For Reel

Ladies They Talk About (1933)
May 20, 2011, 9:25 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , , ,

Director(s): Howard Bretherton & William Keighley

As a pre-Code vixen, Barbara Stanwyck often played independent women who were not merely entrepreneurial and intelligent, but women who were completely secure with their sexuality and not above showing some leg to a man in order to get ahead. Ladies They Talk About preceded the delightfully erotic Baby Face – in which Stanwyck literally sleeps to the top of a corporation – and is most memorable for its arresting depiction of a women’s prison. Her fellow inmates are conceived to articulate the unrest of the suppressed female voices of the era – some women were convicted for shooting men, another ran a whorehouse, and, most unusually, an old society woman was convicted for killing a woman whom she was jealous of. These misfits are effectively the heroes of the film, engaging in humorous, sexually-suggestive chatter whilst donning lace nightgowns in their well-furnished cells. Like other pre-Code female gangster pictures – Blondie Johnson, for example – the film comes as a startling revelation having been accustomed to the familiar women’s roles of today’s Hollywood.

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