Judge Priest - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Judge Priest Reviews

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jjnxn
Super Reviewer
October 7, 2013
Ugh! What a piece of slug. Racist even by 30's standard and syrupy sweet to boot. Stay away!
flixsterman
Super Reviewer
February 5, 2009
Surprisingly humorous social drama featuring the indomitable Will Rogers in the title role. Often cited as John Ford's favorite film, Judge Priest is part Western, part Courtroom Drama and part Depression-Era Escapism. Good stuff.
April 1, 2010
extreme racism. this film does a modern audience no good except as a study of how film and political correctness has changed in the last 75 years.
September 25, 2009
Terrific cast, Will Rogers does an excellent job in a typical laid back role for him. Very well written, short and to the point with a good moral. Interesting direction for John Ford.
½ September 25, 2009
Terrific cast, Will Rogers does an excellent job in a typical laid back role for him. Very well written, short and to the point with a good moral. Interesting direction for John Ford.
March 9, 2008
Ford' Judge Priest covers what the opening lines written by Irvin Cobb(author of the books) calls "tragedies and comedies" that are still very much alive in "grown men's minds" several years after the civil war has ended, the approach is simple Will Rogers is Judge Priest the film covers him and his community.

Ford versatility as a storyteller is in full swing, some have even pointed out that the first and second half feel like two different films. The first being a laid back examination of Priests relevance to his community including his nephew and a vagrant he saved from the chain gang and even dialogue with his deceased wife (Ford's sense of spirituality would re-surface in his later films) this half is almost devoid of traditional structure.The second half is far more dramatic, centering around a case of assault and battery and questioning Priest's legitimacy. It's also more presentational as seen in a war flashback at the end that looks like a segment form Birth of a Nation told in an almost expressionist fashion.

This dynamic of film is a nice example of Ford's tendency to combine comedy and drama the key example being that the film begins and ends with courtroom sequence the first one concerning the vagrant stealing a chicken and the second being a charge of battery of a civil war vet. What this does is show how Ford's insights were so inept that he could showcases the smaller nuances in life ("there ain't nothing prettier than two young folks in love in the summer") but at the same time foreshadow a kind of darker skepticism that would be more dominant in his later films, hinting that perhaps Priest's take on community may still give way to decay and even corruption or at least are never far from home.

Ford was too proud to ever actually call himself an artist but perhaps he didn't need to, his work spoke for him. Ford had a fundamental understanding of cinema and it's ability to capture humanity while seemingly doing nothing and this why so many of his films require repeated viewings to help comprehend Ford's ability, when it comes to placing a camera few artist come close to him, whether it be a shot of two young lovers conversing or a civil war sequence(here we see both). I think its far from his best film but it incorporates elements Ford loved and ones he was skeptical about but didn't keep him from filming. Then of course some will complain about African American stereotypes however while their parts don't offer much variety Ford(and Priest as if they were one in the same) treats them with a great deal of integrety.
½ February 13, 2009
Well she-yoot, boss, I don't know nothin' 'bout birthin' no babies. I done loves me some fried chicken, and I sure is unedumacated. And that's just the whites, the black people talk even stupider in this movie!
January 16, 2008
Will Rogers at his best, especially on the DVD where it is teamed up with the brilliant compliment film DOCTOR BULL.
December 2, 2015
Even the indelible John Ford can make crap.
July 11, 2014
Rogers and Fetchit rescue this poorly made and shapeless oddity from being unenjoyable. Hardly surprising that the guy who played the priest was in Birth of a Nation, though.
March 22, 2014
funny stuff brought to u by america's fave humorist will rogers.
½ February 22, 2014
It is probably best to view this as an historical artefact, which is exactly how I approached it. I was curious about Will Rogers and this is his best known film. The cowboy humourist plays a laid back (though reputedly sage and fair) Kentucky judge who spends part of the movie encouraging his nephew to pursue his next door neighbour, a young lady of uncertain parentage (which dismays his snobby mother). The other part of the movie involves a court case that Judge Priest has to recuse himself from but still manages to manipulate. The case is won by appealing to southern memories of the Confederacy and patriotism for the same (the movie takes place in the 1890s) - so, not based on the facts of the case. Stepin Fetchit and Hattie McDaniel are both here and, although Will Rogers treats them like he does any other character in the film (perhaps overtly so), they do embody alarming and exaggerated racist stereotypes. However, the overall feel of the film remains good-natured.
November 26, 2013
This black and white film was good.
jjnxn
Super Reviewer
October 7, 2013
Ugh! What a piece of slug. Racist even by 30's standard and syrupy sweet to boot. Stay away!
½ August 13, 2013
Not John Ford's best, despite a good performance by Will Rodgers. This film is very dated and reflects the racial stereotypes of its time period, as well as showing the South through nostalgic rose colored glasses.
March 23, 2013
Retrato de época y social de Ford que... es medio aburrido de ver. Capaz porque es muy disperso (muchos personajes para tan poca duración), o porque no tiene ningún conflicto atrapante. Es una peli relajada, sobre la vida cotidiana de un juez y otros aledaños. Salvo que es un poco aburrida, y que nadie te muestra el sur histórico como Ford, no tengo grandes quejas ni elogios. (pero quién la había recomendado tanto y por qué??)
½ December 21, 2012
A pro-confederate film. This film is ridiculous and gets out of hand with confederation pride. Also what is controversial about this film is the scene of Afro-Americans playing Dixie.
½ July 2, 2012
John Ford's Jugde Priest is set in the year of 1890 in Kentucky, where a judge named William "Billy" Priest (Will Rogers) who's is loved by every in his home town, but then a case where which results in his resignation. But he's helps his nephew Rome (Tom Brown) who is lawyer to the defendant who's cut the offended with a eraser blade. They finally win the case, thanks to the defendants brave effort in the civil war. Judge Priest is not one of John Ford finest film. It is a little funny some times, but the large amount of black dumb racist stereotypes makes this film offensive. Thumbs down.
½ April 10, 2011
There is a rather bizarre almost bipolar aspect to this film...

Some of John Ford's and Will Roger's most prime moments of sentimental American humanity scarred by almost unbearable racist stereotyping featuring Stepin Fetchit...

All in all a flawed curio rather than a potential immortal gem...
½ October 15, 2010
I didn't even realise this was supposed to be a comedy it was so dull. The message at the end seems all wrong too but I believe it lives on in American society even today, that no shame can possibly become a war hero and therefore no trial was necessary.
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