Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.
USA, 1934. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Screenplay by John Meehan, based on a story by Vina Delmar. Cinematography by Oliver T. Marsh. Produced by Lawrence Weingarten. Music by William Axt. Production Design by Cedric Gibbons. Costume Design by Adrian. Film Editing by Hugh Wynn.
Joan Crawford is once again the ambitious girl whose low origins can’t hide a natural inclination for finer living. This time she’s the daughter of a cook who works for a very wealthy, factory-owning family, working as a store clerk but helping out at the mansion whenever her mother’s employers have extra guests and need more people to serve. Her boyfriend Tommy (Gene Raymond) is an employee at the factory who has been accused of stealing, and when Crawford overhears unflattering dinner conversation about it from family heir Franchot Tone, she flies into a rage, runs away and joins Tommy on a train to New York City. There she has to start from the bottom, abandoned by Tommy who leaves her for a seductive singer, working as a dancer in a nightclub to pay the rent, her only friend the club’s seamstress (Jean Dixon) who also lives in her rooming house. When a drunken millionaire (Edward Arnold) comes in and takes a liking to her, Crawford endures it the way she does all the other handsy customers until realizing that Arnold’s lawyer is her old pal Tone, and it inspires a vengeful rage in her that eventually sees her marrying the blotto Arnold just to spite him. From there the soap opera winds through and around her various experiences, seeing her prove herself more than a gold digger by saving her husband from his own addiction (a rare case of alcoholism treated like a disease and not an opportunity for humour in a movie of the time) before tying up the loose ends of her life. Much like Possessed, she gets everything the wrong way so that she can then achieve it all properly later on. The script isn’t the tightest it could be, but director Clarence Brown could get affection and honesty out of any story and does a bang-up job here, emphasizing Crawford’s admirable personal integrity and placing great care in how he presents her wonderful friendship with Dixon.