Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Tonight's Movie: The Purchase Price (1932)

A Broadway singer (Barbara Stanwyck) finds her chances for a respectable marriage destroyed by her previous romantic connection with a hood (Lyle Talbot) who still wants her. Determined to put the mobster out of her life, she moves to Montreal and sings under an assumed name. But when the ex-boyfriend tracks her down, what's a girl to do but run off to be a mail order bride to a struggling North Dakota farmer (George Brent)?

The movie is somewhat episodic and the humor is a bit broad in places -- George Brent's "cold" was annoying, and the characters in the wedding and shivaree scenes are unappealing country bumpkins -- but all in all, I liked this movie. It had a feel similar to turning the pages of a good romantic novel, and I was interested to find out what would happen next as the farmer and the singer got to know one another.

I have been gradually coming to appreciate Barbara Stanwyck -- readers may recall I didn't care for Stanwyck from BIG VALLEY on -- and her performance in this film is very enjoyable. Stanwyck fans will definitely want to see it.

Brent, in another film from his "pre-mustache" period, plays a shy, gangly man completely at odds with the debonair characters from later in his career, including MY REPUTATION, in which he and Stanwyck costarred over a decade after making THE PURCHASE PRICE. I'm finding Brent's early performances rather unexpected and interesting.

The movie has great period detail; the North Dakota farm feels very real, inside and out.

The film was directed by William A. Wellman. It runs 68-70 minutes.

THE PURCHASE PRICE is available on video. It can also be seen on TCM. Click here to request it be added to TCM's schedule.

The trailer is here.

For a similar storyline filmed more recently, I highly recommend Hallmark Hall of Fame's THE MAGIC OF ORDINARY DAYS, starring Keri Russell and Skeet Ulrich.

January 2009 Update: THE PURCHASE PRICE will be released on DVD on March 24, 2009, as part of the Forbidden Hollywood Vol. 3 set, which spotlights the work of director William Wellman.


Blogger Irene said...

Struck out on this one at the library. But I did want to say I saw History is Made at Night yesterday. What an odd, interesting movie. I found the jealous husband to be downright evil. I thought for sure when the husband said they would be taking the Hindenburg, that he would get on it and die but then I realized there was still a lot of movie to go.

Now here is what is really weird. The names of the main characters are Irene, Paul and Bruce. My name is Irene, my husband is Paul and my brother is Bruce. Too weird :o)

7:24 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

That's fun, Irene. :)

Glad you got to see HISTORY IS MADE AT NIGHT. It was really different, wasn't it? The poor guy who played the jealous husband was apparently very troubled in real life; he was an alcoholic who didn't live long after the movie was finished. He really was an evil character; that was one thing that gave the movie particular depth.

Hope you can find THE PURCHASE PRICE in the future!

Best wishes,

10:24 AM  
Blogger Vienna said...

Just watched The Purchase Price. Liked Stanwyck and Brent but not so keen on the plot. Amazing how we learned so much in the first ten minutes - Barbara is a singer, has had a long time affair wit(h a married gangster and expects to marry a man in society. All goes wrong and she ends up a mail order bride! And the ending was rather abrupt.

1:53 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Hi Vienna!

I agree about the abruptness -- I did feel the movie could have been longer and delved a little more deeply into the lead characters' relationship. I love that pre-Codes are so often fast-paced, quick watches, but sometimes a little more is called for. Loved the basic premise, though.

Enjoying hearing your thoughts as you watch your way through the set!

Best wishes,

8:37 AM  
Anonymous David Ostrem said...

Stanwyck great, Brent good, but probably the dumbest movie I've ever seen (I have the Ed Wood box). They can't seem to decide if they're in the US or Canada, supposed to be North Dakota but reference is made to Calgary and Vancouver. The NY Times reviewer says it's Canada. But the worst thing is this mail order bride stuff. North Dakota was populated by German and Scandinavians with large families with plenty of girls. The motivations make no sense, the people are way too rude, etc. etc. Boo.

12:18 PM  

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