Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Tonight's Movie: Play-Girl (1932)

PLAY-GIRL is the misleading title of an hour-long pre-Code melodrama starring Loretta Young and Norman Foster.

Loretta plays a young department store salesgirl who has high hopes for her career and has sworn off marriage, especially as she fears childbirth. Enter brash Wally Dennis (Foster), who sweeps her off her feet and marries her, only to be revealed as an inveterate gambler shortly after the wedding. Wally promises to get a real job but struggles to keep his word, until he learns his bride is going to have a baby...

In many ways this is a silly movie, with the unexpected, and rather unpleasant, plot detour into gambling and an even more unexpected detour when Loretta's character starts gambling herself near the end of the movie.

However, Loretta Young is absolutely magnetic. She was a stunning beauty as a teenager; she was just 18 or 19 when this was filmed. Even better, she was a mesmerizing actress, and she covers a great deal of emotional territory in this film. I like all of Young's work but find her films of the early '30s especially interesting. My favorite Young pre-Codes are MIDNIGHT MARY (1933) and TAXI! (1932). THEY CALL IT SIN (1932) is another I found especially entertaining.

Foster is pleasant, but he's never struck me as a particularly appealing leading man. Young and Foster also starred as husband and wife in WEEK-END MARRIAGE in 1932. Three years later, Foster became Young's real-life brother-in-law when he married her sister, Sally Blane (born Elizabeth Jane Young). He later directed Loretta in RACHEL AND THE STRANGER (1948).

PLAY-GIRL is also of note for its fairly stark depiction of life during the Depression era. I was especially fascinated by the huge department store time clock.

Loretta's best friend is played by Winnie Lightner, who was rather inexplicably top billed. Lightner's last film was in 1934. In 1948 she married film director Roy Del Ruth. They were married until his passing in 1961. Lightner herself lived till 1971.

The cast also includes handsome James Ellison (SORORITY GIRL). Dorothy Burgess plays a snarky salesgirl, and Guy Kibbee plays Lightner's beau.

PLAY-GIRL was directed by Ray Enright. It was photographed by Gregg Toland.

PLAY-GIRL does not appear to have had a VHS or DVD release, but it can be seen from time to time on Turner Classic Movies. The rather racy trailer doesn't have a great deal to do with the actual movie!

Update: Here's a review of Young and Lightner as department store secretaries in SHE HAD TO SAY YES (1933).


Blogger J.C. Loophole said...

I think there is another film (without the hyphen) called Play Girl with Kay Francis. I think I DVR'ed it but I'm not sure- it sounded interesting- as JC's Movie Axiom # 31 is Anything with Kay Francis is worth checking it. Now I'll have to be on the lookout for this one, as Axiom #32 is Anything with Loretta Young is worth checking out

9:37 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

You're exactly right, J.C., PLAY GIRL, no hyphen, stars Kay Francis. I've got that one on tape. In fact, I just looked and the leading man was James Ellison, who was a supporting actor in PLAY-GIRL, a fun coincidence.

I agree, anything with these actresses is worth checking out! Hope you can find PLAY-GIRL. It was shown on TCM earlier this year as part of Loretta's birthday tribute and I just now caught up with it.

I also have Loretta's SHE HAD TO SAY YES, recorded the same day, which I'm looking forward to seeing. It's also about a department store, although it sounds more like her EMPLOYEES' ENTRANCE than PLAY-GIRL. Department stores seem to be a regular feature of pre-Code films (Crawford's OUR BLUSHING BRIDES also comes to mind).

Best wishes,

10:02 AM  
Blogger J.C. Loophole said...

Yes- Department stores or the secretarial pool seem to have been the jobs de jour for pretty single ladies. I think many a 30s film featured that particular job. Heck didn't the titular Sister Carrie began big city life at a department store in that book? I guess it was the "go-to" job to give a leading lady to indicate she was "all grown up" or something. Even Jack Benny "discovered" Mary Livingstone at the May Company and they mined that particular bit for all it was worth for over 40 yeats.

12:15 PM  

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