Bad Girl (1931)

FRANK BORZAGE

Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.5USA, 1931Screenplay by , based on the novel by and the play by Cinematography by Production Design by Costume Design by Film Editing by Academy Awards 1931/1932.

Sally Eilers and James Dunn in Bad Girl.

and her best friend work as fashion models in a store, and neither of them have any illusions about life as a pretty young woman in New York City considering how much of their working life is spent defending their dignity.  Eilers deflects the wolves with plenty of urbane wisecracks and a good sense of humour, but this is all laid asunder when she goes to Coney Island and meets a jaded loner () with an even sassier mouth than her.  They fall in love against their better judgment, continually promising to break the rules and never compromise their dreams, but after they marry and live in their squalid apartment with a baby on the way, he decides it’s time to make wife and child a priority.  Dunn begins working late, taking on gigs as a prizefighter and gives up his dream of owning his own store, while Eilers still finds it difficult to trust happiness and believes the time he is spending away from home is because he doesn’t love her anymore.  On paper it’s pretty familiar as pre-Code Depression-era melodrama, but the verve with which it is directed and performed makes it crackle like lighting. The sexual chemistry between the leads hasn’t dissipated with time, it might be one of the most erotic movies to have so very little in the way of revealing content, and director Frank Borzage celebrates all the humour, passion and fear that his characters can possibly experience while undergoing this thing called life. Add to that the humour created by Gombell’s blunt but warm exchanges with her best friend’s husband, which are still so provocative and funny thanks to her exceptional performance, and you have a classic that time can mar (there’s a few frames missing here and there) but will never truly harm.

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