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Alcoholic lawyer sobers up to defend friend in murder case.
James Ragan, a brilliant criminal lawyer is fed up with his lucrative practice and longs to retire to a quiet judgeship, but his reputation for legal, if not always ethical, courtroom tricks sidetracks his desire and he continues with his chosen profession. Afrer several exciting (and episodic) cases, requiring all his talents, including defending his personal bodyguard, "Moose" Hendrcks on a murder charge,he eventually get an appointment and becomes known as Judge Ragan.
This Columbia 1951 programmer has no connection to the RKO film of 1937. But then again it does have a connection to the vast multitude of legal films that trot out the shady-but-ultimately-noble defense lawyer character. This time that character is played by Pat O'Brien. At least O'Brien modulates his performance, keeping away from his usual brassy, fast-talking, finger-jut-to-the-lapel style. In fact, he's rather subdued, chiefly because he goes on a binge-drinking tailspin every time he feels guilty about the consequences of his shady tactics. Oddly, nobody else amongst his staff seems to mind his shenanigans one bit, including Jane Wyatt's seemingly upright citizen character who is curiously written as unquestioning and ever-faithful. It's just a b-movie of modest ambitions, but there's little action, little humor, and little threat to the main characters. The worst thing O'Brien faces is a guilty conscience and the loss of a judgeship. The best thing in the movie is Mike Mazurki. Not that he was ever a great actor, but his usually small appearances as nothing more than a thuggish prop in so many films makes his work in this film notable. He actually gets to play a thinking, normal, even smiling, human being. Sure, he's playing an ex-wrestler bodyguard named Moose, but he also shows a caring side by keeping watch over O'Brien, and is even wearing an apron and cooking in one scene! I believe he also gets more lines to speak in this film than any other he ever appeared in. And there's also a small part of a witness played by the ubiquitous Charles Lane. Of Lane, there's probably no other more famous "face" in Hollywood who appeared in so many movies without being credited.
Pat O&#39;Brien stars in this B film programmer as a most successful criminal attorney well aware that he&#39;s called shyster behind his back and occasionally to his face. As we see in the film this man has a lot of tricks up his sleeve to get clients off. But he&#39;d really like to become a judge and leave it all behind. <br/><br/>His skills are way to valuable and the best scenes in the film are those with the extralegal methods he uses to gain acquittals. He&#39;s got a nice team of associates including secretary Jane Wyatt, office boy Marvin Kaplan, and general factotum Mike Mazurki. He also has an ambitious and treacherous associate in Robert Shayne who wants to take over.<br/><br/>O&#39;Brien&#39;s unsavory reputation has also kept him from the bench as the Bar Assocation and the white shoe lawyers that run it like Carl Benton Reid keep O&#39;Brien from the judgeship. Then when Reid has need of O&#39;Brien he has a miraculous conversion in his thinking.<br/><br/>Mazurki stands out in this film one of his best performances and he too needs O&#39;Brien in the end. His best scene is with Wyatt when he tells her why he&#39;s just become O&#39;Brien&#39;s factotum. In the supporting cast the unbilled Mary Alan Hokanson has one great scene with O&#39;Brien as the widow of a man who was killed in a motor vehicle incident that O&#39;Brien gets the driver off.<br/><br/>By the way, the way O&#39;Brien does it is one for the books.<br/><br/>Criminal Lawyer, almost criminal not to watch it.


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