Movie Critique – Ladies They Talk About

For review of all movies starring Barbara Stanwyck, go here.

Stars: 4 / 5

Recommendation: A delightful tale of an evangelic reformer falling in love with a gun moll from his own home town; an early pre-Code drama showcasing Stanwyck so good at being bad.

Ladies They Talk About is a 1933 pre-Code American crime drama directed by Howard Bretherton and William Keighley; uncredited production by Raymond Griffith; and released by Warner Bros. Pictures. The film stars Barbara Stanwyck, Preston Foster, Lyle Talbot and Dorothy Burgess among others. 

Nan Taylor (portrayed by Barbara Stanwyck), a known member of a bank robber group, gets arrested while her gang is stealing a bank. Radio actor David Slade (portrayed by Preston Foster) falls in love with her, and tries to get her released. In the prison when an escape is attempted after her gang is also arrested, it is foiled and the leader of the gang Don (portrayed by Lyle Talbot) is shot dead. Now Nan vows to take revenge on Slade since she believes that Slade had foiled their plans.

The film is based on the 1932 play Women in Prison or Gangstress by Dorothy Mackaye and Carlton Miles. The play is based on Mackaye's real-life jail-time experience. Screenplay for the film was given by Brown Holmes, William McGrath and Sidney Sutherland.

Again I am watching this movie for the sake of Barbara Stanwyck. I have gained a certain fascination for her as she reminds me so much of one my favorite yester year Hindi Indian language actress Nutan. Here is my review of her next film.

Stanwyck makes a convincing gun moll Nan Taylor. As always charming and pretty, and perfection in her acting. As for Preston Foster, this is the first time I am watching his film. And again he seems familiar, but I cant seem to place him. They both made a cute pair even though the chemistry wasn’t electrifying. 

Lyle Talbot has been a permanent fixture in many movies and TV shows in the 30s, 40s, 50s and 60s. To name a few - in the 1934 American mystery film The Dragon Murder Case; the 1942 American comedy film Mexican Spitfire's Elephant; in one episode of the original Perry Mason TV show (Season 1 Episode 33 The Case of the Long-Legged Models released in May of 1958).

The escape plan that Lyle's Don devises in the film reminded me of what Andy Dufresne does in the 1994 American drama film The Shawhshank Redemption. Did Stephen King get inspired from this film for his novel, I wonder!

The background song on the opening and ending credits are the tunes of St. Louis Blues written by W. C. Handy. Etta Moten who plays the part of an inmate in the film is heard singing the song off-screen. The main characters are show by there live-action headshot with their name and their character's name printed. 

Although the ending is questionable in my mind, all in all it was a good 69 minutes of entertainment. Stanwyck sizzles wearing prison gown; comes off tough and strong; and looks so good at being bad. A delightful tale of an evangelic reformer falling in love with a gun moll from his own home town.

Spoiler Alerts:

1) Movie Trivia:

a. The film was remade in 1942 as Lady Gangster with Faye Emerson, Julie Bishop, Frank Wilcox and Roland Drew among others in the cast. The original Perry Mason's permanent fixture William Hopper also has a part in the film as John. It was again released by Warner Bros. Pictures Inc. 

b. Lilian Roth plays the role of prisoner Linda. Interesting of note is that the real-life story of Roth was made into a 1955 biopic I'll Cry Tomorrow based on her life as a Broadway star. Susan Hayward plays Roth in the film.

c. Lilian Roth's Linda sings If I Could Be With You" to a picture of Joe E. Brown. Though published in 1926, the song gained prominence in 1930s by two singers - Louis Armstrong and McKinney's Cotton Pickers. Music was composed by James P. Johnson and Lyrics penned by Henry Creamer.

d. Note the pictures of Dick Powell and Joe E. Brown on the walls of the women's prison cells.


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