Sunday, July 01, 2007


Despite the rather salacious title, this is an average pre-Code melodrama about the romantic problems of working class girls. The film opens with the wedding of Anita Page and Norman Foster; he plans to hit the big time through his pool playing skills, but he doesn't have much else going for him and, sure enough a year later, the couple and their new baby have to move in with Page's widowed mother (Emma Dunn) and teenage sister (Marian Marsh of the title reference, though she actually seems much closer to 21 than 18). Marsh works as a seamstress and has a steady boyfriend, nice guy milkman Regis Toomey, but she's frustrated with her economic status and his lack of ambition. At the dress shop, Marsh sees rich, well dressed women every day and assumes they're happy--this theme of money and/or happiness is evoked frequently throughout the movie. Eventually, Toomey proposes, but by that time Marsh has attracted the attention of rich playboy Warren William and she begins imagining a life of ease with someone like him. When her sister's marriage collapses, Marsh asks Toomey for $200 to pay for Page to get a divorce. He hesitates and she angrily calls off the engagement, telling Toomey, "Any time I hand myself to a man for life, it's cash on delivery." At a party at William's swanky penthouse pad, complete with drunken rich folks leaping fully clothed into a pool to dive for jewels, he suggests she "take off [her] clothes and stay a while" (though he's actually suggesting that she change into a bathing suit) and she asks him for the $200. Toomey, who in the meantime has had a change of heart, arrives at the penthouse and has a scuffle with William which leads to a near tragedy, then a comically implausible happy ending for all, even for the troubled Page and Foster. Marsh, best known as Trilby opposite John Barrymore in SVENGALI, is beautiful and handles the role well, though as I noted earlier, she never seems to be under eighteen, and her age is never an issue anyway. William, as usual, is fine, but Toomey and Foster are even better in their quieter ways, though Foster's character, a passive loser who gives his wife a black eye, is a problematic one for today's viewers. The "decadent" pool party scene is the only thing that makes this stand out from the many other cautionary tales of the era. [TCM]

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