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.)

The plot:

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.

It's not my favorite scene, but I love this shot.

Favorite scene:

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!)

Favorite quote:

“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)

Other stuff:

  • 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!

~ by shadowsandsatin on April 3, 2012.

9 Responses to “TCM Pick for April: Pre-Code”

  1. I love this movie! Definitely one of the best Pre-Codes I’ve stumbled upon. There’s just so much wonderful menace being exuded on all sides, and Francis as the one accusing the person investigating the murder as being the killer is delish. She’s so damn good in this. Good pick!

  2. Karen!
    this post bugged me so much today, because I was so sure I’d seen this movie already but the plot didn’t sound at all familiar– so, first free time I got today I pulled it, sat down and just now finished watching it. Turned out I hadn’t seen this, and am SO SO grateful you didn’t spoil the wild ending! totally did not see that one coming! love the exchange between Barrymore & Mowbray (paraphrasing): “I’m going to murder you! ” “I’d like to see you try!” “Just watch me!” and so on. Such a cool movie with a neat cast, thanks for the great suggestion!


    • I’m so glad you got a chance to check it out, Kristina — and so glad that you’re the one who gave it to me! 🙂 I enjoyed that exchange between Barrymore and Mowbray, too — in fact, I almost used it as my favorite quote, and I remember watching it more than once!

  3. My DVR is set for this. Will definitely now check it out!

  4. Karen, I haven’t seen this one and am really looking forward to it after your review has whetted my appetite! I LOVE precodes. I don’t have a DVR, so I plan to set the alarm and enjoy! Fun article!

  5. Ooh, this looks good! Thanks for recommending.

  6. I see TCM has set tomorrow morning aside for several Kay Francis pre codes. Should be fun.

  7. […] HANDS – Ok this one I read about at Karen’s Shadows&Satin, and was positive I had and recently watched, but her post on the plot wasn’t ringing any bells, […]

  8. […] This slightly offbeat pre-Code has two main things going for it – Kay Francis (who could be on screen doing her nails and I’d watch) and the unexpected ending. It’s all about a former district attorney who is certain that he has the skills and the know-how to commit the perfect murder – and gets the chance to test his theory when his daughter turns up with a notorious no-goodnik on her arm. The film also stars Lionel Barrymore, by the way – always a good sign, in my book. Read more about Guilty Hands here. […]

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