A Free Soul

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
A Free Soul
A Free Soul (1931) film poster.jpg
Directed by Clarence Brown
Produced by Irving Thalberg
Written by Becky Gardiner
Willard Mack
John Meehan
Adela Rogers St. Johns
Starring Norma Shearer
Leslie Howard
Lionel Barrymore
Clark Gable
Distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release dates
June 20, 1931 (1931-06-20)
Running time
91 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $529,000[1]
Box office $1,422,000[1]

A Free Soul is a 1931 Pre-Code film which tells the story of an alcoholic 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 (the first screen appearance together of the future Ashley Wilkes and Rhett Butler).

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.[2] 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.[3]



The movie was adapted by Becky Gardiner and John Meehan (dialogue continuity) from the play by Willard Mack, which was based on the novel 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.[3]

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.[3]

A Free Soul was voted "One of the Ten Best Pictures of 1931" by the Film Daily Nationwide Poll.[3]

Box Office[edit]

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.[1]

Academy Awards[edit]


Home Video[edit]

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.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c The Eddie Mannix Ledger, Los Angeles: Margaret Herrick Library, Center for Motion Picture Study .
  2. ^ "A Free Soul". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved March 5, 2014.
  3. ^ a b c d "A Free Soul". American Film Institute. Retrieved March 5, 2014.
  4. ^ "The 4th Academy Awards (1931) Nominees and Winners". Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Retrieved 2014-02-27. 

External links[edit]