Difficult, beforehand, to reconcile the idea of Irvin Cobb’s Judge Priest with Will Rogers. Cobb’s long series of stories have suggested another type; portly, slightly pompous on occasion and somewhat lethargic in movement, and that isn’t Will Rogers. But Rogers makes the old judge completely his own.
At best the story is thin: the love of his nephew for the girl whose father is not known. The father is in town, and when he slugs a man for jeering at her the victim later gangs up on him with two of his pals. The father cuts his assailant and is put on trial. He refuses to make the explanation which would be his legal out anywhere in the south.
The judge’s political rival demands that he surrender the bench, since his nephew is lawyer for the defense. Heartbroken at this aspersion of his integrity, the judge appoints a substitute. But that night the minister talks with him. By a ruse they persuade the pompous old prosecutor to reopen the case.
It’s a play of strange reactions. In the court scenes a bit of comedy relief is the effort of one of the jurors to rid himself of the product of his cud chewing. Several of the scenes are punctured with a laugh when the well-aimed shot lands in the cuspidor. Most of the comedy, however, is contributed by Rogers and Stepin Fetchit, a natural foil to the Rogers character. Other efforts at local color through the use of Negroes are less effective.