John Ford weaves three "Judge Priest" stories together to form a good- natured exploration of honour and small-town politics in the South around the turn of the century. Judge William ... See full summary »
Judge William "Billy" Priest lives in a very patriotic (Confederate) southern town. Priest plays a laid-back, widowed judge who helps uphold the law in his toughest court case yet. In the meantime, he plays matchmaker for his young nephew.Written by
Opening card: The figures in this story are familiar ghosts of my own boyhood. The war between the states was over, but its tragedies and comedies haunted every grown man's mind, and the stories that were swapped took deep root in my memory. There was one man Down Yonder I came especially to admire for he seemed typical of the tolerance of that day and the wisdom of that almost vanished generation. I called him Judge Priest, and I tried to draw reasonably fair likenesses of him and his neighbors and the town in which we lived. An old Kentucky town in 1890. --- --- Irvin S. Cobb See more »
This film has about as much content and charm as could fit into a 30-minute short feature. Yet John Ford et al spread this syrupy molasses mixture over 80 minutes.
I like Will Rogers, but his performance as JUDGE PRIEST seems like he's talking in his sleep. His dialog goes so slowly that it almost seems like he's making it up on the spot, while recovering from a blow to the head.
The stock characters and situations may charm a hard-core Dixielander, but for modern viewers, JUDGE PRIEST will seem cornball or downright embarrassing. For instance, it's nice to hear Hattie McDaniel sing, but not Stephen Foster's line, "'tis summer, the darkies are gay." And there's only so much of Stepin Fetchit that anyone, black or white, can take in one sitting. (One of the worst moments is when Will Rogers does an excruciatingly slow bit of dialog where he plays two characters: his own and Fetchit's.) There are some cute Rogers moments, and Francis Ford steals the show as an old Reb jury member who has a sharp eye for a spittoon. But I found myself wanting to hit "fast forward" just to get this slow mule-cart of a movie to get going.
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