Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Virtue (1932) Film Review - Starring Carole Lombard

Plot Summary - Precode romantic melodrama starring Carole Lombard as Mae, a tough talking, streetwise New York City prostitute in t-strap heels, currently running from a "dick". She gets involved with cocky cabbie Jimmy Doyle (Pat O'Brien) who thinks he knows it all about women - "Nobody can tell me about Dames" says he (he also thinks guys should stay away from dames and advises his pal to "just buy a hot water bottle" rather than get married - okey dokey). Mae was meant to get out of town for soliciting men, but instead she stays with gal pal/fellow streetwalker Lil (Mayo Methot) and takes a job as waitress in a diner. Mae and Jimmy have a rough start from the moment she meets him as a passenger in his taxi (she stiffs him on the fare) but eventually start to date, and he has absolutely no clue about her shady past (he thinks she's an "out-of-work stenographer from out of town"). They get married, honeymoon at Coney Island, then return to her apartment to find the cop is there to round her up - the cop leaves when he sees the marriage license, and Jimmy leaves too, devastated by the truth. But he comes back and goes through with the marriage - soon she's serving him stacks of pancakes and bickering with him like an old married couple. (Possible SPOILER) Loads of troubles come when Jimmy wants to buy a gas station but Mae secretly loans part of the down-payment to help a gal friend pay for an operation, which turns out to be a scam. And Jimmy always has in the back of his mind that his wife is going to pick up a man again. Murder and possible jail for Mae all because of a gangster named Toots! (end SPOILER)

Review - This is a very entertaining film of the bad girl goes good variety, fun and snappy in the earlier parts - turning into a serious drama in the later scenes. Carole Lombard is great, in fact, all the acting is top-notch in this - I especially thought Mayo Methot is real good here, particularly later in the film in scenes between her character Lil and Lil's creepy gangster boyfriend Toots (Jack La Rue, the actor who plays him, makes this character suitably slimy - and memorable). I wasn't so sure at first about the chemistry between Lombard and Pat O'Brien (and his character is, at times, kind of an annoying blowhard who cares more about what his "gang" thinks than anything else) - but after the characters are married, they really do seem like a real couple. The quick montage of the Coney Island honeymoon shows signs for the "Dragon's Gorge", "Chutes", and the two eating ice cream cones (just for reference). Really good film. Rating - 9/10 stars

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