For Reel

Under 18 (1931)
December 18, 2011, 4:08 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Archie Mayo

Marian Marsh, perhaps most well remembered for her role opposite John Barrymore in Svengali, was selected as a WAMPAS Baby Star in 1931 (an impressive year in which she was listed alongside Joan Blondell and Anita Louise, among others). Her charm is on display in Under 18 – a picture which, if not particularly noteworthy as a piece of filmmaking, is a fascinating sociological time capsule from the early days of the depression. Marsh is envious of the upper class models of her factory, and concludes that she doesn’t wish to marry her delivery boy boyfriend because he won’t be able to bring her out of tenement living. Though not quite as rife with sexual innuendos as its pre-Code contemporaries, the film has a terrific climax set at the home of a playboy millionaire played by Warren William. Desperate for money to pay for her sister’s divorce lawyer, she intends to sleep with the man for his favor. The resolution, however, is both improbable and nonsensical – had the film been released just three years later, one might assume that it was the product of Code-era compromise, but, as it is, it is remarkably out of tone with the rest of the picture, leaving a sour taste on what is otherwise a zeitgeist film meriting discussion.

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