Ladies They Talk About
Genre: Drama, WIP
Director: Howard Bretherton, William Keighley
Stars: Barbara Stanwyck, Preston Foster, Lyle Talbot
Attractive Nan, member of a bank-robbery gang, goes to prison thanks to evangelist Dave Slade…who loves her.
Yes, there are ladies in this film – quite a few of them, in fact. However, who is this ubiquitous “they,” and what exactly are they saying when they talk about these ladies? These are questions that are regrettably left unanswered in this early Women in Prison film from the early era of Hollywood. Nan Turner (Barbarba Stanwyck) is part of a gang that concocts a brilliant idea to rob a bank. Since she has the benefit of being a attractive, you know with her being female and all that, her role in this bank robbery is to get the security guard to open the bank early for her to make a deposit. She plays the ignorant and naive damsel, keeping the cop distracted and therefore not able to respond quick enough when the gangsters come in, guns drawn and demanding money. The heist almost goes off as planned; the gangsters make off with their money but since the detective called onto the scene happens to recognize Nan from some other crime, she takes the fall for the robbery. She’s given the option to rat out the other members of the gang in exchange for some level of immunity but apparently “snitches get stitches” was every part a motto of the crime world back in 1933 as it is today.
So, what’s women’s prison like in 1933? Not bad… Not bad at all. In fact the district attorney has a line that “we’re spending some money to expand the woman’s detention center and make it nicer for them.” There’s no forced lesbian rape, no fights in the mud, none of the standard exploitation bits you see in a Women in Prison film. Some of the gals have their disagreements which really amount to a few angry words and no fisticuffs. There is even a musical number. Of course it’s no Chicagoesque showstopper like “Cell Block Tango” as this is just a random girl singing a love song to a picture while her cell mate strums on a guitar. The musical number actually pissed me off as it featured NONE of the primary characters, had NOTHING to do with the story; it felt obligatory as if “We’re a movie in the 1930s so we need a song.” Come to think of it though, this may be the ONLY women in prison film with a musical number. Well… is Chicago a women in prison film? I didn’t include it as one so NO! But I am on such an off-topic tangent here but I suppose that’s fine because this goddamn musical number was an off-topic tangent as well.
Back to it. There is an outspoken fellow that I’m just going to refer to as a “guy” because it’s not really clear what he does named Dave Slade. He speaks at a tent revival every night but I don’t think he’s a preacher. He speaks out about politics but he’s no politician. Dave falls in love with Nan for no goddamn reason whatsoever. He barely meets her and suddenly he’s head-over-heels pussy whipped. To prove his love to her he betrays her trust and Nan is sentenced to three-to-five years in Singin’ Cell Block A. Nan’s former gang has a member that’s locked up in the men’s portion of the prison. So the gang’s solution to help him break out is to have Nan create a map to her cell so their friend can escape prison through the woman’s section. Yeah, it doesn’t make a damn bit of sense. What’s even more of a plot lacking in common sense is that Dave tries harder to prove his love to Nan by doing what he can to stop this plot she’s involved in. He rats her out and gets more time added to her sentence.
The ending of this movie is the stupidest shit ending I’ve ever seen. I was able to put up with a lot of this movie, but THIS retarded ending, this obscenity of writing that actually makes deus-ex-machina look like a good idea. I’m not even going to discuss that sad, sad excuse for an ending further than that.
Overall, not really an enjoyable movie. All the characters are less than archetypes and poorly written without any motivation at all. People just do stuff because the lazy writers just thought it would be fun or interesting for a plot rather than as something this character would do and I hate when stories do that. The story should stem from the characters actions, goddammit, not the other way around. This women in prison film isn’t an exploitation film, doesn’t even attempt to be, so it should be held to the same standards of storytelling as any other non-exploitation film. The movie is also rather boring and just drags itself along without any sort of aim or purpose. there’s no over-arching theme, nothing the filmmaker is trying to say nor is there any kind of entertainment value to be gleaned from this turd. This DVD may herald itself as being in “glorious black and white,” but trust me, there’s not a damn thing glorious about this movie.