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A Free Soul [VHS] (1931)

Norma Shearer , Leslie Howard , Clarence Brown  |  NR |  VHS Tape
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)

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Product Details

  • Actors: Norma Shearer, Leslie Howard, Lionel Barrymore, Clark Gable, James Gleason
  • Directors: Clarence Brown
  • Writers: Adela Rogers St. Johns, Becky Gardiner, John Meehan, Willard Mack
  • Producers: Clarence Brown, Irving Thalberg
  • Format: Black & White, NTSC
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Number of tapes: 1
  • Studio: MGM (Warner)
  • VHS Release Date: December 21, 1994
  • Run Time: 91 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: 6302004462
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #379,276 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Editorial Reviews

In this Academy Award-winning film, Stephen Ashe (Lionel_Barrymore) is a hotshot Californian lawyer from a well-to-do family, whose main failing is his indulgence in alcohol. After winning a case for mobster Ace Wilfong (Clark_Gable), Stephen brings his client along to a party at his parents' house for a little celebrating. However, when they arrive at their destination, Ace manages to steal the heart of Stephen's wild daughter, Jan (Norma_Shearer), and the two run off together, much to the family's dismay. Stephen struggles to win his foolhardy daughter back from the clutches of her lowlife boyfriend, as she defies her father at every turn.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Surprisingly Mature Melodrama For 1930's November 29, 2001
Format:VHS Tape
Norma Shearer stars as the free soul, a woman with bad judgement who falls in love with brutal crime king Clark Gable, a man recently defended in court by her alcoholic father, Lionel Barrymore. She's already engaged to polo champ Leslie Howard, a much better match in the eyes of her family. The film is surprisingly adult in its presentation of Shearer's relationship with Gable, as well as in Barrymore's alcoholism. The performances are a mixed bag. This was one of Shearer's early sound films, and she's still playing to the back row as if it were a silent film - lots of dramatic hand gestures and lurching about. She never completely lost some of those mannerisms in her acting, which is too bad, because in her quieter moments she is fine. Barrymore has the showiest part, and he makes the most of it, with his justly famous courtroom speech a highlight. Howard was a great actor in the right roles, but this wasn't one of them, and as in certain other films, he's pretty bland. But it's Clark Gable that impresses the most in one of his first roles. The film comes alive when he's on screen, bringing an intensity and explosiveness to his gangster character, and showing how even early on in his career he had the screen presence that would make him a legend. The writing is pretty good and the direction is a little creaky, but the film is worth a look as a worthy example of Hollywood filmmaking in the early days of sound.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Norma Shearer And Clark Gable Ignite The Screen January 21, 2004
Format:VHS Tape
For those of you like myself who normally associate the great Norma Shearer with refined and very ladylike roles, a viewing of Clarence Brown's "A Free Soul", is a wonderful illustration of the great versatility of this actress who sadly is forgotten by most audiences today. Married to the legendary Irving Thalberg who had visions of Norma becoming the dignified first Lady of MGM and appearing only in prestigious productions, Norma saw otherwise and delighted in tackling "racier" roles such as that in "A Free Soul". Here she is the "free soul" of the title where she most capably plays Jan Ashe a young free thinking daughter of defense lawyer Stephen Ashe who scandalises her family and "degrades", her social standing by seeing nothing wrong with living a life of excess and in finding love in certain "undesirable" environments. Considered racy stuff in 1931 it gave Norma Shearer a most challenging acting experience and succeeded in winning for Lionel Barrymore who played her alcoholic defense Lawyer father, an Academy Award as Best Actor of the year.
Based on the writings of Adela Rogers St. John, she apparently based the character of renegade and alcoholic Stephen Ashe on her own father, a brilliant but undisciplined lawyer of great merit. "A Free Soul",begins with Stephen defending crooked gangster and conman Ace Wilfong (Clark Gable in his mesmorizing breakthrough performance). Succeeding in getting him off his charges Ace and Jan find they have an instant attraction for each other despite their very different stations in life.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What a Moving, Heartfelt 95 minutes! August 9, 1999
By A Customer
Format:VHS Tape
Gable, Barrymore, Howard and Shearer are superbly cast as people from different worlds who cross paths in a tour-de-force film. The plot, timing, and acting efforts of all the stars are perfect! That applies mainly to Lionel Barrymore who won an Oscar for his down-to-earth performance as a free-swinging, drinking lawyer (look out for those courtroom scenes, especially the finale) and Clark Gable as an underworld gambler who is defended in court by Barrymore and in turn, falls in love with his daughter. A timeless classic by all means, this is a movie to watch over and over with the family.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars It Made Gable a Star November 26, 2001
Format:VHS Tape
For that reason alone, "A Free Soul" is worth a gander, but I think you'll find it interesting enough even without that distinction.
Norma Shearer is The Free Soul in question, a wealthy young woman who's looking for kicks and gets slaps in the face when she decides to walk on the wild side by dating Clark Gable, an underworld thug. At first she's turned on by the rough treatment she gets from Gable, especially as it disturbs her boring fiancee Leslie Howard. Her dad is something of a Free Soul too; Lionel Barrymore is an attorney who's squandered his abilities at the bottom of a bottle, a sort of black sheep role model for his impressionable daughter. Things go from bad to worse for Norma et al., and there's a murder and a sensational courtroom climax before we're done.
Just keep your eye on Gable--you'll see that you didn't need to be a crystal ball to tell that hunk was going to be a big star!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars love old 30ies movies March 29, 2010
Format:VHS Tape|Verified Purchase
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Good example of pre-code entertainment February 8, 2007
Format:VHS Tape
This film will probably never come out on DVD since it really doesn't have the kind of compelling screenplay or dialogue that still draws a large general audience like "It Happened One Night" does, for example. However, if you are a serious student of the early talkies and pre-code entertainment in particular, it is essential viewing. It has a great cast. Lionel Barrymore plays alcoholic defense attorney Stephen Ashe in a role that won him an academy award, and Norma Shearer plays his daughter Jan, the "Free Soul". Barrymore's performance is great, and he has the best lines of anyone in the film. He does a great job of projecting guilt over and shock at his daughter's behavior as well as giving us an idea of why he feels he must drink -"I must drink the way other men must breathe", he says at one point. Also, James Gleason shows why he was one of the great character actors of the 30's and 40's in his role as Barrymore's assistant, stealing several scenes. The rest of the cast seems to be a bit stuck in silent film-era performances, as they pose and posture for the camera and utter largely unmemorable dialogue. Much of this has to be the fault of the director, since many of the members of the cast - Norma Shearer and Clark Gable in particular - had given very good and natural performances in past "talkies".

The jist of the story is this - Stephen and his daughter Jan have always lived a lifestyle of which the rest of their socialite family disapproved. Stephen has always taught his daughter to go her own way and not pay attention to what other people think. Now this may be good advice when it has to do with priggish conventions rooted in tradition rather than right and wrong.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A 1931 MGM Classic.
Barrymore won an Oscar, Gable became a star in this hugely sucessful Depression- era melodrama from MGM Gable plays a racketeer- villain, Barrymore his lawyer whose daughter... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Thomas J Lombardo
3.0 out of 5 stars Great performances by Barrymore and Gable
Great performances by Barrymore and Gable. Barrymore won the Oscar for this realistic performance. Shearer and Howard gave there usual ham performances. Launched Gable's career. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Larry B.
5.0 out of 5 stars Norma Shearer Goes Too Far!
Norma Shearer comes from a pretty decent upstanding family but dad played by Lionel Barrymore is a worthless drunk who is a drain on the family. Read more
Published on February 16, 2012 by Lynn Ellingwood
5.0 out of 5 stars "A Free Soul (1931) ... Shearer/Barrymore/Howard/Gable ... Clarence...
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) presents "A FREE SOUL" (1931) (91 min/B&W) -- Starring: Norma Shearer, Leslie Howard, Lionel Barrymore, James Gleason, Clark Gable, Lucy Beaumont... Read more
Published on August 25, 2011 by J. Lovins
3.0 out of 5 stars Good story, bad storytelling
A Free Soul (1931, Metro, 93 minutes, dir.: Clarence Brown, starring Norma Shearer, co-starring Lionel Barrymore, Clark Gable, Leslie Howard): Drama about a young woman between... Read more
Published on February 3, 2010 by Tonio Gas
3.0 out of 5 stars Clark Gable breaks out...
& into stardom. He's pretty good too as as Ace, a two bit hood, heading for jail. He hooks up with his attorney's daughter, Jan. Read more
Published on September 19, 2005 by JOHN GODFREY
3.0 out of 5 stars So "Free" The Story Almost Flies Away
"A Free Soul" on paper seemed like a knock-out. I simply can't believe the movie doesn't reach the intensity and emotion that could have been. Read more
Published on July 10, 2004 by Alex Udvary
5.0 out of 5 stars a great film
Leslie Howard, Clark Gable, and Norma Shearer, are wonderful in "A Free Soul." It's a very moving love story. Norm is as beautiful as ever, with such charm and youth. Read more
Published on May 5, 2003 by Rosella Ann Myles
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