“Judge Priest” - Southern Situation Comedy Adventure
released on September 28, 1934
running time 1 hour and 21 minutes
The Actors: Will Rogers (Judge William 'Billy' Pitman Priest), Tom Brown (Jerome 'Rome' Priest), Anita Louise (Ellie May Gillespie), Henry B. Walthall (Reverend Ashby Brand), David Landau (Bob Gillis), Rochelle Hudson (Virginia Maydew), Roger Imhof (Billy Gaynor), Frank Melton (Flem Talley, barber), Charley Grapewin (Sergeant Jimmy Bagby), Berton Churchill (Senator Horace Maydew), Brenda Fowler (Mrs. Caroline Priest), Francis Ford (Juror number 12), Hattie McDaniel (Aunt Dilsey), Stepin Fetchit (Jeff Poindexter), Melba Brown (singer), Thelma Brown (singer), Vera Brown (singer), Grace Goodall (Mrs. Maydew), Winter Hall (Judge Floyd Fairleigh), Pat Hartigan (townsman in saloon), Si Jenks (juror number 10, hitting the spittoon), Beulah Hall Jones (singer)
The War Hero and the Motherless Child
From 1960 through 1968 actor Andy Griffith was Sheriff Andy Taylor in a situation comedy television show that can still be seen often today. Andy was the law in a small fictional town of Mayberry, North Carolina. Sheriff Taylor was always a bit slower to speak and slower to act in the face of crisis, but his calm, Southern charm always managed to find a courteous way to outwit the folk who would try to trample over the rights of others. If you have seen the show, you know what I mean.
Thirty years earlier there was no television, but there were motion pictures. This movie story line could be an episode of the Andy Griffith Show . . . . Except the setting is in Kentucky instead of North Carolina and the time is shortly after the end of the Civil War. Another difference is the general state of 'politically correct' words and deeds. The United States has come a long way towards the goal of 'every person is equal' - but we still have a long way to go even today. Depending on where your mind is on the brotherhood of man, you may enjoy or cringe at a few words and characterizations that we no longer use in polite society, but those days are part of who we were on the pathway to the present.
William Penn Adair Rogers was 55 years old when he starred in this story about life in a small Kentucky town just after the Civil War. In 1934 the War Between the States was still a vivid memory and the soldiers and families that survived and were still alive and living in the new America. Will Rogers was famous worldwide for his very smooth, but very sharp tongue. He could make fun of a politician or anyone else without offending too much, using comedy to blunt the truth that folk tried to ignore.
His newspaper articles were published in every newspaper of note in the U.S. for many years. His comic fame brought him into the lives of many of the people he made fun of, and it is said that one day when greeting President Warren G. Harding Will Rogers asked him if he would like to hear about the latest political jokes, and the President responded that it wouldn’t be necessary because he had appointed them. This movie made Will Rogers the biggest movie star in 1934, but unfortunately a year later he would perish in a plane crash while flying over Alaska.
In this story he is Judge William 'Billy' Pitman Priest, the circuit court judge for the small Kentucky town for twenty two years, handing out judgements that he admits follow the spirit of the law a lot more closely than the letter of the law. After meeting the characters in the story, and getting into the mood of a quiet, peaceful small town atmosphere, the core crises begins, with all of the sticky details that seem to indicate that good Judge Billy Priest will not be able to twist the letter of the law enough to keep the fellow he thinks is being persecuted out of jail.
We will observe a fine Southern trial with a domineering lawyer who looks unbeatable against a brand new attorney who seems to be very ‘out of his league.’ It will take more than a gavel to bring justice to this matter, and a surprise ending that would make Perry Mason proud. Pop a big bowl of white kernel popcorn with plenty of warm melted butter drizzled over it and enjoy the show . . . . You might want to prepare a cool mint julep to help you get into the mood, also.
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