Thursday, October 31, 2013

She SHOULD Have Said "No"!!!

From the opening of  She Had to Say Yes (1933), it's obvious that this is a precode film.  At a meeting of the salesmen from the Sol Glass Clothing Company, all the salesmen are bemoaning the fact that their "customer's girls" are just too hard and too greedy to be appealing to the buyers who frequent their establishment.  But, the company needs to provide entertainment to these poor, lonesome men - so why not ask the secretaries in the steno pool to take on the duties of the customer's girls.  They are younger, nicer, and not as hard looking, so they will be more appealing to the buyers.  Of course, the girls won't be FORCED to take on the job (of course not...), but it will mean extra money in their pockets and free dinners and shows at the company's expense.  At first, only one girl (Birdie, played with a certain sluttish charm by Suzanne Kilborn) is willing to participate, but soon, Tommy Nelson (Regis Toomey) has convinced his fiance Florence Denny (Loretta Young) to go out with Daniel Drew (Lyle Talbot) to close a sale - and give Tommy some "alone" time with Birdie.

This film does not paint a pretty picture of men.  Without exception, the men in this film are total creeps; there is not a nice guy in the flick.  Take a look at this commentary from TCM, in which
Jeanine Basinger says that the film "puts the capper on showing how women are used by men."   You know that the secretaries will be forced to participate, and you know that if they do not "play the game" properly, they will be fired.  One of our group once worked in the garment industry, and she shook her head at what she saw as a totally accurate portrayal of the attitudes of men in that business. It seems in over 50 years, female employees were still being treated as commodities for the pleasure of the men.
The opening credits immediately inform you that you are entering the world of the fashion industry.  With stunning gowns by Orry-Kelly, the costuming is never a disappointment.  Loretta Young (who in later years was noted for her magnificent wardrobe in her eponymous television show) is garbed in some truly lovely outfits.  

Much of our discussion focused on Ms. Young.  She's quite good here.  Her Flo is sympathetic and intelligent (though we really thought that Maizie played with wit by Winnie Lightner is the smartest of the lot; she's a bit older and a lot wiser, a good character and a good friend.  And someone who really knows how to handle these horrible men).  In a different age, Flo would have been an executive rather than a secretary.  She's certainly much smarter than her fiance, the ever-creepy Tommy. 

It's hard to talk about Loretta Young without getting into some discussion of her later, personal life. We spoke at some length of Young's relationship with Clark Gable and the daughter that was the result of the liaison.  Young was a complicated woman - devoted to her Catholic faith, yet with a past that many might find the antithesis of her own beliefs.   But, here she is, two years before her life took this unwanted turn, glowing with youth and beauty and appeal.   
 
Regis Toomey pulls no punches in presenting a character that is truly unlikeable.  An underrated actor, Toomey spent much of his film career playing second bananas.  He found a place in television, where he appeared in a variety of shows, including Burke's Law (where he played Gene Barry's Aide-de-Camp), and 6 episodes of The Loretta Young Show.   Toomey died in 1991, at the age of 93, after over appearing in over 200 films.

Lyle Talbot's Danny Drew isn't much better than Tommy Nelson.  You want to like him as the film progresses, but he is really just as despicable as Tommy.   The double-standard is thick enough to spread on toast.  Do what I ask you to do, the film says, but don't be surprised when I dump you afterwards.

Here's an amusing trailer from the film - note the script at the beginning: "...because she was hired to be 'nice' to out-of-town buyers, she had to take orders from THEM until they gave their signed orders to HER.  Could a good girl stay good WHEN She Had to Say Yes...