Monday, December 21, 2009


Barbara Stanwyck is a small-town librarian who arrives to work late one day, vents about wanting to burn the town down, quits her job, and uses her savings to take a vacation to Cuba (and all this in the first five minutes!). On the ship, she meets a charming drunk (Adolphe Menjou) and they hit it off, but he keeps his past mysterious. Back home, she gets a job as a newspaper clipping librarian and discovers that Menjou is a politician, married to an invalid who was crippled in a car accident for which he was responsible. Stanwyck also soon realizes she’s pregnant. A couple years pass, during which time Menjou and Stanwyck have begun an on-the-sly relationship, but when newspaper editor Ralph Bellamy (who for reasons we never learn is on a vendetta against Menjou) runs across the two of them and their baby on a picnic, they pretend that the baby is Menjou’s adopted baby and that Stanwyck is the governess. Stanwyck agrees to give the baby up for Menjou and his wife to adopt and she gets a job as a lovelorn columnist with Bellamy. Eventually she marries Bellamy, but when he finds out the truth about Stanwyck and Menjou, who is running for governor, the melodramatic shit hits the fan. This is a pre-Code film, so the final payoff is rather unexpected, but still this soapy movie is a little tough to sit through. Bellamy’s character is the most interesting one here, but the fact that we never learn why he hates Menjou so much is a real fault in the storytelling. Menjou and Stanwyck don’t have a lot of chemistry, and there’s not an interesting supporting cast to liven things up. Dorothy Peterson as the crippled wife never seems very sickly—she gets around OK with a cane. This early Frank Capra movie doesn’t have many of the later hallmarks of his style, but for pre-Code buffs, it’s moderately interesting viewing. [TCM]

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