Baby Face - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Baby Face Reviews

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March 15, 2013
Amazingly frank pre-code film is great fun.
Super Reviewer
February 16, 2013
In "Baby Face," Professor Cragg(Alphonse Ethier) lectures Lily(Barbara Stanwyck), a barmaid, on not living up to her true potential. That might have something to do with the dive bar where she works or her father(Robert Barrat) unsuccessfully trying to pimp her out to Ed Sipple(Arthur Hohl), a local mob boss, who suffers the painful response of Lily's rejection. So, it might not come as a surprise that Lily is ambivalent at her father's death in a sill explosion. With nothing left to tie her to Erie and almost no money, Lily decides to take up the professor's advice by traveling to New York City with her friend Chico(Theresa Harris) to get a job in a bank, using her charms of seduction. While so employed, she rises quickly and is recommended by McCoy(John Wayne) to his boss Brody(Douglas Dumbrille) for a promotion who in return takes a liking to her.

In olden times, women were not allowed to advance very far in business. So what was a poor woman like Lily supposed to do? The answer lies in the darkly entertaining and bracingly honest "Baby Face" wherein Barbara Stanwyck pulls out all the stops and then some as a character whose actions while not recommended, are certainly understandable by the social tenets of the day. At the same time, the movie takes shots at then current hypocrisies. For example, Stevens(Donald Cook) is engaged to Ann(Margaret Lindsay), the daughter of his boss(Henry Kolker). And how is that any different? On another note, I approve of any movie that references philosophy like this one but maybe psychology would have been the way to go instead for Lily, especially with the way she was raised.

Note: This is the original unedited version.
Super Reviewer
½ January 30, 2013
"Surely in this big, tall building there has to be a job somewhere for me?"
" you have any experience?"

Barbara Stanwyck as Lily follows the advice of Nietzsche (seriously!) to bury her feelings to escape the smokey speakeasy of her abusive father and to use a string of men in order to rise as both an employee and a mistress at a big city bank. Men come off as lascivious fools in this one as Lily can easily manipulate whomever she chooses - even John Wayne gets shot down faster than a bad guy in any of his Westerns. It's great to watch her in action though, with a few quality quips you'd expect from a 1930's script, like during this heated exchange early on:

"You can't talk to me that way, I'm your father!"
"That's my bad luck, isn't it?"

Eventually she rises to the top by dating the newly-elected chairman of the bank's board Chatwood Trenholm (a more pretentious name there is not) and for the first time is affected by her feelings when he gets indicted for mismanagement. Will she chuck her winning system and sell her hard-earned luxuries to bail him out, or will she take the money and run? The ending gives a definitive answer to that but is still not very satisfying as the many problems that lie ahead are obfuscated by the appearance of the end title screen.
December 4, 2012
"Yeah, I'm a tramp, and who's to blame? My Father. A swell start you gave me. Ever since I was fourteen, what's it been? Nothing but men! Dirty rotten men! And you're lower than any of them. I'll hate you as long as I live!"

Ten years before Barbara Stanwyck portrayed the legendary femme fatale Phyllis Dietrichson in Double Indemnity, she played the exact same type of woman in Baby Face. The only difference is that here Stanwyck is the protagonist, the character we emphasize with, no matter what she does, and I think I love this Barbara better, who's even hotter, sexier and with a stronger independent attitude.

Baby Face is the story about Lily (Stanwyck), who has lived with her abusive father her whole life, working as a prostitute since she was 14-years-old, in her father's speakeasy in Erie, Pennsylvania. But one day her father is killed in a still explosion and Lily is finally a free woman. She has no idea of what to do next, but one of her closest friends, an old cobbler tells her that she as a young attractive woman has the gift that no man has, that she have to use men to get what she want. Lily and her black co-worker, Chino then goes to New York and applies for a job at a bank, where Lily sleeps her way to the top.

Baby Face is a so called pre-code movie, which means it's was made before the Hays code kicked in, in 1934. A moral censorship, which forbade to show any kind of violence or nudity or emphasize with the criminals. Baby Face is the definition of pre-code movies. With a lot of sexual overtones of prostitution and adultery. Even Lily's father was her pimp. My favorite scene in this film must be the scene where Lily and Chico hops on the train to New York, but a railroad worker catches them and threatens them with jail. But Lily is calm, and she closes the door, she lies down in the hay. Then cut to the floor where the worker's gloves is thrown down, next to a lantern that is blown out. What a seduction.

This is certainly one of Stanwyck's greatest and sexiest performances. Playing a strong woman character who have what "it" takes to get "it", as a trailer for this film says. We emphasize with her, no matter what terrible things she does. But of course we see the damages she causes, all the hearts she brakes. She even turns down a young John Wayne who have bought theater tickets. She only wants men with power and money, that sometimes has fatal consequences. I guess we can call her a femme fatale after all. Plus it doesn't need to have a negative meaning. She's simply a product of the male dominance. Which certainly is something more fascinating than telling this from a man's point of view. Even though Baby Face as a "Hollywood Ending" it's something I choose to ignore, even though I think it would have closed the deal by having a dark ending. I just have to accept that it was a different time back then, and Baby Face pushed the limits back then, which is what I love about this film. Thumbs up.
July 22, 2012
I liked it but have a hard time believing that gold digging whore tiger would change her stripes.
May 29, 2012
pre-code early talkie that breaks all the rules
April 28, 2012
Esta mujer, esta mujer compite con Lola (Blue Angel, Marlene Dietrich), son los mujeres mas manipuladoras y maquiav√ (C)licas que he visto en pantalla.
February 2, 2012
You don't mess with Stanwyck.
September 26, 2011
an intelligibly sexy, and sleek film noir with the right bit of grit and raw power. Stanwyck is a force of nature once again. The ending takes the noir genre's typical tendency to berate or antagonize the femme fatale, and adds a human touch, blaming no one, explaining the motives behind lily's psychology and then connecting all sympathies at the end, by returning stanwyck's character to her compassionate beginnings through the discovery of true love, and a man who she can finally depend on.
½ August 28, 2011
Great, totally perverse precode film where Stanwyck sleeps her way to the top (and because of reading Nietzsche no less!).
½ August 18, 2011
A classic pre- code Hollywood film! Lily Powers (Stanwyck) is a trampy, manipulative woman, who sleeps her way to the top. She lies to men, and gets her way, and then pushes them aside, and at one point, it ends in murder and suicide. Then when offered a job in Paris, she falls in love with the handsome manager (Brent) but is afraid. Can she handle it? I watched the Pre- Release version, because I wanted to see the one that was the original-- this is when the Hays Code began to set in, so they were forced to make a version that was nicer to the censors. I wish they hadnt revised it, because the dirty one is so much better. It captures Stanwycks characters trampiness (thats not even a word :)), and she was absolutely wonderful in her role. I consider it in her top five best performances, and this one is even better than the villainous Phyllis in Double Indemnity. Leonard Maltin agreed and gave this movie a great rating. I think Ive proved than Baby Face is a great movie, and anybody whos a fan of the Forbidden Hollywood movies, this one is the best of them all.
½ August 10, 2011
Advised by an old man bearing Nietzsche's Will to Power, Barbara Stanwyck escapes her seedy upbringing and sleeps her way up the social ladder (executive by executive). Filmed before the Hays Code was put in place, the film is fairly shocking in its bluntness. All the men in the picture suffer from her love-em-and-leave-em attitude (but they deserve what they get, for the most part). A much starker ending would have made for a much different picture. Stanwyck is awesome.
July 21, 2011
A 'raunchy' pre-code Hollywood film, utilizing Stanwick to her best. The story of a young girl who uses men & her feminine wiles to get on in the world, was scandalous in its day, and after the introduction of the Hollywood Code, changes had to be made to allow the film for classification, resulting in cuts & dubbed lines of texts. The original version is the one to see however.
½ June 27, 2011
It's a classic and a top example of pre-code Hollywood.

Watched the original undedited version and was blown away by how modern this nearly 80 year old film is. The code really hurt the potential for some hard hitting, cutting edge material.

The story is simple, attractive young woman has enough of being used and starts doing the using. Sleeping her way to the of a company she breaks a few hearts along the way and doesn't care who suffers as long is it isn't her.

Barbara Stanwyck is amazing, she steals the show.

I was a little surprised at the happy ending but it wasn't all that bad.

Worth a watch, you bet!
½ April 14, 2011
Risque for subject matter in the 1930s
April 3, 2011
The pre-release version rings more truly and portrays the characters with real motivations. It quotes Nietzsche and doesn't shy away from the hard life from which Stanwyck's character broke. The theatrical release should be trashed. It's a sugar-coated fable.
February 26, 2011
Way ahead of its time, this moderately placed film is probably more true than any of us would like to believe. Girls get ahead not by their knowledge, but by their looks (imagine THAT!). Baby Face is proof of this as our lead ruins one man after another. A heavily censored film by NY.

A young woman uses her body and her sexuality to help her climb the social ladder, but soon begins to wonder if her new status will ever bring her happiness. Coaxed on by an old friend interested in a German philoshopher who advises aggressive methods, then crush and destroy.

Baby Face, the title, actually comes from the mouth of none other than John Wayne, a small bit player as one of the many loves of Baby Face. You actually hear him say Baby Face for the first time in the film. He looked pretty handsome to me and you know my mug is not handsome.

This dvd is taken from a set of a set highlighting the more sensuous years of early Hollywood, when there were no rules.
A forerunner of films today, these black and white classics paved the way for the intensly graphic sexual scenes we are forced to watch today.

The music score, St. Louis Woman, is played constantly to the point of sickness.

NOTES about the film:

1 "Baby Face", the title, actually comes from the mouth of none other than John Wayne, a small bit player as one of the many loves of Baby Face.

2 Taglines: "She climbed the ladder of success - wrong by wrong!"

3 In 2004, a "dupe negative" copy of the film as it existed prior to being censored was located at the Library of Congress. This uncensored version received its public premiere at the London Film Festival in November 2004, more than 70 years after it was made.

4 one of the most outrageous pre-Code releases of the early 1930s

Some dialog from the film:

1 Lily Powers: "Yeah, I'm a tramp, and who's to balme? My Father. A swell start you gave me. Ever since I was fourteen, what's it been? Nothing but men! Dirty rotten men! And you're lower than any of them. I'll hate you as long as I live!"

2 Lily Powers: "Of course, if Fuzzy Wuzzy really wants to give me something, he could put a few more pennies in my bank account."

J.P. Carter: "My Dear, ask me something difficult." :)

Barbara Stanwyck ... Lily Powers
George Brent ... Courtland Trenholm
Donald Cook ... Ned Stevens
Alphonse Ethier ... Adolf Cragg
Henry Kolker ... J.P. Carter
Margaret Lindsay ... Ann Carter
Arthur Hohl ... Ed Sipple
John Wayne ... Jimmy McCoy Jr.

Director: Alfred E. Green

Writers: Gene Markey (screenplay), Kathryn Scola (screenplay)
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