Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Judge Priest

Fox Film Corp.
Director: John Ford
Length: 82 min
Format: DVD
Date Viewed: 6 January

John Ford's Judge Priest, set in 1890 Kentucky, is a comedy that generally coasts by amicably on its down home Southern charm and humor. The title character is played by Will Rogers, who plays the part (that would soon be a Hollywood cliche) perfectly. Rogers does a nice job with little touches, such as his conversations with his long-deceased wife. The story is also good, balancing the Judge's courtroom life as well as his neighborhood life, meddling in the affairs of his newphew's love life and preparing for an all-important croquet match, and showing his carefully constructed mask of gentle apathy as he navigates both worlds.

Everything goes rather well until the film begins to fall apart at the end. Strong Confederate pride still plays a huge role in the lives of these Kentuckians, and this explodes to absurd proportions at the climax and carries through to the end, destroying some of the good will the movie generated in its first three-quarters. Further, being a film about the South made in 1934, there is of course some inexcusably horrible racist stereotyping that is hard to watch.

It's hard to shake the fact that the ending is so weak, but the film still works despite this. Overall, Judge Priest is a good film with plenty of good laughs.


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