Thursday, April 10, 2003


Spoiler below!!
An archetypal "woman's picture," a 30's version of a "chick flick"; it has a melodramatic soap opera tone, but it also has a great performance by Barbara Stanwyck at its center. She plays the title character, a girl from a working class family who falls in love with John Boles, a former upper-class fellow who fell from grace when his rich father lost his fortune and killed himself. She's loose and funloving, and he's uptight; they're a bit like a 30's Dharma & Greg. He gets the opportunity to go back to his roots in New York City, but Stanwyck is afraid she won't fit in with his old friends, so she stays behind and raises their daughter (Anne Shirley). Stanwyck remains resolutely lower-class in her tastes and choice of friends (particularly the loud and vulgar Alan Hale) and begins, unwittingly, to tarnish her daughter's chances at upward social mobility. When Boles divorces Stanwyck and marries a rich widow (Barbara O'Neill), Stanwyck is torn between holding onto her daughter or letting her become part of her father's social set. One memorable scene involves Shirley's birthday party, which is boycotted by her too-tasteful friends. By the end, Stanwyck gives up her daughter so she can make a good marriage (to Tim Holt), and the famous climax has Stanwyck standing in the pouring rain, watching Shirley's marriage through a window. Throughout, Stanwyck does a fine job looking dowdy and tacky, and acting loud and trashy. It's a bit of a stretch for Stanwyck and she pulls it off very well. Marjorie Main has a small role as beaten-down mother.

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