12 January 2000 | Michael-110
A bit contrived and melodramatic, this oldie still packs a punch
"Paid" is the story of Mary Turner (Joan Crawford), who spent three years in the pen for stealing from her boss (Gilder's Department Store)--a crime which she didn't commit. She vows revenge as she's dragged away. We see the sentencing phase of her trial with an inept defense lawyer and a vicious, contemptuous DA who keeps interrupting her. Indeed, one recurring theme of this film is its criticism of the justice system--the DA and the cops care only about pleasing the rich by harassing the poor.
According to Vieira, Sin in Soft Focus: Pre-Code Hollywood p. 19 (1999), Crawford got the role when Norma Shearer went on maternity leave. Vieira also says that a five-minute fight scene in the women's shower in prison was cut from the film by the studio. There are stills of Crawford and the fight scene at pp. 24-25.
Mary learns some law while in the joint and she and her prison friend Aggie find some clever ways to make money and frustrate the cops by staying just "within the law" (the title of the play from which the film is drawn as well as the 1939 remake). Mary hangs out with Aggie's gang of petty criminals led by Joe Garson. Joe is, in fact, a kind and decent person who just can't say no to the big payoff. Meanwhile, Mary seduces and marries Gilder's son--just to take revenge on the man who falsely accused her of stealing.
While the final portions of "Paid" get rather contrived (there's a major heist which goes badly wrong) and the ending is melodramatic, I think "Paid" was pretty good and Crawford was excellent. The low ratings assigned by IMDb users to this film are not justified. The film is involving and it has some important things to say about class and justice.