State’s Attorney (1932)

Tom Cardigan (John Barrymore) is a prominent attorney handling the case of June Perry (Helen Twelvetrees), a pretty young woman arrested for tapping on mobster Valentine Powers’ window in a suggestive manner.

Luckily for June, Tom’s not just a prominent attorney but one with a high rate of success. After winning her case, the two strike up a romance. Though accused of prostitution, June is actually a very principled woman. She takes on a wife-like role for Tom, worrying over his health and the danger he’s sometimes put in by his career.

Tom is poised to become more well-known when he takes on a job as a prosecutor and is assigned a scandalous murder case. He begins to dream of governorship. But with a future in politics, can his relationship with June survive? And can he survive when a rival threatens his life?

State’s Attorney was directed by George Archainbaud.

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(Image via Greenbriar Picture Shows)

This film revolves around a murder case, but as the lawyer-focused title suggests, this is a courtroom drama rather than a murder mystery. The focus is more on Barrymore’s character than any of the cases he works, paying less attention to story than to showing off Cardigan’s courtroom dramatics and womanizing ways.

An exploration of both the attorney and his cases (or one prominent case) would have made for a fuller, more interesting film. As it exists, State’s Attorney is somewhat dull, though its performers are capable and bring a few gripping moments.

Helen Twelvetrees is quite captivating to watch. I’ve only seen a couple of her films but will be seeking out more of them, as she was one of the highlights of this film for me. Barrymore’s performance and his character’s showboating style of legal argument are interesting enough to watch, too.

The drama picks up closer to the end of the film, with a death threat and a related shooting entering the picture. It is at this point that my attention was truly grabbed by State’s Attorney, leaving little time for me to become truly invested in the film.

Overall, I’d say State’s Attorney is underwhelming if you go into it looking for a gripping legal drama, but worth watching if you’re a Barrymore fan.

 

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