A Free Soul (1931)
A Free Soul is the film that got Clark Gable recognized. A society girl played by Norma Shearer uses gangster Clark Gable as a boy toy. Gable loves her and wants to marry. He didn’t seem like that bad of a character aside from his gangster career but towards the end he becomes a possessive brute capable of anything. This change was too fast for me but most viewers consider Gable the bad guy from the beginning of the film. Shearer, not Gable, was the abusive one in my opinion but my perspective is the minority.
It gets great reviews but I found it so-so. One of my best friends idolizes Norma Shearer and he isn’t alone. She’s got a big following. I, on the other hand, have never been fond of her. I think I have issues with her early 30s films because she still acts like a silent actress. Her performance in the silent The Student Prince of Old Heidelberg never bothered me. I enjoyed it but can’t say the same for her talkies. Her bad posture is also bothersome but it was the style back then to hunch over. Shearer stretches her arms a lot so we can see her armpits. I’ve never been found of armpit shots. Nevertheless her Adrian gowns are gorgeous. I admire this one slitted skin-tight lame lounge dress that she wore as she waited for Gable. Lucky girl.
My wonderful Lionel Barrymore received an Oscar for his portrayal of Shearer’s alcoholic lawyer dad. His early courtroom scene is reminiscent of OJ Simpson’s murder case. Poor Leslie Howard plays the perfect gentleman but unfortunately viewers forget he does something very bad toward the end. His character is unjustly called “boring.”