Skip to content

Frank's Movie Log

My life at the movies.

For the Defense

1930 | United States | 65 min | More...
A still from For the Defense (1930)
C: 3 stars (out of 5)
on Sun Sep 13, 2020

Powell plays Bill Foster, a slick defense lawyer so well-respected in the underworld that when his car’s stolen, the crooks return it after getting a look at the registration.

Bill’s seeing a showgirl, Irene, played by Kay Francis. Irene wants Bill to marry her, but Bill says he’s not the marrying kind. Irene’s also seeing another guy, Jack, behind Bill’s back. Jack’s nice enough, but he lacks Bill’s swagger. Jack wants to marry Irene, but Irene just strings him along, hoping Bill will come around.

Early one morning, Irene’s driving Jack home after a late night out. Pie-eyed drunk, Jack gropes at her, causing her to swerve and kill a stranded motorist. Jack insists Irene flee the scene and takes the manslaughter rap alone.

Irene persuades Bill to take Jack’s case without revealing her involvement. Things look bad for Jack. Bill soon realizes Irene’s role in the accident and must choose between her reputation and Jack’s liberty.

As melodramas go, it’s not a bad one. Early on, when Bill’s riding high, his urbane charm, affinity for alcohol1, and underworld connections foreshadow Powell’s famous turn as Nick Charles in The Thin Man. His chemistry with Francis is good, and she doesn’t overact her part.

But the film sees both of them delivering lines and, mid-sentence, turning to gaze at nothing in particular for dramatic effect. It’s an annoying affectation that mars an otherwise solid hour and five minutes.

  1. Look fast for Gabby Hayes as a speakeasy waiter.

Viewing History

    Watched on
    Sun Sep 13, 2020 via
    Watched on
    Sat Oct 04, 2014 via TCM