Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB
USA, 1933. Warner Bros.. Story by Darryl F. Zanuck, Screenplay by Gene Markey, Kathryn Scola. Cinematography by James Van Trees. Produced by William LeBaron. Production Design by Anton Grot. Costume Design by Orry-Kelly. Film Editing by Howard Bretherton.
You need look no further for proof that Barbara Stanwyck was destined for stardom than this early talkie, too hot for the censors of the time (it’s partly what inspired the Hays Code) and had four minutes excised until they were recently restored. Given that she beds her way to the top from being the daughter of a barmaid to a classy business tycoon, it’s probably racy even for today, but it’s the relish with which she does it that makes Stanwyck such a fireball.
After finally getting away from her drunken father and making her way to the big city, Stanwyck uses her wily ways to get a job in a financial institution, at first a file girl and eventually upwards to management. She also tangles with the man engaged to the boss’s daughter and gets out of that mess by dating the boss himself, which gets her into even hotter water that requires her to move to Paris and get away from the scandals she leaves in her wake.
Does that mean her days of breaking hearts are over? Far from it, considering that George Brent is the guy who deals with her and eventually falls under her spell too. Even John Wayne is no match for this great lady in his few scenes as a co-worker who strikes out, but eventually her life takes a turn towards clarity and she is made to wonder if it was all worth it just to get rich. Great direction and a smooth pace (especially for this early in the years of sound filmmaking) and terrific acting make for a classic.