Barbara Stanwyck in ‘Shopworn’

Life is really hard for Barbara Stanwyck, at least in her pre-code days. One of the four movies she made in 1932 was Shopworn, produced at Columbia and directed by Nick Grinde.

Written by regular Capra collaborators Jo Swerling and Robert Riskin, Shopworn is a typical Depression-era drama that surprisingly has nothing to do with a girl who worked in a shop. The script is based on a story by Sarah Y. Mason.

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Stanwyck stars as Kitty Lane, whose father dies in a construction explosion. She moves to a college town to work as a waitress and falls in love with the rich David Livingston (Regis Toomey). David’s mom Helen (Clara Bandick) and Judge Forbes (Oscar Apfel) hatch a plan to get rid of her. But Kitty isn’t some girl who can be bought off so she agrees to go to prison.

After she gets out of prison, she becomes a showgirl and later – after only one newspaper montage! – becomes a big star. David becomes a doctor and the two reconnect. Will Helen get in the way this time?

Of course, Shopworn moves briskly, running just over an hour. Stanwyck gives her usual all in the movie and Toomey can’t quite keep up with her. She really didn’t get to work with great leading men early in her career. Columbia just couldn’t afford them. ZaSu Pitts is the one strong supporting player here, although it’s a bit awkward to see her go from Kitty’s boss at the diner to her maid.

For Pre-code fans looking for some salacious material, there isn’t too much. The diner owner does refer to Kitty as “foxy.” Stanwyck also tells a French guy, “In this country, sex is called anything but!” There’s also an assumption that Kitty has some “loose” morals, but this is no Baby Face or Night Nurse.

Shopworn recently aired on TCM and is available in the Columbia TCM Vault pre-code set.

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