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Thursday, September 9, 2010

THE PURCHASE PRICE (1932)

A rare Pre-Code dud from Barbara Stanwyck’s early days. She’s a nightclub singer who’s dumped by her society fiancé and refuses to settle for her loyal, but shady sugardaddy. She’s discovered on the lam in Montreal and takes off again, this time as a mail-order bride in North Dakota! The nights are cold, but her marriage is even colder when Mr. Sugardaddy shows up again to save the day. Will Babs go back to her old life or has she become a proper farmer’s wife for handsome, young, dull George Brent. It hardly seems worth all the trouble. Director William Wellman throws in an occasional coarse gag or sentimental tug, but generally keeps his distance until Stanwyck briefly shows her stuff in a big hysterical outburst. Too little, too late.

WATCH THIS, NOT THAT: Only two years back, but an æsthetic world away, F. W. Murnau used similar elements for his final silent wonder, CITY GIRL/’30. A flop in its day, soon forgotten, and still an absurdly unsung masterpiece.

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