The Mouthpiece (1932)

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Flack
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The Mouthpiece (1932)

Post by Flack »

The Mouthpiece was released in 1932, a couple of years after the Hays Code had been presented to Hollywood but two years before it was being strictly enforced. The Hays Code forbid nudity, blasphemy, interracial relationships, and provided strict guidance on how everything from rape to lustful kissing and surgical operations would be presented to audiences. One by product of the Hays Code was that criminals were strictly prohibited from both getting away with a crime and keeping the money (they could do one or the other, but not both). Because of this, movies from the late 20s and early 30s are often very different from movies released over the next 20-30 years.

The Mouthpiece stars Warren William as Vince Day, a prosecuting attorney with a reputation for going for the juggler. In the opening scene, he convicts a man who goes to the electric chair. Seconds after the man is executed, Day learns the man was actually innocent. He is so stricken with guilt that he changes sides and decides to become a defense attorney instead.

On the other side of the courtroom, Day is just as wily. When a man on the stand claims he couldn't be knocked out by someone the size of Day, Day slugs him in the chin and knocks the man out cold in the courtroom. While defending a criminal who was accused of poisoning a man, Day opens the vial and gulps the poison in the courtroom, proving the poison wasn't lethal. Moments after his client is acquitted, Day rushes across the street to see a surgeon who is waiting to pump his stomach. (The poison was slow acting and took an hour to kick in.)

Day develops a crush on Celia Farraday, a new hire for his firm that Day's assistant refers to as "jailbait and dumb." Despite knowing that Celia is engaged, he invites her to dinner, and later servers her drinks and forces a kiss upon her. As Day is the star of the film, it makes it a bit tough to like him. He keeps her employed for her looks, not her brains.

Day: Did you type this?
Celia: Yes.
Day: Did you use both hands?
Celia: Yes.
Day: Are you sure you didn't bring in a foot?


But Day has bigger problems when he goes on the take with local gangsters, whom he repeatedly defends even though he knows they're guilty. Things get complicated when one of the gangsters steals a large amount of bonds and pins the crime on Celia's finace.

And here's where the Hays Code comes in, and why these movies are so much fun. When Day's relationship with the gangsters goes south and threats are made, the gangsters -- who still have the stolen bonds -- gun Day down in broad daylight. Day staggers to a car and while bleeding, appears to slip away on his way to the hospital.

It's great! They don't make 'em like this anymore!
"Jack Flack always escapes." -Davey Osborne