Wednesday, January 9, 2013


TCM's second night of Star of the Month Loretta Young's movies includes a bunch of pre-Codes that are more or less typical of what she was doing in the early 1930s. Among the movies is Play-Girl, airing early tomorrow morning at 4:30 AM.

Play-Girl is a movie that starts off with a bang, and never quite reaches that level again. The opening scene is in one of those old department stores where you asked the shop assistant behind the counter to get the stuff on shelves behind the counter. An older man wanting to see something that's up on one of those shelves asks the female shop assistant. It turns out he wants to see something else: as the young woman climbs a ladder to reach the top shelf, the camera (and presumably the customer) takes a good long look at the woman's legs. "I'm sorry," the man says after the shop assistant comes down from the ladder. "You don't have exactly what I'm looking for." Indeed.

In fact, there are two shop assistants the story focuses on at first. Bus (Loretta Young) and Georgine (Winnie Lightner) are co-workers and roommates trying to make it in the big city by working at the department store. Bus wants to earn an honest living instead of snagging a rich man: her mother died delivering her, and Bus doesn't want to suffer the same fate Mom did. Georgine, however, convinces bus to go on a double date, and the date changes Bus's life. Bus is introduced to Wally (Norman Foster), and the two hit it off, eventually getting married!

Unfortunately for Bus, Wally isn't the sort of man Bus thought he was when she first met him. In fact, he makes his living, such as it is, by gambling! And of course, this wasn't like now when you have professional poker tournaments and if you win the big one you could be set for quite a long time. No, gambling back in those days of the sort practiced by Wally was quite illegal. Wally promises to Bus that he's going to change his ways and earn an honest living, but it's really just to shut Bus up. Eventually, she finds out that he's been dishonest, but by this time, she's already pregnant.

What's a pregnant woman with a bounder of a husband to do? Unfortunately, this is where the movie starts to fall down. Bus decides that the best way to make a living is to take up gambling herself! And wouldn't you know it, but there's a strange set of coincidences that results in gambling working for Bus, with her earning some money and being reunited with a reformed (more or less) Wally, with the two of them presumably living happily ever after. It's a shame, because the movie starts off with an interesting premise before copping out, much like Week-End Marriage (airing in two weeks from now), which also starred Young and Foster in a similar relationship.

The three leads all do well enough, ably supported by Guy Kibbee who plays the immediate boss of Young and Lightner. He's interested in Lightner, and tries to put her in departments where she won't be seen by men better than Kibbee. Guy Kibbee sure did play a lot of those lecherous older man roles. TCM's schedule lists Play-Girl as being available on DVD, but closer inspection reveals a problem with their database, as it's a different movie with the same title that they're selling.

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