Baby Face with Barbara Stanwyck
A different version of this note and thoughts on other books are available at:
- https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLEVa4_CsRStSBBDo4uJWT8BSWtTTn0N1E and http://realini.blogspot.ro/
TIME Magazine has included Baby Face of its list of best 100 movies.
It was made in 1933 and given the period, it is in Black and White.
And the star is the excellent Barbara Stanwyck.
A couple of weeks ago I have posted a note on Double Indemnity.
By the time she acted in that, she was the highest paid actor in America.
And if I am not mistaken, she had the highest paid job in any domain.
She was reluctant to act in Double Indemnity though, given that her image had been so different.
In Baby Face, she plays the role of Lily Powers, the daughter of the owner of a dubious cafe, called a speakeasy.
The clients are not just rough, but outright offensive, brutal and lascivious.
They try to grab, pinch and get her to sleep with them.
The degenerate father is encouraging instead of throwing them out.
He actually wants to use his child as a bait, an attraction that gets customers in his speakeasy.
No wonder the poor girl gets very tough, to the point of insensitivity.
She appears to want a Payback and may have a revulsion for most men, who have been so heinous to her.
After the father dies in a fire, Lily Powers takes her African American friend with her and they depart for New York.
Since they have no money, they need to get there by cargo train.
Only they are discovered in a carriage and threatened with jail.
Lily knows what to do to make men give up their aggressive manner.
- Why don't sit and talk it over?
Once in New York, she tries the same tricks.
She is guided by some quotes from Nietzsche.
A professor from home told her about the philosopher.
He mentioned exploitation and the need to win.
- Use men! He advised his young friend
And she did.
First she gets a job by using her good looks.
I must say that I wondered how on earth could she be not just clean, but with decent clothes and makeup, after a journey on a cattle train?
But this is Baby Face.
One of her superiors has sex with her in the women's rest room.
She has invited him there.
But when they get caught, she plays the naive girl forced by the intruder into submission.
With this, she keeps her job and moves up the ladder, becoming the mistress of a yet more important boss.
This one has a fiancé, and when Lily finds that she is on her way to the office, she makes sure to be found in the arms of her lover.
There is a scene, the man is asked to fire her.
Lily's attitude recalls the lectures of Harvard Professor Tal Ben Shahar.
He says that we should see stepping stones and not stumbling blocks.
Every incident is an opportunity for Baby Face
John Wayne has a small role in this classic film.