I have discovered Dorothy Jordan and a film so dark that it does not resolve the protagonist's woeful trials even in the conclusion. Most of the reason for "Judy's" (Jordan) sorrow is that she is a woman in the 1930's and thus has limited career opportunities and little recourse should she find herself a fallen woman with child. These are the very things that Judy endures. The sexism at her job selling records is so overt and apparently acceptable that she tolerates the here-it-comes-again-like-clockwork comment, "Are you still a good girl?" and physical caresses. Dating is something she does not seek out because she would rather wait for the right man and she believes she will have to fend off any other one. The catalyst that really triggers her sad tale is the egotistical and predatory "Earl Warren" (Edward Woods). Judy certainly does not pick him out, but he obviously plans to have her no matter how phony he must make himself. Because Earl is the scoundrel the audience instantly determined him to be, Judy is now unmarried and expecting a baby with no family left to assist her. She really has no place to go physically and winds up at a halfway house for unlucky expectant mothers. The situation at the home, especially at first, seems dire.
But this film is good at creating real people out of the characters and enough lighter moments so that one can endure watching. There is a network of compassion among the female residents (who are really just workers trying to survive the wrath of the 'den mother' "Mrs. Trigge" played by Rafaela Ottiano), especially displayed by the wisecracking "Beulah," Isabel Jewell who reminds me of actress Una Merkel. And in the first several scenes, Judy's interactions with her friend, "Maizie" (Dorothy Libaire) might lead the viewer to believe that the film will mostly be about two savvy working women in the 1930's who are used to dodging fresh men. But certainly this film is first a drama and a rather heart wrenching one. Judy suffers one setback after another in trying to have and keep her baby. The pace of the disappointments is continuous and certainly not her fault so that the film insists that her pathetic outcome is society's fault. (If you look at the meanness or obtuseness of a few of the characters such as Mrs. Trigge, Maizie, and Mrs. Wharton, played by Jane Darwell, you might agree.) The film even gives Judy a defender in the form of a doctor (Alexander Kirkland), who states that Judy's life has been a case of Society v. Judy. So she is given some protection in the end by his assistance but is so hardened by the work it takes to survive as a woman without connections that she listlessly utters her last line as she walks away from him, "Who cares?" implying that she does not even know how to daydream anymore about getting the breaks in life. After all she has been through, the viewer might wish she could hold out hope just a few moments longer. But this doctor will probably follow her, and maybe he can convince her not to self-destruct.
This description makes the plot sound downtrodden and the film is definitely a look at the sexism, social stigmas, and physical burdens borne by some isolated women of the day. But the plot is brisk and the female characters are imbued with personality and humanity, which allow the film to be humorous or engrossing. Furthermore, even if the film is too harsh (I did not find it so), Jordan's watchability carries the story. Why was she not a bigger star? In this film she has a soft, feminine kind of beauty (maybe the word is natural) and an obvious depth of feeling. Luckily for the viewer, one studio at one time realized her potential to give her this starring vehicle in which she must find the range to play a feisty working-woman who knows she is better than most men she meets to a woman of ill repute who has only a soft voice left to defend herself. Unfortunately her list of credits does not look long. So I am grateful I discovered this substantial performance in her repertoire.
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