TCM Pick for April: Pre-Code
The TCM pre-Code pickings are slim in April, y’all. I didn’t have a whole lot to choose from, but there is a morning filled with Kay Francis pre-Code features on April 6th, and of these, I managed to find my pick of the month: Guilty Hands (1931), starring Lionel Barrymore, Madge Evans, and the aforementioned Francis. (Also featured is William Bakewell, who can be seen in one of my favorite pre-Code comedies, Three-Cornered Moon. It’s hard to find, but it’s hilarious, so if you ever get the chance . . . but I digress.)
Former District Attorney Richard Grant (Lionel Barrymore) is certain that he has the intelligence, skills, and know-how to commit the perfect murder, and he gets the opportunity to prove it when he’s unable to dissuade his beloved daughter, Barbara (Madge Evans), from her plans to marry Gordon Rich (Alan Mowbray), a thoroughly conscienceless womanizer.
My favorite scene in this 69-minute feature comes at the end – and it comes with a twist, so I won’t say more than that. (I promise!)
“You know, it’s a very interesting thing, Rich – I never thought of this much before, but you ought to have been killed years ago. You’re no good, you know. The world would be much better off without you.” Richard Grant (Lionel Barrymore)
- Madge Evans, who played Lionel Barrymore’s daughter in the film, portrayed his daughter again two years later in the star-studded hit Dinner at Eight (1933).
- Alan Mowbray made his screen debut a few months before Guilty Hands was released, and appeared in a total of six features that year. In 1933, he became one of the founding members of the Screen Actors Guild and served as its first vice-president.
- The film was directed by W.S Van Dyke, who also helmed such classics as Manhattan Melodrama, San Francisco, four of the films in the Thin Man series, and six features starring Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy. After directing his final film, Journey for Margaret (1942), and suffering from heart disease and cancer, Van Dyke committed suicide.
- The same year that he made Guilty Hands, Lionel Barrymore starred in A Free Soul, co-starring Norma Shearer and Clark Gable. Barrymore won an Academy Award for Best Actor for his performance in A Free Soul as an alcoholic defense attorney.
Check out Guilty Hands, airing on TCM on April 6th!