Friday, January 3, 2014

Women in Hiding

I've briefly mentioned the short Women in Hiding before. It's coming up again this evening on TCM a little after 7:30 PM, or just after the 1931 version of Possessed.

This is another of the Crime Does Not Pay series, this time looking at a controversial topic for 1940: getting pregnant out of wedlock. Marsha Hunt plays Jane, who's just one such young woman, living in one of those unnamed big cities that could be a stand-in for your town. Jane has nobody to turn to, so when she sees an ad in the classifieds about a discreet clinic for women in her situation, she goes there.

It turns out she probably shouldn't. The place is run by a crooked Dr. Mansby (C. Henry Gordon), with the place sustaining itself financially by selling the kids into adoption. And that's the kids that survive! Let's just say that the doctors here don't treat the patients as well as they should.

It must have been shocking for moviegoers back in 1940, and it's shocking even today. Of course, the shock value is for different reasons. Back then there might have been some incredulity, but I get the impression that people would probably have responded with a bit more of a sense of horror. Looking back on it 70 years ago, it's more shocking in the sense it's hard to believe anything like this might have gone on at all. After all, there's much less of a stigma toward getting knocked up out of wedlock. And young women could just go off and disappear like this? Somehow I find that tough to believe, but then, I'm looking at this from a 2013 perspective. This is, however, one of the more worthy Crime Does Not Pay shorts.

As far as I know, Women in Hiding still isn't on DVD, so you'll have to catch the rare TCM showings.


Moira Finnie said...

I was quite impressed with this 1940 short from early in the career of director Joseph Newman too. I found that Marsha Hunt and the other two girls trapped in this clinic run by über-quack (and thirties villain) C. Henry Gordon to be very touching, especially after the film showed each of them claiming (at one point) that they were married, but had no place to go.

I would like to add that this short is available on DVD. It is part of the package included in the 2006 release of The Film Noir Classic Collection, Vol. 3 (feature films in this set include Border Incident / His Kind of Woman / Lady in the Lake / On Dangerous Ground / The Racket). This set is available for under $20 online.

Ted S. (Just a Cineast) said...

Thanks for the comments about it being on DVD. IMDb's links to Amazon can be a bit of a mess when you have a movie with a very common title, because it will list everything with that title.

You also wonder whether anybody read a contract back in those days based on the way everybody just signed all those documents put in front of them.