Baby Face (1933)

Directed by Alfred E. Green

I watched Baby Face (1933) on the weekend. It’s part of Forbidden Hollywood, a DVD set I picked up quite a while ago. However I’ve only now gotten around to watching the movies (there are three – four if you count both versions of Baby Face).

It’s certainly an interesting movie given its history.

This was a 76 minute film in pre-release but chopped down to 71 minutes when it was finally released, and was only seen in the 71 minute version until this recent restoration (2006, TCM Archives).

Why were five minutes taken out? Sexual content. Starring Barbara Stanwyck, Baby Face is about a young women who climbs the social ladder by sleeping with any guy who can move her up a few rungs.

While there are no real sex scenes in the film, the sex is heavily implied … and some of that was removed in the theatrical version. (I watched the restored, 76 minute version, so I’m unsure which scenes were removed.)

It may be the film is more interesting historically and culturally than as a film. I found it was about average as a piece of cinema, though Barbara Stanwyck really does stand out. The bones of the story are also good — presentation, maybe not so much (beyond the lurid sexual aspect).

Stanwyck’s character, Lily (Baby Face), is horribly used as a young woman at home. Her father prostitutes her; men around her treat her shabbily and as if she exists for their sexual convenience.

Finally, she breaks away and goes out into the world where, thanks to her background, she takes the attitude that she will do whatever it takes to get ahead. Rather than being used by men, she will use them, sex being her tool. The film is about her rise to the top and what happens once she gets there. (I think you can make a good guess.)

Baby Face has an intriguing story idea, has a fascinating history, but is kind of an average, or slightly above average, film.

And I don’t know why the name Baby Face is in the film, much less the title, other than that they seemed to want to use the song Baby Face in the movie. Go figure.

(By the way … a very young John Wayne makes an appearance in the movie too. And he’s rather good in his brief moment.)

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