6 March 2010 | MartinHafer
"Gosh, Daddy, I know about homelessness...I tried it for a couple days and it wasn't much fun at all"....
In many ways, this film reminds me of the 1933 film "Wild Boys of the Road"--which is about homeless teens who wander about the country (often in vain) looking for work and a square meal. This film is about homeless ladies who are in similar circumstances. How serious this problem was is uncertain (it's not like they kept statistics on this), but the movie seems earnest--and amazingly naive.
The film begins with a commission reporting to the Governor about the plight of wandering homeless ladies. The Governor is moved and wants to do something but is uncertain if anything can be done about the problem. However, his secretary (Ann Dvorak--who also happens to be his daughter in the film) decides to investigate herself by hitting the road and posing as a homeless woman. This is an insanely naive and rather offensive notion--especially when she could be raped or otherwise exploited and the idea of a rich girl "slumming it" is a tad silly. In fact, in one of the first scenes, this nearly happens (in a sanitized 1940 manner) as a man isn't about to take 'no' for an answer after he picks up Ann.
Ultimately, after spending time getting arrested for vagrancy, being hassled by cops, jumping trains, getting robbed and the rest in this 'dog eat dog world', Ann returns home to report to Daddy about the life of girl hobos. My quote in the summary, while not exactly what she said isn't that far from it! And, naturally, it all had a happy ending.
To me, this film seemed rather fake. All the ladies looked really ragged...like they'd forgotten to put on the morning makeup and had gone a whole week without going to the beauty parlor! The most egregious of these was Dvorak--who looked like she was dressed for publicity photos of "her life when she has a day off". The ladies' "down and out" looks just seemed like Hollywood's sanitized version of the life of a homeless woman--the type that wouldn't feel particularly threatening to most in the audience. Compare this sort of film with a REAL film about social ills of the 1930s (such as "I Was A Fugitive From A Chain Gang") and this one comes up wanting. Perhaps well-intentioned and the acting wasn't bad, but it was fake from start to finish.