'Baby Face' 1933: Barbara Stanwyck movie that shocked censors screening at the London Film Festival
The racy pre-Production Code movie Baby Face (1933), starring Barbara Stanwyck and featuring George Brent as her romantic interest and John Wayne in a supporting role, will be one of the highlights at the 2004 London Film Festival next November. Long thought lost, the original cut of Stanwyck's star vehicle, which outraged censors and prudes everywhere, has been recently found and restored.
The Warner Bros. production was initially released in all its risqué glory, but had to be withdrawn shortly afterwards because of vociferous protests against its blatant “immorality”: an ambitious working-class woman (that's Barbara Stanwyck) uses her body, her sensuality, her intelligence, and her determination to ascend the corporate ladder during the Great Depression – and succeeds admirably.
Bowing to pressure, Warners reedited Baby Face and even dubbed over much of the dialogue of one character, who was transformed from the power behind the young woman's sexual and social awareness into the film's irritatingly moralizing voice.
Baby Face 1933 will be screened at the London Film Festival on Nov. 3. The uncut version of the film was recently found at the Library of Congress Motion Picture Conservation Center in Dayton, Ohio.
'Baby Face' 1933 movie credits
Besides Barbara Stanwyck, George Brent, and John Wayne – as one of the steps in Stanwyck's corporate ladder – the 1933 Baby Face also features Donald Cook, Margaret Lindsay, Alphonse Ethier, Henry Kolker, Robert Barrat, Douglas Dumbrille, Arthur Hohl, and Theresa Harris. According to the IMDb, Toby Wing, Edward Van Sloan, Nat Pendleton, and The Crowd (1928) leading man James Murray – whose luck in Hollywood didn't last very long – can be seen in bit parts.
Baby Face was directed by the unfairly neglected Alfred E. Green, who had been working in films since 1916. Green's multifaceted credits include the George Arliss star vehicles Disraeli and The Green Goddess, a bunch of Bette Davis movies (e.g., Parachute Jumper, The Girl from 10th Avenue), and the 1946 blockbuster The Jolson Story, starring Best Actor Oscar nominee Larry Parks as Al Jolson. (Curiously, both Green and Jolson were Warner Bros. contract talent in the early '30s, though The Jolson Story was actually a Columbia release.)
Barbara Stanwyck Best Actress Oscar nominations
- King Vidor's mother-love melodrama Stella Dallas (1937).
- Howard Hawks' light comedy Ball of Fire (1941).
- Billy Wilder's crime drama Double Indemnity (1944).
- Anatole Litvak's film noir Sorry Wrong Number (1948).
A four-time loser in the competitive categories, Barbara Stanwyck took home an Honorary Oscar in 1982. She dedicated the statuette to her friend and Golden Boy co-star William Holden, who had been found dead in his hotel room in November of the previous year.
John Wayne and Barbara Stanwyck Baby Face (1933) image: Warner Bros.