Baby Face (1933). 75 minutes. Directed by Alfred E. Green. Starring Barbara Stanwyck (as Lily Powers), George Brent (as Courtland Trenholm), Donald Cook (as Ned Stevens), Alphonse Ethier (as Adolf Cragg), Henry Kolker (as J. P. Carter), Margaret Lindsay (as Ann Carter), Arthur Hohl (as Ed Sipple), John Wayne (as Jimmy McCoy, Jr.), Robert Barrat (as Nick Powers), and Theresa Harris (as Chico).
Baby Face tells the story of a young woman who is sexually exploited for all of her young adulthood and who in a life-changing reversal determines that she will exploit men instead for her own personal gain. The film, which charts her quest to use sex to move up the corporate ladder, is frequently cited as a catalyst for the 1934 enforcement of the Hollywood Production Code, the set of industry censorship policies that regulated motion picture content. I have to admit that even as a fan of pre-Code movies, I was surprised by how brazen … Read the rest
Hollywood Canteen (1944). 124 minutes. Directed by Delmer Daves. Starring Robert Hutton (as Slim Green) and Dane Clark (as Sergeant Nolan). Also starring as themselves: The Andrews Sisters, Jack Benny, Joe E. Brown, Eddie Cantor, Kitty Carlisle, Joan Crawford, Bette Davis, Jimmy Dorsey, John Garfield, Sydney Greenstreet, Paul Henreid, Joan Leslie, Peter Lorre, Ida Lupino, Joan McCracken, Roy Rogers and Trigger, S. Z. Sakall, Barbara Stanwyck, and Jane Wyman.
Hollywood Canteen is a World War Two-era propaganda film that takes place in the real Hollywood Canteen, a wartime nightclub for G.I.s that operated from 1942 to 1945 and was staffed by Hollywood superstars. Inside the canteen, the most glamorous names in the film industry performed menial labor by preparing food, waiting tables, and cleaning up after guests, and provided entertainment on a main stage. The movie Hollywood Canteen offers us a glimpse of what a canteen guest’s experience might have been like while also promoting the war effort and the … Read the rest
Night Nurse (1931). 72 minutes. Directed by William Wellman. Starring Barbara Stanwyck (as Lora Hart), Ben Lyon (as Mortie/Pal), Joan Blondell (as B. Maloney), Clark Gable (as Nick), Blanche Friderici (as Mrs. Maxwell), Charlotte Merriam (as Mrs. Ritchie), Charles Winniger (as Dr. Arthur Bell), Edward J. Nugent (as Eagen), Vera Lewis (as Miss Dillon), and Ralf Harolde (as Dr. Milton A. Ranger).
Night Nurse boasts many attractions: actresses Barbara Stanwyck and Joan Blondell in the bloom of youth, an almost baby-faced Clark Gable in one of his earliest speaking roles, and a screenplay based on Grace Perkins’s crime novel of the same name. But the main reason to see Night Nurse is because it is a prime example of the type of kinky movie made during what we now call the pre-Code Hollywood period (1929 to mid-1934), which spanned from the advent of sound films to the creation of the Production Code Administration, the internal censorship office of Hollywood’s … Read the rest
Remember the Night (1940). 91 minutes. Directed by Mitchell Leisen. Starring Barbara Stanwyck (as Lee Leander), Fred MacMurray (as John Sargent), Beulah Bondi (as Mrs. Sargent), Elizabeth Patterson (as Aunt Emma), Sterling Holloway ( as Willie Simms), Paul Guilfoyle (as district attorney), Charles Waldron (as New York judge), Fred Toones (as Rufus), Tom Kennedy (as Fat Mike), Georgia Cane (as Lee’s mother). Screenplay by Preston Sturges.
Remember the Night is a Preston Sturges comedy starring Barbara Stanwyck as a thief and Fred MacMurray as a New York prosecutor who spend Christmas together in Wabash, Indiana. Although not as well known as other Sturges films such as The Lady Eve, Sullivan’s Travels, and The Palm Beach Story, Remember the Night is nevertheless a surprisingly enjoyable holiday film weirdly mixed together with elements of a trial drama. In addition, and probably the reason that I recommend it the most, the movie also functions as a love story to the … Read the rest
Christmas in Connecticut (1945). 102 minutes. Directed by Peter Godfrey. Starring Barbara Stanwyck (as Elizabeth Lane), Sydney Greenstreet (as Alexander Yardley), Dennis Morgan (as Jefferson Jones), Reginald Gardiner (as John Sloane), S. Z. Sakall (as Felix Bassenak), Robert Shayne (as Dudley Beecham), Una O’Connor (as Nora), and Dick Elliott (as Judge Crothers).
Christmas in Connecticut reflects on a certain widespread fantasy about life in Connecticut, a fantasy that seems particularly to belong to New Yorkers but that many others from outside of the region are similarly fond of. Snowy, sleigh-laden, and full of the sights and smells of elegant home cooking, the Connecticut that lifestyle columnist Elizabeth Lane (played by Barbara Stanwyck) creates in this movie is certainly a repository of rural and domestic dreams, both in 1945 and, I think it is fair to say, even today. While the movie may easily be categorized as light holiday fare, it also has something relevant to say about the role of … Read the rest
Ball of Fire (1941). 111 minutes. Directed by Howard Hawks. Starring Barbara Stanwyck (as Katherine “Pussyfoot” O’Shea), Gary Cooper (as Professor Bertram Potts), S. Z. Sakall (as Professor Magenbruch), Richard Haydn (as Professor Oddley), and Dana Andrews (as Joe Lilac). Screenplay by Billy Wilder.
If you have ever seen Billy Wilder’s 1959 comedy Some Like It Hot, you will immediately notice the similarities between it and Ball of Fire, whose screenplay Wilder also wrote. Both involve characters going on the lam in conjunction with mob activity, a sexy nightclub singer with a ridiculous name (Sugar Cane in Some Like It Hot, Pussyfoot O’Shea in Ball of Fire), and men who have to transform themselves temporarily into their opposites in order to secure a woman’s affections. In Some Like It Hot, Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon don female attire, with dirt-poor Curtis additionally and intermittently posing as a playboy millionaire in order to woo singer Marilyn … Read the rest
Double Indemnity (1944). Directed by Billy Wilder. Starring Fred MacMurray (as Walter Neff), Barbara Stanwyck (as Phyllis Dietrichson), and Edward G. Robinson (as Barton Keyes). Screenplay by Raymond Chandler.
Double Indemnity manages to do something many may have thought impossible: it makes the insurance business seem sexy, exciting, and dangerous. In this film noir, insurance salesman Walter Neff (played by Fred MacMurray) drops by the house of Phyllis Dietrichson (played by Barbara Stanwyck) to renew her husband’s auto policy one afternoon, and eventually, due to his sleazy infatuation with Mrs. Dietrichson, he consents to forging new life insurance papers for her husband that she can use to cash in on an enormous sum once she has tidily eliminated him. It does not take long for the seemingly decent Neff to succumb to Mrs. Dietrichson’s wiles, and soon he is masterminding the plot not only to kill Mr. Dietrichson but to do it in the most profitable way: via a double … Read the rest