SPOTLIGHT: Youthful Pre-Code Young (V)

Welcome to a new Film Friday and the continuation of our spotlight series on the Pre-Code work of the beautiful Loretta Young (1913-2000), whose work we’ve never covered before here on Film Friday! So far we’ve featured Loose Ankles (1930), Employees’ Entrance (1933), Grand Slam (1933), and Midnight Mary (1933). Today…

 

She Had To Say Yes (1933)

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A secretary pads her salary by dating prospective buyers for her company. Starring Loretta Young, Winnie Lightner, Lyle Talbor, and Regis Toomey. Screenplay by Rian James and Don Mullaly. Based on the story by John Francis Larkin. Directed  by George Amy and Busby Berkeley.

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“Sol Glass’s clothing business is losing sales because the “customer girls,” the women employed to entertain buyers from out of town, are not friendly enough. Salesman Tommy Nelson suggests using stenographers to entertain buyers, who he believes are tired of gold diggers. When his fiancée, Florence Denny, wants to participate in the program, however, Tommy refuses… Birdie, one of the other stenographers, becomes a very successful customer girl, closing many sales, and Tommy, too, succumbs to her charms. One night, when he has a date with Birdie, Tommy suggests that Florence go out with buyer Daniel Drew. She is surprised, but agrees in order to earn a commission for Tommy so that they can afford to get married. She likes Daniel, but is horrified when he expects her to spend the night and flees from his hotel. She has a further blow when her friend, Maizee, reveals Tommy’s affair with Birdie. She breaks her engagement, and is now willing to accept Daniel’s apology. While he is on the road, Daniel phones and writes and they become friends.

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“Meanwhile, Tommy tells Florence she is acquiring a bad reputation, using that as an excuse to offer her money to get together with him. This encounter convinces Florence to quit her work as a customer girl. Daniel, who is now deeply in love with Florence, returns to town. He asks her help in completing a merger. Although she is disappointed by his request, she agrees and gets the necessary signature, without compromising herself. Daniel, however, does not believe what she did was so innocent, especially when the buyer hints that she blackmailed him into signing. Convinced that her refusals were just a ploy, Daniel drives her into the country, where he attacks her. She escapes to find Tommy in a taxi, but when she begs him for help, he, too, believes that she is selling herself. Daniel overhears Tommy’s accusations and, realizing that Florence is really innocent, makes Tommy apologize. He also begs her forgiveness and asks her to marry him.” (This summary is brought to you courtesy of TCM.)

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The kind of sexual harassment which this film purports to expose was reportedly common place in the Pre-Code era. The film’s negative reviews upon opening have since been attributed to society’s then inability to hear this simple truth. However, seeing She Had To Say Yes today, the truth of the matter is that the film is mediocre. It’s slow and lifeless, with Loretta Young, who just last week in Midnight Mary was killing crooks and dating millionaires, as a flawless too-good-to-be-true heroine, to whom things just happen. In other words, the plot happens in spite of her, not because of her, and this lack of individual agency, while one could argue is intentional, is also a detriment to our enjoyment of the picture and the way in which the action unfolds. As a result of her narrative helplessness, her character is grossly unlikable, even when it’s the men around her who are behaving reprehensibly. If our heroine was more exciting, with genuine flaws and a more realistic rendering, She Had To Say Yes might actually pack a punch.

The only bright spot is Winnie Lightner as Young’s friend. Their scenes together have that delightful Pre-Code zing; it’s in these moments in which the film comes alive, albeit briefly.

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Today’s entry is short and sweet because there’s little to say about She Had To Say Yes. I wish it were a better film.

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Come back next Friday for another Young Pre-Code! And tune in on Monday for the start of a whole new week of fun on That’s Entertainment!

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2 thoughts on “SPOTLIGHT: Youthful Pre-Code Young (V)

  1. Trying to find any info on Young’s 1933 Grand Slam. Can’t find your actual review. Also, want to know if it’s in print & can be purchased. If you can help…..

    • Hi, Mitch! Thanks for reading and commenting.

      My thoughts on GRAND SLAM (1933) can be found here: http://jacksonupperco.com/2015/04/03/spotlight-youthful-pre-code-young-iii (The easiest way to locate past posts is to use the search bar and/or tags.)

      Unfortunately, GRAND SLAM (1933) is not on DVD, but it’s still shown on TCM (this morning, for instance), and a Google search will yield access to the full film (from a site of questionable legality).

      Let me know if you have any further trouble finding the film and I can help point you in the right direction!

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