Movieland Mystery Photo (Updated + + + +)

Sept. 21, 2019, State's Attorney
This week’s mystery movie was the 1932 RKO picture “State’s Attorney,” with John Barrymore, Helen Twelvetrees, Jill Esmond, Ralph Ince, William Boyd, Albert Conti, Mary Duncan, Frederick Burton, C. Henry Gordon, Paul Hurst and Oscar Apfel.

Associate producer James Kevin McGuinness, screenplay and dialogue by Gene Fowler and Rowland Brown, from a story by Louis Stevens. Art director Carroll Clark, photography by Leo Tover, recorded by George Ellis, edited by Charles L. Kimball. Directed by George Archainbaud, executive producer by David O. Selznick.

“State’s Attorney” is available on DVD from Warner Archive.

After last week’s “Counsellor at Law,” I thought it would be interesting to dip into other Pre-Code films in the Daily Mirror’s vaults. “State’s Attorney” wasn’t my first choice, but my preferred picture wasn’t available.

“State’s Attorney” was made made shortly after David O. Selznick took over at RKO in November 1931 and was John Barrymore’s first film for the studio. The film is mainly useful to demonstrate the skill with which William Wyler reined in Barrymore’s excesses while George Archainbaud let him run free – or at least off leash from time to time. The story about a mob lawyer who is jumps the fence to the district attorney’s office and goes straight is also weak and improbable. The plot most resembles a creaky old story found in a musty and moldering copy of the Saturday Evening Post.

Leo Tover’s photography is excellent and he went on to have a long career that included “The Day the Earth Stood Still,” “The Snake Pit” and (yes) “The Conqueror.” He was nominated for Academy Awards for black and white photography for “The Heiress” and “Hold Back the Dawn.”

RKO originally borrowed screenwriter Rowland Brown from Universal to direct the picture, and Mary Astor was originally cast as the second female lead. One film magazine reported that shooting was postponed after Barrymore was injured in a car accident, although I haven’t been able to confirm this in news accounts of the period. Helen Twelvetrees, meanwhile, had been let go by Fox because of a perceived lack of personality.

Writing in the New York Times (May  6,1932), Mordaunt Hall said:

Like Warren William in “The Mouthpiece,” which is now at the Winter Garden, John Barrymore impersonates a shady, astute lawyer in “State’s Attorney,” a picture which came to the Mayfair last night….

It is a highly fictional film story with incidents that are not especially pleasant. Some of the doings surprised the audience and although these sequences aroused laughter, they are not really necessary to the story. It is, nevertheless, for the most part a good entertainment, but it is not life. It has its smart patter and spectacular stunts in courtrooms that hold one’s attention, but the pivotal idea of a youth who has served a term in a reform school blossoming into an attorney for a murderous racketeer and then being elected district attorney is hard to swallow.

Perhaps Mr. Barrymore tackles the role with the necessary sense of humor, although he is not the restrained player he has been in other films. His acting, however, is ingratiating, although he is handicapped by George Archainbaud’s hard and fast direction and the zealousness of the script writers to put a punch into their work or sink rather low in their hope to arouse laughter.

Film Daily (May 8, 1932) said:

The authors tried to crowd in the highlights from several recent sensational New York City trials, and with Barrymore first a crooked criminal lawyer turning state’s attorney, the action and plot are pretty scrambly. It is very episodic and continuity quite jumpy. A very conscious straining to give Barrymore a chance to strut his histrionics and be theatrical in his court room scenes is evident, and this throws the story out of kilter. Nevertheless, it proves a good vehicle for the screen star and as such it must be judged rather than on the merits or demerits of the story. The Barrymore profile is very much in evidence in close-ups throughout and no doubt the ladies will go for this in a big way. But Barrymore’s lightning change act from crooked lawyer to upright state’s attorney, throwing over the girl who was his intimate pal, marrying another while drunk, then back to his first love in the finale, lacks conviction.

For Monday, we have a mystery gent. His companion has been cropped out due to insufficient mysteriousness.

Update: Here is the uncropped version of the image, showing John Barrymore and Oscar Smith.

Sept. 17, 2019, Mystery Photo

For Tuesday, we have this mystery gent.

Update: This fellow was quite puzzling and identifying him is a challenge. The dialogue identifies him as James Domino, which tends to eliminate him as Albert Conti, who plays Mario. The cast list can be quite thin in some of these Pre-Codes. Some of the trades have more extensive cast lists, including people not included in the IMDB page, but these folks are really obscure and hard to identify. Whenever I post mystery guests whose identification is questionable, it’s always in the hopes that the Brain Trust will conclusively identify them.

Sept. 17, 2019, Mystery Photo
We also have these two mystery gents. They are amused by such goings-on.

Update: I originally thought the man on the left was Gladden James, but now I’m less less convinced. On the right, Frank Mills.

Sept. 18, 2019, Mystery Photo

For Wednesday, we have a mysterious pair of legs…

Sept. 18, 2019, Mystery Photo

… that belong to this mystery guest.

Update: This is Mary Duncan.

Sept. 8, 2019, Mystery Photo

We also have this mystery woman.

Update: This is Jill Esmond.

Sept. 18, 2019, Mystery Photo

And finally, a very serious mystery woman who most certainly does not approve of such goings-on.

Update: This is Blanche Friderici.

Sept. 19, 2019, Mystery Photo

For Thursday, we have a mystery gent in a three-piece suit. And you know what? He doesn’t approve of such goings-on.

Sept. 20, 2019, Mystery Photo
Update: This is William “Stage” Boyd.

And here he is with Helen Twelvetrees.

Sept. 19, 2019, Mystery Photo
And look who else we have. He objects strongly to such goings-on.

Update: This is Leon Wycoff (sometimes Waycoff), later Leon Ames.

Brain Trust roll call: Dan Nather (mystery movie and Wednesday’s mystery guests) and  Howard Mandelbaum (mystery movie, Tuesday’s mystery newsmen and Wednesday’s mystery guests).

Sept. 20, 2019, Mystery Photo

And for Friday, our mystery leading man and mystery leading lady.

Update: This is Helen Twelvetrees and John Barrymore.

Brain Trust roll call: Mary Mallory (mystery movie and Monday’s mystery guest, Tuesday’s Mystery Reporter No. 2, Wednesday’s mystery guests, and Thursday’s mystery guests), Tucson Barbara (mystery movie, Monday’s mystery guest, Tuesday’s Mystery Reporter No. 2, Wednesday’s mystery guests and Thursday’s mysterious prosecutor), David Inman (mystery movie, Wednesday’s mystery judge and Thursday’s mystery prosecutor), Howard Mandelbaum (Thursday’s mystery guests), Gary (Thursday’s mystery prosecutor), Sarah (Thursday’s mystery prosecutor),  Dan Nather (Monday’s mystery gent and Thursday’s Mystery Gent No. 1), Thom and Megan (mystery movie, Wednesday’s Mystery Woman No. 2 and Wednesday’s mystery judge) and Sylvia E. (mystery movie, Monday’s mystery gent, Tuesday’s Mystery Reporter No. 2,  Wednesday’s mystery women and mystery judge, and Thursday’s mystery guests).

About lmharnisch

I am retired from the Los Angeles Times
This entry was posted in 1932, Film, Hollywood, Mystery Photo and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

40 Responses to Movieland Mystery Photo (Updated + + + +)

  1. Mary Mallory says:

    Sam McDaniel.


  2. Howard Mandelbaum says:

    Fred ‘Snowflake’ Toones.


  3. Gary says:

    Fred Snowflake Toones in Tall, Dark, and Handsome.


  4. Sylvia E. says:

    Just for the heck of it, I’m going to guess that Monday’s image is Fred ‘Snowflake’ Toones. Sort of looks like him and he played a lot of this type of role.


  5. Don Danard says:

    “Insufficent mysteriousness”.
    Now, there’s a line worth keeping!!!


  6. Tuesday’s gentleman is Clark Burroughs


  7. Monday’s star is Sam McDaniel


  8. Dan Nather says:

    Now I got it! The movie is STATE’S ATTORNEY (1932), John Barrymore’s previous foray into the legal profession. Mary Duncan on the stand (the one with the legs!). I think Jill Esmond and Blanch Frederici (the night court judge) round out today’s mysterious folk. Still can’t place anybody else (I think Oscar Apfel may be on the left in the third picture). I’m going to have to look at the DVD again!


  9. Howard Mandelbaum says:

    Monday: Oscar Smith
    Tuesday: Mitchell Harris, James Donlan
    Wednesday: Mary Duncan; Jill Esmond; Blanche Friderici


  10. Howard Mandelbaum says:

    Monday: Oscar Smith
    Wednesday: Mary Duncan; Jill Esmond; Blanche Friderici


  11. Howard Mandelbaum says:

    Tuesday: Reporters Edward Hearn, Frank Mills.


  12. Don Danard says:

    The “very Serious Mystery Lady is Almira Sessions I think.


  13. Sylvia E. says:

    I just realized that you’ve gone with a theme of ‘comic courtroom’ flicks for this week and last. Only ‘kinda’ helps though. It’s still been fun.

    I’m going to guess this time that Monday’s guy is Charles R. Moore, because he (as did Mr. Toones) played a lot of this type of role.


  14. Mary Mallory says:

    I originally thought of this film, but didn’t remember a lady judge. STATE’S ATTORNEY. Oscar Smith Monday with John Barrymore as BOTH guy, Hooper Atchley Tuesday, Mary Duncan, Jill Esmond, and Blanche Friderici yesterday, and William “Stage” Boyd and Leon Ames today.


  15. Mary Mallory says:

    Forgot Sam Ash and Frank Mills on Tuesday.


  16. tucsonbarbara says:

    “State’s Attorney”

    Mon – Oscar Smith
    Tues – Frank Mills
    Wed – Mary Duncan, Jill Esmond, Blanche Friderici
    Thurs – Leon Ames


  17. David Inman says:

    Leon Ames today, Blanche Frederici (or Friderici) as the mystery woman, making this “State’s Attorney” with John Barrymore — a Barrymore lawyer flick for the second week in a row!


  18. Howard Mandelbaum says:

    William ‘Stage’ Boyd, Leon Ames.


  19. Gary says:

    Leon Ames.


  20. Sarah says:

    Thursday’s mystery gent is Leon Ames.


  21. Dan Nather says:

    I think that’s Oscar Smith on Monday. William “Stage” Boyd today, but I’m not sure who the sweaty gentleman following him is. (Maybe he’s the one responsible for such goings-on.)


  22. Thom and Megan says:

    Our mystery movie is State’s Attorney with Leon Ames and William ‘Stage’ Boyd for Thursday, Blanche Friderici as the judge, and Jill Esmond as the second guest for Wednesday.


  23. Sylvia E. says:

    Aha Thursday again.

    The movie is State’s Attorney 1932
    Mon. – Oscar Smith looking at an o.s. John Barrymore
    Tues. – Albert Conti in the witness box is image #1 / Frank Mills is the guy screen right, but I’m not sure about the guy he’s talking to. I’m going to guess Paul Hurst, but I’m not sure at all.
    Weds. – Mary Duncan’s legs followed by demurely veiled, Mary Duncan in the witness box being grilled by o.s. J.B., Jill Esmond in the classy chapeau and the lady judge is Blanche Friderici (very progressive in my opinion for 1932)
    Thur. – image #1 is William Stage Boyd (I think) and image #2 a very young Leon Ames


  24. Mary Mallory says:

    Finally Helen Twelvetrees and John Barrymore.


  25. tucsonbarbara says:

    Helen Twelvetrees and John Barrymore


  26. Howard Mandelbaum says:

    Helen Twelvetrees, John Barrymore.


  27. Gary says:

    So we’re having a John Barrymore retrospective. I might add that that is the first time I have ever seen, to my knowledge, a photograph of Helen Twelvetrees. To me that has always been an apocryphal name.


  28. Gary says:

    Counselor at Law and now State’s Attorney.Is there a judgeship in our future?


  29. Sylvia E. says:

    Friday – Helen Twelvetrees and John Barrymore

    For the Tuesday ‘guy in the witness box’ I only have the character’s name: James Domino.


  30. Dan Nather says:

    And here’s the leads . . . Helen Twelvetrees and John Barrymore.


  31. Mary Mallory says:

    The Tuesday guy is NOT Albert Conti. He was tall, thin, and older with a continental look, since he was foreign.


  32. Don Danard says:

    I wonder just how many movie goers these days even know who John Barrymore was?


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