Monday, February 18, 2013

Barbara Dances

We again visit Barbara Stanwyck in the precode era, with the wonderful Ten Cents a Dance from 1931.  As taxi dancer Barbara O'Neill, Stanwyck is smart and honest.  She has caught the eye of wealthy businessman Bradley Carlton (Ricardo Cortez), however she is much more interested in Eddie Miller (Monroe Owsley), a down-on-his-luck neighbor.  She asks Bradley to give Eddie a job, which Bradley does.  Eddie asks her to marry him, which Barbara does.  However, Eddie is a cad - more interested in currying favor with former wealthy friends than being a decent husband, he wastes his money on fine clothing and gambling.  And he begins to have an affair with Nancy Sheridan (Martha Sleeper).  Which leaves Barbara struggling to pay the rent.

Monroe Owsley is here at his oily best.  It is sad that he died so very young - he died following a car accident, at the age of 37, his career just starting to take off.  We had seen him before, of course (in The Keyhole, which we discussed a bit ago). But here, though just as slimy, he has a more rounded character.  You want to see Eddie the way Barbara does at first, but Owsley lets us under his curtain. We see the weakness and the just plain callousness that lies beneath the surface.  Here's a scene between the two of them.
Again, we get treated to Ricardo Cortez playing a good guy.  At first, one is not quite sure of Bradley Carlton's motives. He seems like a good man, but is he just another man out for a good time? We see him through Barbara's eyes, and at first eye him with the same jaundiced glance that she has.  We want to like him, but like her, we need to discover what is under the surface. We're big fans of Cortez, and always find it a pleasure to see him as the hero.  

Finally, there is Stanwyck herself.  Barbara O'Neill is warm and kind, but she doesn't let people walk on her.  She tries to be straightforward and honest herself - ultimately, it is Eddie's dishonesty that will be the thorn in their relationship.  And Stanwyck can show us the whole of Barbara with merely a glance.
For more information on this film, do visit the TCM article on Stanwyck's Precode Films.  Also take a look at this article, which discusses the director of the film - Lionel Barrymore, whose severe arthritis was beginning to affect his career.

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