From Harry Cohn’s Columbia studios comes this fine example of the Hollywood pre-code era when studios would put more risqué topics on the screen, splashing it with a healthier dose of skin and sex then they would be post 1934. Participating in the Carole Lombard blogathon kindly put together by Crystal at In The Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood and Laura over at Phyllis Loves Classic Movies has led me to this movie that finds Carole attempting to find her way out of the sex trade industry and make a good life for her and leading man, Pat O’Brien.
Though the word prostitute isn’t used in the opening scene of the film, it’s quite clear that Carole and a group of ladies have been found guilty of solicitation and by suspended sentence, are ejected from the city of New York. They’ve been given a deadline to leave town. I should point out that the copy of this film in my collection is courtesy of the TCM Vault Pre Code Collection. I bring this up due to the fact that the first few minutes of the film appear to be lost yet thankfully the voice track remains. This allows the tone to be set for this 68 minute film from director Edward Buzzell.
While Carole is being shoved out of town, the tried and true backdrop of the cab driver is front and center when Pat O’Brien and third billed Ward Bond are talking women. Bond is set to get married while Pat has nothing but disdain for any “chiseling dame.” He goes on to tell the John Ford protégé, “Let me give you a tip. Buy yourself a hot water bottle. There just as warm as a wife and less trouble. Pat’s life is to take a major turn when his next cab fare turns out to be Miss Lombard. Her initial meeting with Pat does little to dissuade his thoughts on women in general when she flees the cab and stiffs him on the fare.
Having stayed in New York and meaning to make something of herself, Carole visits gal pal Mayo Methot, borrows some cash and promptly comes back into O’Brien’s universe paying off her debt. Throwing Pat a curve he hadn’t expected, the insults fly and the tempers flare before the duo sit down at the local malt shop. Romance is in the air. Pat has big dreams of owning his own filling station and Carole lands a job working the counter at a greasy spoon with another friend from her past, Sheila Grey. Pat has no idea of Carole’s past life and she desperately tries to keep it from him after the pair get married.
If she did then there wouldn’t be much drama in the remainder of the film. Wouldn’t you agree?
The screenplay by Robert Riskin (It Happened One Night) still needs to jam a murder, con jobs and double crossing into the mix along with actor Jack LaRue.
While Pat O’Brien may have been the tough talking taxi driver here, his bark has very little bite. However, it’s Carole’s star that shines the brightest when she gets tough on a former friend that crosses her. Fists and threats flow easily from Carole who will clearly take no bullshit from anyone, least of all someone she put faith in. I’ll point out that I don’t very often use a word like bullshit here at Mike’s Take but I do so in honor of Miss Lombard who according to Hollywood Legend was a woman who easily tossed around language so foul that it was sure to make the boys blush.
Pat O’Brien does his usual barking out loud once again, minus the collar and the Warner Brothers banner that he is very often associated with. To see Ward Bond here getting third billing came as a bit of a shock. I’ve always associated many of his roles throughout the 1930’s as uncredited allowing me to try spotting him in the gang of hoods tormenting the leading actors like Bogie and Eddie.
Speaking of Bogie, Virtue gives one an opportunity to see the other half of the Battling Bogarts, Miss Mayo Methot though she wouldn’t marry the future Icon until 1938. By the time 1945 rolled around, Bogart had met Bacall and the divorce was imminent, the rest history.
Virtue offers us not only a look into the pre code era of filmmaking but also the chance to see Miss Lombard in an earlier role before she became solidly identified with the screwball comedy genre that we all know and love her for.
Now it’s time to visit the other sites and writers to see what they have chosen to share with us on this great lady of cinema who fate wasn’t kind to on the date of January 16th, 1942 when she was just 33 years of age.