Baby Face (1933) film review

About 7 years ago, I had the immense pleasure of viewing the 1933 pre-Code drama film Baby Face for the 1st time on Netflix and I was very impressed with its overall performance; it was directed by the prolific American film director Alfred E. Green under the production of William LeBaron & Raymond Griffith. Baby Face stars a memorable stellar cast that includes Barbara Stanwyck as Lily Powers, George Brent as Courtland Trenholm, Donald Cook as Ned Stevens, Alphonse Ethier portraying a cobbler named Adolf Cragg, Henry Kolker as Ann’s father J.P. Carter, Margaret Lindsay as Ned’s fiancée Ann Carter, Arthur Hohl as Ed Sipple, Robert Barrat as Lily’s father Nick Powers, Douglas Dumbrille as Brody, Theresa Harris as Lily’s maid/friend Chico, and a cameo appearance by the Duke himself- John Wayne- in one of his earliest films as Lily’s previous bank conquests Jimmy McCoy, Jr. The classic film was released through Warner Bros. on July 1st, 1933; it has since become a timeless film of the pre-Code era with its deep sexually charged characterizations immortalized by Stanwyck and the incomparable provocativeness that she emanated as Lily Powers. Powers displayed a picturesque view of how she used her feminine status, wiles and charms through the overwhelming yet persuasive power of sexual pleasure and allure in order to rise to the top; it’s incredibly captivating and impressive to watch an individual climb the corporate ladder with the use of her profound sensuality and emblematic alluring persona. This is definitely one of my favorite films to watch of Ms. Stanwyck’s; when she was working at her father’s speakeasy, she was unable to receive anything that was worth any value sentimental or otherwise. The only thing that she felt was inevitable is the absolution that her father’s cruel immoral intentions of having his daughter sleeping with “ dirty, rotten men” that set foot in his speakeasy- a turmoil that she’s painfully endured since the unfortunate young age of 14. Tired of the low-life and increasingly miserable conditions that increased dramatically all around her, Lily decided to move on with her life. The move would later have the triumphs, tragedies, trials and tribulations that would prove fatal in her victims- those who merely played an insignificant sexual conquest in her life/rise to the top and others, like Courtland Trenholm (Brent) who would change Lily’s life dramatically in the way no other man has ever been able to; for the 1st time in her life she’s finally found the love and happiness that she’s needed, wanted and selflessly desired for so long. babyface

But now the question is: Is her deep and undying love for Courtland Trenholm enough to save him from the ominous financial, emotional, and physical turmoil that lurked just around the corner? Will Courtland become the next victim in Lily’s virulent path of sexual conquests, or has the malevolent sexual ways of Lily Powers changed for the better? I guess the only way that the viewers would have to find out is to watch the classic film and find out the results, whether through the TCM website, a DVD copy of the film or through a Netflix subscription. In regards to Netflix, the singular disc features 2 versions of the 1933 black and white film: the original theatrical release and the pre-released film presentation. I was very fortunate that I was able to view Baby Face and I never knew how awe-inspiring and mesmerizing Barbara Stanwyck was in the film; now I’ve seen a first-hand glimpse into one of her pre-Code films. Just like Norma Shearer and Lana Turner, Barbara Stanwyck is part of the long list of my favorite quintessential film noir women- their pivotal, enrapturing, emotionally charged portrayals of profound sexual independence makes film noir one of the most memorable, poignant, enigmatic and deeply inspirational classic film genres of Hollywood’s Golden Age of Television & Films. In the end, Baby Face proved to become a definitive pre-Code film and so much more; it has become one of the tour-de-force performances of Stanwyck’s lengthy illustrious career and certainly my personal favorite overall. But yet, who could ever forget the sheer brilliance and cinematic genius from the supporting players in the superlative cast? Aside from Stanwyck’s magnificent portrayal of Lily Powers, Baby Face also features Theresa Harris ( an individual with whom more, myself included, should definitely view of often) as Chico, a friend of Lily’s and whose captivating persona and impeccable screen performance is hard to forget in a good way. The incomparable Irish film and television actor George Brent ( March 5th, 1899- May 26th, 1979) gives an towering unforgettable cinematic fulfillment to the silver screen as Courtland Trenholm, the playboy grandson of the company’s founder but who captures a real, humane, compassionate and empathetic nature that’s filled with heartache, sadness, and misfortune on a personal and profoundly emotional level; and yet out of all the individuals who’ve became a sexual stepping stone for Lily Powers, I’ve understood Courtland the most and witnessed a deep, harrowing and heartrending expression inside- the scene that truly touched me on a personal level was when Lily (Stanwyck) is reluctantly unable to help the love of her life Courtland (Brent) and I contemplate the somber distressing look on his face as he realizes Lily’s absolute intentions and the overall impending inevitability on his personal and financial livelihood. To me, Baby Face captured the essence of how all great classic films should be viewed- as a completely breathtaking, picturesque, awe-inspiring benevolent force of Hollywood’s Golden Age for generations to come!Baby Face2

 

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