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Thursday, November 21, 2013

'The Nuisance:' DVD: Legal Avarice

The Nuisance
This review of Warner Archive's recent DVD release of the very aptly titled1933 Lee Tracy film "The Nuisance" is the promised follow up to Unreal TV's review of Tracy's 1933 "Turn Back the Clock."

One difference between these films is that "Clock's" Joe Gimlet is generally a nice guy, and the awesomely fast-talking Tracy's character in "Nuisance" is a literally ambulance-chasing attorney whose behavior and ethics warrant calling Tracy by the first name of a well-known fictional detective who shares that actor's surname.


"Clock" and "Nuisance" show that Tracy is one of the best actors from the '30s of whom most of us have never heard. He is as quick-witted and free-spirited as William Powell and shows incredible energy and joie de vivre.

Tracy's Joesph P. Stevens in "Nuisance" is an amoral attorney who puts all those "I don't get paid unless you win your case" lawyers who advertise on daytime television to shame. Anyone who has ever received a hefty legal bill for a 30-second conversation regarding an update related to legal representation can relate.

The shady shyster who Tracy portrays delights in falsifying medical evidence and otherwise creating and distorting the facts to win the cases of his clients whom he aggressively recruits from accident scenes and jail cells.

The following clip, courtesy of YouTube, in which an accident prompts Stevens to spring into action like a bizarro superhero expertly conveys the film's theme and Tracy's wonderfully deviant persona.
Stevens' cronies include a pathetic alcoholic doctor, who is played by the Wizard of Oz himself Frank Morgan. However, it seems that even that epic-level charlatan would frown on Dr. Buchanan Prescott's methods that include proudly presenting false x-rays and needlessly placing people in traction to support the claims of Stevens' clients.


Stevens' focus on the "victims" of streetcar accidents prompts the local streetcar company to place a woman as its agent at the scene of one such event for the purpose of building a case against Stevens regarding his despicable practices.

The predictable romance blossoms between Stevens and one of Hollywood's best femme fatales. This pair engage in the break-up and self-sacrifice typical of this film but add the twist of using the law to their advantage and to thwart the plans of the streetcar company.

It is also amusing to see Stevens' all-out campaign against the streetcar company near the end of the film and a conclusion that lacks the undue sentiment of other girl essentially entraps boy tales of the era.

No ethical dilemma exists regarding recommending "The Nuisance" as a very amusing '30s comedy that make still-relevant commentary about attorneys who fail to meet the standards to which they should aspire. Even the aforementioned conclusion of the film is consistent with that cynicism.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding "The Nuisance" is welcome to email me; you can also chase me down on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.