Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Gold Digging 101

Movie: Baby Face (1933)
Setting: Erie Pennsylvania, New York City, Paris France; Depression era.

Barbra Stanwyck is commanding in this story of a girl with a troubled background, who literally sleeps her way to success within a major New York City based bank. This movie was made just as a moral backlash against Hollywood product was resulting in a stricter policing of film content. As a result the original version of Baby Face was cut up, and not available to the general public until fairly recently. Looking at those blatantly coded scenes of sensuality reminds the viewer of how risque early 1930's film making could get. Of course the year after this picture was made you couldn't have Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert sleep in the same room without the benefit of the 'Walls of Jericho'.

The film contains a nice Vidorian visual motif in depicting Stanwyck's Lily Powers rise to the top of Courtland Trenhoms (George Brent) banking empire. The film however sells out some of its subversiveness with the redemption ending, which I felt should have been more, for lack of a better word, mean. Kudos for having Stanwycks character inspired to her wicked ways by the philosophy of Nietzche.

Factoid: John Wayne appears in this movie for all of 20 seconds as one of Lily's suitors.


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