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Judge Priest

(1934 b 80')

En: 6 Ed: 5

A judge in a southern town helps his nephew get the right woman and rescues his nephew's first legal client by appealing to Confederate sentiment.

In 1890 Kentucky in court Judge William Priest (Will Rogers) reads the newspaper while Senator Horace Maydew (Berton Churchill) tries to prosecute a chicken thief. Jerome Priest (Tom Brown) returns from school as a lawyer and asks Ellie May Gillespie (Anita Louise) for a date; but she says no. Caroline Priest (Brenda Flower) criticizes Judge Priest's lack of dignity and objects to Jerome seeing the orphan Ellie. Clem Tally (Frank Melton) calls on Ellie; but Priest's made-up conversation about a shotgun scares him away. Priest sends Jerome to Ellie. Priest talks to the photo and tombstone of his late wife. Priest and Jeff Poindexter (Stepin Fetchit) go fishing.

At an ice cream festival Rev. Ashby Brand (Henry B. Walthall) tells Priest that Senator Maydew wants his job. At the barbershop Bob Gillis (David Landau) hits Clem Tally for bragging about being with Ellie. Later Clem and two others attack Gillis with billiard cues, and Clem is wounded by the knife of Gillis. Jerome tells Priest and Ellie that he got his first legal client in Gillis. Jerome's mother Caroline objects, but he goes ahead with the case.

In court Senator Maydew asks Judge Priest to disqualify himself. Priest says that has not happened in twenty years; but he asks Judge Fairleigh to take his place and walks out. Jerome shows that the witnesses were armed with billiard cues. Jerome and Ellie urge Gillis to say he was defending her; but he won't. Rev. Brand calls on Priest and tells him a confidence. Priest sends Jeff with an anonymous letter to Senator Maydew, who recalls Gillis. Priest joins the defense. Maydew asks Gillis about his murder conviction. Priest calls Rev. Brand, who tells how he fought for the Confederacy and took prisoners sentenced to life to fight in the battalion from hell. Brand describes how Gillis fought courageously and then provided for his daughter Ellie through him. People in court cheer and celebrate. Confederate veterans march in parade, and Gillis carries the flag.

The common-sense wisdom and humor of Judge Priest salvage this film that ends as a shameless celebration of Confederate war patriotism, which really should have had nothing to do with the trial. The politician Maydew is also satirized as an ambitious fool.

Copyright © 2000 by Sanderson Beck

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