Cast & Crew
At the bustling Manhattan law offices of Simon and Tedesco, highly successful Jewish attorney George Simon, who has risen from the slums of New York, returns to his roots when he bails out Sarah Becker's son Harry, a young Communist who has been brutalized by the police, but grows rich on sensational cases like the murder trial of Mrs. Zadorah Chapman and the breach of promise suit of the seductive Lillian La Rue. Simon's devoted secretary, Regina "Rexy" Gordon, is always at his side, and secretly loves him. Simon's socialite wife Cora is embarrassed by his notoriety and uncomfortable with his heritage. She begs him to decline a $100,000 case against one of her society friends. He reluctantly agrees but is soon threatened with disbarment when upper-class attorney Francis Clark Baird discovers that years before he created a false alibi for Johan Breitstein, another friend from his old neighborhood. Desperate to save his career, Simon cancels his plans to go to Europe with Cora, while his investigator, Charlie MacFadden, searches for information to use against Baird. Simon, meanwhile, grows morose because he is convinced that his career is finished. His depression deepens after he hears that Harry Becker, who railed at him for forsaking his roots and buying into the capitalist system, has died of his injuries. Charlie discovers that Baird is leading a double life, keeping a girl friend and illegitimate child in Pennsylvania, and Simon uses the information to silence Baird. Triumphant, he sends a telegram to Cora asking her to disembark the ship and postpone the trip until he can join her, but she refuses. Simon, suspicious that she is having an affair, calls her socialite friend, Roy Darwin, and discovers that he has left on the same boat. Depressed and alone in the office, Simon decides to commit suicide, but just as he is about to jump from the skyscraper's window, Rexy returns unexpectedly. After her scream stops him, a phone call, begging him to take another sensational case, revives his spirits. He gleefully kisses Rexy and they depart together to investigate the case.
J. Hammond Dailey
T. H. Manning
Elmer H. Brown
According to a Hollywood Reporter news item, Paul Muni, who played "George Simon" in the New York stage production, declined the lead role in the film. The following actors reenacted their Broadway roles for the film: Clara Langsner, J. Hammond Dailey, Malka Kornstein, Marvin Kline, T. H. Manning, John Qualen, Angela Jacobs, Elmer H. Brown and Conway Washburn. Counsellor at Law marked the motion picture debut of actor and future director Vincent Sherman (1906-2006). According to modern sources, Sherman had appeared in the Chicago production of the play. Modern sources note that Barrymore was paid $25,000 a week for his performance.