Free Soul

Socialite Norma Shearer risks total ruination after a sordid love affair with murderous gangster Clark Gable, in this new 2K restoration of A Free Soul. Part of the Belfast International Arts Festival’s 60th anniversary.

The divine Norma Shearer stars as an independent-minded young society woman who has been trained by her defence attorney father (Lionel Barrymore) to live without restraint, and who grows trapped in a love triangle between the monied, kind Leslie Howard and the good-for-nothing rogue played by the delightfully evil Clark Gable. Her father, loving but consistently sozzled, successfully defends the gangster against a murder rap, not realising that his beloved daughter is about to embark on a lusty affair with the reprobate.

Penned by iconoclastic gossip columnist Adela Rogers St. Johns and loosely recalling her own upbringing (her father was a real defence attorney too, even once representing disgraced silent star Fatty Arbuckle), A Free Soul is psychologically complex and earnest in spite of its sensationalist leanings: a genuinely open-minded exploration of what happens to nice girls when they fall for the bad boy. Hard.

This film is part of Pre-Code Hollywood: Rules Are Made to be Broken, a strand of Cinema Rediscovered curated by film writers and critics Pamela Hutchinson and Christina Newland. Pre-Code Hollywood presents some of Hollywood’s most risqué films made before the 1930s Hays code was enforced.