Other Men’s Women
Director: William A. Wellman
Writer: William A. Wellman; story by Maude Fulton
Cinematographer: Barney McGill
by Jon Cvack
A quick 70 minute flick that’s a bit less risque than you’d expect from a pre-code film, in which the alcoholic train yard worker Bill White (Grant Withers) is kicked out of his boarding house for boozing, taken up by his buddy Jack Kulper (Regis Toomy ) whose wife Lily (Mary Astor) soon develops an attraction to Bill, and the pair enter into a love affair. Things come to a head when Jack discovers their relationship, culminating in a fist fight in the train engine car where Bill takes Jack down, who falls and bangs his head. He wakes up blind. Lily gives up on Bill, hoping to renew her commitment, but Bill sends her away, wanting to avoid any temptation. A rainstorm comes in, the cars are loaded with tons of concrete, and the flooding puts an old steel bridge at risk. Wanting to prove himself, the blind Bill stumbles through the rail yard to drive the train loaded with concrete off, ostensibly a suicide mission as the bridge likely won’t hold the weight, which it doesn’t, collapsing into the rushing waters.
The story is comparable to Wings (1927), though with a much lower budget, in having a woman come between two best friends. Granted, the couple in this case is married, and it’s likely this dynamic that led it into the “Forbidden Hollywood” box set. We don’t really see Bill and Lily do much more than flirt, offering more a suggestion of what’s going on, than anything else. Jack’s blindness is gawky at best, and the final sequence is comparably awkward, as Regis Toomey isn’t all that great at playing the disability, stumbling around, tripping over, but clearly able to see these minor stunts. As to why or how he finds the engine loaded with concrete is beyond me, but it’s made up for by a great miniature steel bridge with roaring rapids beneath. It’s quite the climax for a movie about infidelity and just brief enough to be enjoyable.
The Purchase Price
Director: William A. Wellman
Writer: Robert Lord; story by Arthur Stringer
Cinematographer: Sidney Hickox
by Jon Cvack
The second film included on “Forbidden Hollywood’s” disc three, shared with Other Men’s Women. An awkward and confusing beginning, featuring an early Barbara Stanwyck as New York lounge singer Joan Gordon who’s left her criminal boyfriend Eddie Fields (Lyle Talbot) for the more honorable and respected, Don Leslie (Hardie Albright), but when Don’s father finds out about Joan’s past relationship, and not wanting the family name tainted, he demands Eddie break off the engagement. With no protection, she has to Montreal, she gets word Eddie knows her whereabouts. Joan learns that one of the hotel maids has been using Joan’s picture as a way to communicate with a mail order bride service, with some man living in North Dakota. Joan pays the maid $100 for his address where she’ll just continue the ruse; figuring it the best chance for her safety.
This all takes place within maybe five minutes or so and seems needlessly complicated, but the set up is effective enough. Joan arrives in the middle of nowhere, picked up by the maid’s former beau, Jim Gilson (George Brent), who’s blown away by Joan’s beauty. He takes her back to the cabin where she gets the bedroom and he gets the floor. Frustrated and clearly aroused, he enters the bedroom and forces a kiss on her and she slaps him. The next night, the community comes raging in with barrels of hard cider and gets completely smashed. The farm is in dire straits, though Jim had allegedly come up with a variety of wheat that can save the ailing farm which is about to be foreclosed; with some interest from a local man, Bull (David Landau) who’s interested in buying up the property and unhappy when Jim avoids the sale.
Joan soon comes around to Jim, and learns the ways of the farm, eventually falling in love with him. But when a snow storm comes in, Joan returns to find Jim had brought in a man stranded - Eddie. A fight breaks out as he demands to bring Joan back home, and Jim beats him down. Joan begs for Eddie to help pay off the bank, and Eddie agrees, but Bull then attempts to burn down the harvested wheat. They put out the flames before total destruction. They live happily ever after.
It’s fast, and similar to Other Men’s Women, a bit too fast to be effective. The foundation is needlessly confusing as I’m not entirely sure why Joan needed to dump Eddie and shack up for literally minutes with Don who then plays zero role in the rest of the film. Why not pull a Sister Act (1992) and have her witness a murder or something thereabouts which causes her to rush off? From there, the story is your usual arc of city-girl meets country-boy, resistant and then coming around. But with only about fifty minutes or so to explore the dynamic, it just doesn't provide enough room. Granted, Stanwyck is a bombshell, and while there’s nothing all that scandalous beyond her reveal in a tight nightgown, it’s far more revealing than anything you’re used to from the period.
BELOW: Wish I could find the train disaster from Other Men's Women, but oh well
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