Baby Face - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Baby Face Reviews

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Antonius Block
Super Reviewer
½ October 14, 2017
There are several things that make this salacious pre-Code film worth watching, starting with Barbara Stanwyck, of course, who with her eyes and sexy come-on's seduces man after man to get ahead, literally f'ing her way to the top. There are some fantastic scenes from the beginning, where she fends off the advances of one man at her father's bar by pouring coffee on his hand, and explodes with anger at her father for essentially pimping her out since the age of 14. It's when he perishes in a fire that she has to fend for herself in the world. I'm not a big fan of John Wayne, but for those who are, you'll see him in an early role as one of her men along the way, and it was great to see Theresa Harris, who plays her maid. Lastly, I liked the elements of Nietzschean philosophy that at least form a basis for, and perhaps attempt to justify, Stanwyck using sex to get what she needs and wants out of men.

On the other hand, the film is quite cynical and pretty linear in its plot. Stanwyck simply screws man after man - starting with a railroad worker who catches her hitching a ride to New York, and ending with an executive in a skyscraper. The film is brazen about this, and at one point she has sex in the ladies room, so if you're looking for elements of romance, this is not your film. How interesting is it that these "gold digger" themes are so common in films of this period, with men "victimized", when the far more prevalent situation in offices is sexual harassment, the inverse. While Stanwyck is one of my favorite actresses of the period, and it was exciting to see her in this steamy role, with those "take me" eyes and slow lead-ins to kisses, it's really rather hard to like any of the characters. The ending was a lame effort to patch some of that up, and didn't work for me. There are several Barbara Stanwyck pre-code films I would recommend over this one, including Night Nurse (1931), Ladies They Talk About (1933), and The Purchase Price (1932). If you're looking for high-wattage pre-Code shock value, though, this one is hard to top.
½ August 25, 2017
Baby Face is too short, but thus incredibly entertaining and it flies by how immensely fun it is. This is a highly curious movie that probably was the one film most responsible for the bringing of the Hays Code to Hollywood owing to its very sexual and bold story, but it is a movie that is still powerful and engaging to this day with a very interesting story and message, a lot of highly memorable scenes and such a complex, fascinating female protagonist beautifully played by Barbara Stanwyck who probably gave her career best performance here.
March 28, 2016
Won't work as a drama for modern viewers, but it is a fascinating historical piece - especially due to it's risqué pre-code plot points.
February 27, 2016
Egy n? lelkének megismerése egy Nietzsche idézet alapján.
August 31, 2015
One of the best pre-code films. The scene in the box car is great.
April 21, 2015
It's provocative and dark, even for the current times. Barbara Stanwyck holds the film together, because the plot is thin and the film is straight-forward, but the themes for the times are shocking.
April 20, 2015
Directed by Alfred Green, "Baby Face" is one of the more notorious dramas of the Pre Code era. Filled with sexual innuendos, a fairly erotic plot, many double entendres and some risqué camera work, the film stars Barbara Stanwyck as the aptly named Lily Powers, a plucky young woman who lives with her father in a smoky industrial town.From the onset it is established that Lily's reality is grim, grim, grim. She lives in a cramped apartment, spends most of her time in her father's dingy speakeasy, has but one friend (an Black maidservant) and is routinely prostituted by her father to local men. When her father dies, Lily thus sets about trying to change her life. She leaves her town and heads for New York City. Here she intends to get rich by marrying a wealthy banker. The film then watches as Lily flirts, sleeps with and cons a series of men, most of whom are multimillionaires or in positions of power. Her actions are guided by Friedrich Nietzsche, the famous German philosopher whose teachings are taught to Lily by an elderly man named Adolf. Modern, casual film-watchers won't have much use for "Baby Face", but it's an interesting film when put in historical context. Before Hollywood began implementing codes, censures and strictures, a number of somewhat daring films were made. These featured Blacks in fairly strong roles (afterwards, miscegenation laws were essentially used to rationalise kicking blacks off screen) and offered frank treatments of sex, sexism, violence and abuse. In "Baby Face's" case, we have the tale of a sexually abused young woman who understandably grows to hate men, people and perhaps the world itself. This persecution then fuels Lily's perceived right to persecute others. Believing exploitation to be "natural", a "fundamental part of reality", she sleeps with and scams everybody, until she wins the chance to essentially inherit a mega-bank. Lily abruptly turns this prize down, however, having learnt the value of true love, kindness and so forth. Written during The Great Depression, the film's very much a parable about nihilistic, soulless social systems, and a plea for ethics and moral, kinder social relationships. A true masterpiece.
March 5, 2015
This is perhaps the finest example of pre-Hayes Code storytelling at its best. A young former prostitute, Lily (nicknamed Baby Face) moves from a hard knocks life working in a shipyard bar moving to a large city presumably New York. She picks a high rise office building telling her friend, "I'm going to work in that building." Floor by floor Lily sleeps her way to the top of the building, floor by floor. The sheer genius lies in the double entendres and implied sexual encounters without showing the action. Something many of today's filmmakers avoid by just going with explicit shots on the screen, leaving nothing to the viewers imagination.
Super Reviewer
½ December 26, 2014
Pre-Code Hollywood gems are the best kept secret in film history. Before films were heavily censored there were black and white talkies featuring nudity, sexual innuendo, swearing, and other obscenities. "Baby Face" is the film that pushed Will Hays into finally enacting the Hays Code. The film features gratuitous innuendo, a character that constantly sleeps with men to advance her standing in life, and obscene language. Stanwyck titillates in the role of Lily, a trodden upon young woman who uses the knowledge of a Nietzsche spouting philosopher, who tells her to use men before they can use her. Stanwyck is exceptional, as always, in a role she was born to play. Supporting characters include George Brent as Courtland, the supposedly dashing suitor who shakes up Lily's life, Theresa Harris as Chico, a black friend who often poses as her servant, and a young John Wayne as Jimmy McCoy Jr. This has been added to the National Film Registry, and stands as an exceptional example of the films made before censorship was common. If the ending hadn't been changed for the benefit of the censors, this would have been a better film, but for its time this is amazing and entertaining.
December 3, 2014
A gem originated during the pre-code hollywood that focuses on feminism. It is a very fine example of immaculate acting. Barbara Stanwyck is phenomenal as Lily Powers aka Baby Face who lives an impoverished life working at a family saloon and then moves to New York trying to incorporate Frederick Nietzsche's WILL TO POWER.

Its all femme fatale as Stanwyck climbs the corporate ladder all the way to the top utilising her seductive power over men. The movie is ruthless, straight forward and outstanding at its presentation of raw willpower.

At 75 minutes, it is fast paced and absolutely perfect.
November 11, 2014
'All life no matter how we idealize it, is nothing more nor less than Exploitation'... The gold digger and Nietzsche--She may fall, but don't surprise when she rises back up faster than you expect... The sweetheart of the night shift!!
October 20, 2014
When it came to playing tough,
take-charge women and independent working girls, Barbara Stanwyck was the pro. If anything distinguished her work from other actresses in the Pre-Code period, it was her gravitation to roles which were the complete antithesis of what passed for socially accepted female characters on the screen. Indeed, her performance in "Baby Face" as a carnal and supremely calculating seductress was strong enough to hasten the implementation of the dreaded production code. "Baby Face" remains one of Stanwyck's most potent performances and a final hurrah in Pre-Code cinema.
May 12, 2014
Due to its cast, it may attract an unusually wide audience. Women may see it for Barbara Stanwyck and men may see it due to John Wayne.
March 7, 2014
Tame by today's standards but at the time quite shocking. Good performances are what holds up the film these days.
½ February 24, 2014
Wow, was Barabara Stanwyck beautiful! The movie is very reminiscent of Red-Headed Woman, but at least in this movie the character isn't a complete psycho, and is more sympathetic and is given more depth.
½ February 19, 2014
Acting on an outdated form of feminism, "Baby Face" still has enough racy thrills to be enjoyable despite its misguided sense of progressivism.
December 8, 2013
Barbara Stanwyck sleeps her day to the top, going from a speakeasy and boxcar to the top executives of a NYC bank in this dirty pre-production code film. This is probably the most overtly sexual film I've seen from the pre-code period of Hollywood. The version I saw was the original 76 minute version that was discovered in 2004 and even more boundary pushing than the original 71 minute release. John Wayne even has a bit part as an office worker, which is a kick. Darryl F. Zanuck was even on of the writers on this film. In terms of filmmaking, it's not a brilliant story, but the film contains a lot of novelty that makes it a whole lot of fun. Stanwyck is particularly delicious in such a conniving role. A great film for fans of this sort of pre-code Hollywood stuff!
August 18, 2013
Noirish cross between Pretty Woman and Working Girl, but far less comedic or endearing than either. It cops out a bit at the end, with some token sentiment, but for the most part it's blackly cynical - an amazingly upfront (for the era) take on sexual exploitation - of and by both genders. The first act is a cracker, and the railcar scene unforgettable. Not fun, but very interesting.
April 11, 2013
Stanwyck plays an unapologetically opportunistic woman who uses sex to gain security. The unvarnished primacy of security (here in the guise of money) as the driving feminine motivation may not sit comfortably with modern audiences, but it is still a very active force in our relationships. The story is a bit of a hit-the-highlights outline, but still effective.
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