SPOTLIGHT: Sizzling Pre-Code Stanwyck (XIII)

Welcome to a new Film Friday and the conclusion of our spotlight series on the Pre-Code work of Barbara Stanwyck (1907-1990), one of Hollywood’s most respected leading ladies. Known for her snarky and cigarette-filled performances, many of Stanwyck’s Pre-Code films have become notorious for their delightful disinterest in adhering to the provisions of the 1930 Production Code. Surprisingly, we’d only featured one Stanwyck film here before, Night Nurse (1931). So far in this survey of her work, we have covered Ladies Of Leisure (1930), Illicit (1931), Ten Cents A Dance (1931), The Miracle Woman (1931),  Forbidden (1932), Shopworn (1932),  So Big! (1932), The Purchase Price (1932), The Bitter Tea Of General Yen (1933), Ladies They Talk About (1933), Baby Face (1933), and Ever In My Heart (1933). Today…

 

Gambling Lady (1934)

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Two gamblers fall in love but one is already married to a possible murderer. Starring Barbara Stanwyck, Joel McCrea, Pat O’Brien, Claire Dodd, and C. Aubrey Smith. Screenplay by Ralph Block and Doris Malloy. Based on a story by Doris Malloy. Directed by Archie Mayo.

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Meanwhile, McCrea, whose work of which I’ve always been a fan, delivers a typically solid performance and shares an appropriate amount of chemistry with Stanwyck, who, unlike some leading ladies, is usually pretty able to create a bond and repartee with all of her leading men. There’s nothing particularly hot about their connection in Gambling Lady, but it’s logical and makes sense. (The actors went on to become good friends.) So although this film lacks the exceptional finesse of a fantastic motion picture, it successfully eschews a lot of the factors that could have bogged down the narrative, and delivers a lot of fine ingredients in a sufficiently constructed final product. Thus, I can recommend it.

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

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