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For the Defense (1930)

William Powell plays William Foster, a slick attorney who stays within the law, but specializes in representing crooks and shady characters. He's adept at keeping them out of jail, winning ... See full summary »


John Cromwell


Oliver H.P. Garrett, Charles Furthman (story) (as Charles Furthmann)


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Cast overview:
William Powell ... William B. Foster
Kay Francis ... Irene Manners
Scott Kolk ... Jack Defoe
William B. Davidson ... District Attorney Herbert L. Stone
Thomas E. Jackson ... Daly
Harry Walker Harry Walker ... Miller
James Finlayson ... Parrott
Charles West Charles West ... Joe
Bertram Marburgh Bertram Marburgh ... Judge Evans


William Powell plays William Foster, a slick attorney who stays within the law, but specializes in representing crooks and shady characters. He's adept at keeping them out of jail, winning acquittals, and having decisions reversed, thus springing criminals out of prison. He is romantically involved with dancer Irene Manners (Kay Francis), who is two-timing him, although she wants to marry him. She kills a man driving while out with her other man, Jack Defoe (Scott Kolk), who takes the blame. Unfortunately, a ring Foster had just given Irene is found at the crime scene. Foster ends up defending Jack, but when the ring is found, he thinks he is protecting Irene, so pleads guilty to jury tampering, which he had done for the first time to save Irene. After his plea, the the prosecuting DA confides that Jack would have gotten off... Written by Becie

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


The Thrilling Drama behind the Screaming Headlines- Now Revealed! See the Price This Man Pays for Love! And Why! (Print Ad- Prescott Evening Courier, ((Prescott, Ariz.)) 31 December 1930) See more »









Release Date:

19 June 1931 (Ireland) See more »

Also Known As:

Defesa que Humilha See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Paramount Pictures See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.20 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


Director cameo: Director John Cromwell appears as a reporter. See more »


William Foster: [to a client] My son, I'm an old man in this racket.
See more »


References Shoulder Arms (1918) See more »

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User Reviews

Good, but I would have liked to have seen a film based more on the real Fallon.
20 July 2014 | by MartinHaferSee all my reviews

In the late teens and through much of the 1920s, defense lawyer William Fallon was unbeatable. In 120 murder cases, NONE of his clients were found guilty! While this might have made him famous in and of itself, his clients were a Who's Who of the scum of the day. Fallon defended mobsters, pimps and other low-lifes! The film "For the Defense" is based, in part, on Fallon's life--as is Warren Williams' film "The Mouthpiece"--which came out just two years later.

This film begins with William Powell playing William Foster--a hot-shot attorney who is known as much for getting off his slimy clients as his courtroom theatrics. However, while he seems like he's on top of the world, he has two serious problems--his drinking (which, in real like killed Fallon when he was still quite young) and his girlfriend, Irene (Kay Francis). The problem with Irene is that she loves Foster but he's unwilling to marry her (and the film STRONGLY implied they have been cohabiting) and she is entertaining a proposal of marriage from another guy!

One night when Irene is stepping out on Foster with this other man, she is driving during a hit and run death. Why she runs is never really believable, as she was neither intoxicated nor at fault as her drunk boyfriend sitting next to her really caused the accident. However, she leaves the scene and the boyfriend stays and takes responsibility-- saying that he was driving. And, since he was drunk, it looks like prison time for the guy. Naturally, Foster is called in to defend the guy--and the case ends up ruining Foster. How and why? See the film.

This movie is, in some ways, typical of many of the Pre-Code films. As I mentioned above, it is implied that Foster and Irene were doing the horizontal hokey-pokey ('sex' for those who prefer the more direct way of saying things). And, the film does glorify Foster (at least to a degree). But, it also shows that eventually evil is punished and Foster gets his comeuppance. Entertaining but a bit of a disappointment, as some might hope for more salacious Pre-Code shenanigans.

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