.
- Norma Shearer, "Free Soul," at Loews (The Reading Eagle, July 3, 1931, p. 10)
- "AMUSEMENTS / Norma Shearer, Loews, Stars in "A Free Soul" (The Reading Eagle, July 4, 1931, p. 10)
- "Norma Shearer in "A Free Soul," Loews (The Reading Eagle, July 5, 1931, p. 10) includes photo of Lionel Barrymore and Norma Shearer
- "Fox California Has Norma Shearer Film" (Berkeley Daily Gazette, July 20, 1931, p. three) includes sketched reproduction of Norma Shearer's face
- ""Every Word they told You is True" This is Norma Shearer's Best! / "A FREE SOUL"" (The Florence Times-News, August 10, 1931, p. three) includes photographs of Norma Shearer and other stories about the film and her career
- "A Free Soul". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved March 5, 2014.
- "The 4th Academy Awards (1931) Nominees and Winners". Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Retrieved 2014-02-27.