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   LADIES OF LEISURE (1930) 

CAST
Barbara Stanwyck
Ralph Graves
Lowell Sherman
Marie Prevost
Nance O'Neil
George Fawcett
Juliette Compton
Johnnie Walker

DIRECTED BY
Frank Capra

PURCHASE


Book About




Time: 99 mins.
Rating: Not Rated
Genre: Drama/Romance


SYNOPSIS: Jerry Strong is the son of a rich businessman, but wants to be a painter. He hires Kay Arnold, a pretty girl with a sordid past, as a model. They fall in love, and plan to get married, but Jerry's parents raise strong objections, almost destroying their newfound love.

BOTTOM LINE: In her first major starring role, Stanwyck lights up the screen as a hardened "party girl" looking more for her next mark than true love. Not quite the imperious beauty she would later become, she still gives Kay an innate intelligence and class that allows you to believe someone like Jerry would throw away everything for her. She may be easy, but she's not cheap and finds his lack of sexual advances while he's painting her to be a breathe of fresh air, yet confusing. She's much more comfortable with the direction of the attentions of his constantly drunk best friend (played brilliantly by Sherman). At least she knows where she stands with him. Her best friend Dot (Prevost) is a real kick in the pants and can't understand why she's mooning over someone who's clearly not interested in her, when there are so many other men who are and are willing to put up the cash to prove it.

We're not exactly told what the "ladies" do to get there money, but your mind doesn't have to wander far for an answer. However, leaving their "jobs" somewhat undeclared allows the audience to root for Stanwyck to land her man. It's too bad Graves leaden performance left me wondering what Kay's sees in Jerry besides his talent and checkbook. He is the least interesting character in the whole movie, constantly being upstaged by Sherman and Prevost. Thankfully, Stanwyck is good enough to carry most of the scenes they're in and to make you believe his worth all the trouble. Clearly, the lovers aren't going to have a clear path to happily ever after and your heart will break for Kay when Jerry's mother (Compton) shows up on her doorstep to convince her to let him go. You won't be able to take your eyes off of either lady. It's an intense scene played straight up that raises the level of this film from just a mediocre weeper.

Frank Capra knew how to get the best from his actresses and he does so here, in one of his first feature length talkies. It's more than a bit stagey, but the production design adds some glamour to the proceedings. If it weren't for Stanwyck this film would have disappeared into the cinema ether. As it stands, even with the somewhat unbelievable ending, it's a fairly entertaining romance from early Hollywood with a simple plot yet deep emotions.




Bill Standish: Ever done any posing before?
Kay Arnold: I'm always posing.
Bill Standish: How do you spend your nights?
Kay Arnold: Re-posing.


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