Tuesday, April 15, 2014


TCM is honoring Marie Prevost tomorrow morning and afernoon with a bunch of her movies, even though she was born in November. Not that I'm complaining, though. One of the better movies in the set that I haven't recommended before is Paid, which comes on at 8:30 AM.

Prevost isn't the star; her personal problems prevented her from having a starring career in talkies and ultimately led to her untimely death, which is another story. The actual star is Joan Crawford, playing Mary Turner. Mary is a clerk in Gilder's department store, run by wealthy Mr. Gilder (Purnell Pratt). There's a shoplifting case at Gilder's, and Mary gets arrested for it even though she's completely innocent. Gilder and the DA want to make an example of somebody, and Mary happens to be the convenient example, so when she's found guilty, they refuse to show any leniency even though this would have been her first crime and we know she's not guilty, anyway. For a little shoplifting, Mary gets three years in the clink. As she's going off to prison, Mary vows that she's going to make them pay for theyears of her life that are being taken away from her.

If you remember Mildred Pierce, you'll recall a montage from just after Joan Crawford's Mildred gets a waitressing job from Eve Arden's Ida, with Crawford's voiceover stating that six weeks after taking the job she felt as though she had been born in a restaurant. Well, Crawford's Mary here in Paid brings that same sort of determination to her circumstances, studying law while in women's prison. When Mary gets out, she goes to see one of the friends she made in prison, good-time girl Agnes Lynch (that's Marie Prevost). Agnes is part of a gang of con artists led by Joe Garson (Robert Armstrong), and Mary has an idea for them. What they're doing is penny ante stuff, and illegal. Mary has been studying the law, and while in stir figured out ways to blackmail the wealthy while staying on the right side of the law in doing it. She's got the brains, but she can't do it alone, and that's where Joe and his gang come in.

Of course, there's some conflict in all of this. Mary is really doing what she is as a means to get her ultimate revenge, that being seducing Gilder's son Robert (Kent Douglass/né Douglass Montgomery). Joe doesn't like basically being emasculated in having to give a good deal of control over to Mary, and constantly runs the risk of saying things he shouldn't to the police, who are always investigating and never finding anything. The police eventually come up with a plot to get the gang that involves stealing an artwork from Gilder's mansion. Mary knows it's a trap, and has also fallen in love with Bob, making the finale really complicated.

Mary Turner in Paid is the sort of role that Joan Crawford was quite good at; it's also interesting to see that this is one of the first times she played such a role, having done much lighter stuff for the first five years of her MGM career. Marie Prevost is also memorable, with the rest of the cast being adequate. They do nothing to bring down the proceedings, but they're not particularly memorable either. You could chalk this up to Paid Being an early talkie, and using quite a few actors who had come from the stage. Paid does have some of the problems that a lot of early talkies have, but not to the same extent as many others. The bigger problem is with the plot, which really starts to strain credulity when it gets to the art heist. Overall, though, Paid is a thoroughly entertaining movie, and more than worth a watch.

As you can probably guess from the photo accompanying this post, Paid has been released to DVD courtesy of the Warner Archive, and is available from the TCM shop.

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