Saturday, August 4, 2018

Stubs - She Had to Say Yes (1933)

She Had to Say Yes (1933) Starring: Loretta Young, Winnie Lightner, Lyle Talbot, Regis Toomey. Directed by Busby Berkeley, George Amy. Screenplay by Rian James, Don Mullaly. Based on John Francis Larkin’s story "Customer's Girl". Producer: None Credited. Runtime: 63 minutes. U.S. Black and White. Drama, Pre-Code

Best known for his elaborate musical production numbers, Busby Berkeley also directed films, his first being She Had to Say Yes (1933), a non-dancing, non-musical Pre-Code drama starring Loretta Young. A rather forgettable film that dared to tell “The true story of the working girl.” There were a series of such films, that dealt with the “real-life” compromises women in the workforce had to make in order to keep their jobs during the Great Depression.

Between his work as the choreographer on Bird of Paradise (1932) and 42nd Street (1933), Berkeley co-directed this film, veteran editor George Amy also making his directorial debut. The production cost about $111,000 and seventeen days to shoot.

Things aren't going well for Sol Glass & Co.

When the film opens, Sol Glass’ (Ferdinand Gottschalk) clothing manufacturing company is struggling in the midst of the Great Depression. Like his competitors, Glass employs "customer girls" to entertain out-of-town buyers. However, his clients have become tired of what they describe his as unfriendly, hard-bitten "gold diggers" and have started taking their business elsewhere as a result.
Glass calls for a high-level meeting and wants Tommy Nelson (Regis Toomey), one of his salesmen, to attend. Office Boy (Harold Waldridge) finds him in an out of order phone booth with one of the women from the office.

Sol Glass (Ferdinand Gottschalk) calls a meeting with his advisers, including Mr. Bernstein (Charles Levinson aka Charles Lane) and Mr. Goran (Joseph Cawthorne). In the back is Tommy Nelson (Regis Toomey).

At the meeting, which includes Mr. Bernstein (Charles Levinson aka Charles Lane) and Mr. Goran (Joseph Cawthorne), Tommy suggests that they use their stenographers instead of the customer girls. Besides being fresh meat for the buyers, Tommy suggests it would be a chance for the girls to get out, have a good dinner and see a show. The idea they would sleep with the customers goes unspoken. Glass decides to give Tommy’s idea a try, as long as the girls know it’s on a voluntary basis.
Not included in Tommy’s plans is his own secretary and fiancée, Florence "Flo" Denny (Loretta Young). He doesn’t want her to be involved. Florence is portrayed as a virtuous girl who is saving herself for marriage.

Buyer  Luther Haines (Hugh Herbert) takes notice of Florence "Flo"
 Denny (Loretta Young), Tommy's secretary and fiancée.

But things don’t go according to plan when buyer Luther Haines (Hugh Herbert) sees her and wants to go out with her as part of closing the deal. Florence is willing to help her man make a sale. However, Tommy manages to change Luther’s mind by introducing him to Birdie (Suzanne Kilborn), a curvaceous member of the steno-pool who is only too willing to be used to help sales.

Flo is willing to help Tommy close sales.

Birdie, as it turns out, becomes a very successful customer girl, closing many sales, and Tommy, too, succumbs to her charms. Tommy, we’ve already been shown, is, even though engaged, a ladies’ man.

Flo goes out to dinner with a buyer, Daniel "Danny" Drew (Lyle Talbot).

When Birdie is sick, Tommy reluctantly lets Flo go on a date with another buyer, Daniel "Danny" Drew (Lyle Talbot). They have a nice time together, but it is obvious that Danny wants sex. He uses an excuse to get her up to his hotel room; he needs some letters and she has a portable typewriter. He tries, unsuccessfully, to ply her with champagne that had been sent as a thank you for his business. She turns him down. At four o’clock in the morning, she starts to leave. A contrite Danny apologizes and tells her that he has fallen in love with her. He wants to take her home but she slips out before he can get ready.

While on a business trip, Danny calls Flo because he's thinking of her.

Danny has to go on a business trip but telephones and writes to her regularly.

Maizee (Winnie Lightner) makes sure Flo knows Tommy is cheating on her.

Meanwhile, Maizee (Winnie Lightner), Flo's friend, co-worker, and roommate overhears Tommy in his office with Birdie. Under the guise that Flo can help her find something in Tommy’s files, she makes sure to have Flo see the two of them together. Flo abruptly ends their engagement.

Flo breaks off her engagement to Tommy.

To help with her self-respect, Flo tells Glass that she doesn’t want to go out with buyers anymore. Even though it had started out on a volunteer basis, Glass threatens to fire her, so she quits.

Sol Glass (Ferdinand Gottschalk) threatens to fire Flo if she doesn't want to go out with buyers.

Danny returns from his business trip and takes Flo to dinner. He’s already asked her to marry him but she hasn’t given him an answer. Danny spots Haines at another table and asks Flo if she can help him convince Haines, the last holdout to a merger, to sign an important contract, the biggest deal of his life. She is disappointed by his request, despite his offer of a $1000 commission, but agrees to do it.

She calls Haines at home and invites him out on a date. Even though he has plans to take his wife (Helen Ware) and daughter to dinner and the theater, Flo is too much of a temptation for him to pass out. He makes an excuse to his wife about a business meeting and agrees to meet her that night.

Flo has to put up with Haines' advances on their "date".

At dinner, in a private dining room, Flo teases with Haines. Meanwhile, she’s pre-arranged for Maizee to call Haines’ wife and pretending to work for the restaurant and invites her to dine with her husband. Haines is just about to put the moves on Flo when his wife and daughter show up. Flo pretends that he’s taking dictation from Haines as part of his business excuse and tricks him into signing the merger contract, which she has pretended to draft and type up.

Just in time, Mrs. Haines (Helen Ware) and their daughter show up for dinner.

The next day, Haines, who has decided to go through with the merger, complains to Danny about Flo’s methods; acting as if she really came on to him. He also tells Danny that Flo is living with Tommy, which leads Danny to believe Flo is not as innocent as she pretends to be.

At dinner that night, Tommy is seated at the next table with a couple of customer girls and a new customer. He sees Danny and Flo and is obviously jealous. Meanwhile, Danny is upset and can’t stop thinking about what Haines had said. He practically forces the commission check on her. Upset, Danny takes Flo on a drive out to the country to the mansion of a friend. There is no one home but Danny has a key and they go inside. Tommy leaves his guest and hires a cab driver (Tom Dugan) to follow them.

Inside the house, Danny forces himself on her. Flo tries to get away but finally stops resisting. However, when she asks him if that is all she means to him, Danny stops before anything happens. She tells him that she doesn’t love him and leaves the house. Tommy’s taxi has just pulled into the driveway. She asks Tommy to help her but he, too, believes that she is selling herself. Danny overhears their conversation and realizes that Flo is innocent. He confronts Tommy and forces him to apologize to Flo after punching him.

Tommy does and then leaves. Once they're alone, Danny begs Flo to marry him. He plans to take her back to town that night and be married in the morning. But Flo whispers something in his ear, most likely a promise of sex, because he picks her up and carries her back into the mansion over the threshold.

Now Pre-Code does not mean salacious as the film was rated TV-G, which means it’s safe for kids to watch. There is no nudity or sex, instead, it is hinted at and suggested, which was more than the Production Code would allow.

This is not a film in which men come off very well. They are all, and I mean all, after one thing, though they still want their women to stay virtuous. Women are no more than objects trading sex for sales in the film. Both Tommy and Danny want to have it both ways and when Flo doesn’t put out for either, they both accuse her of doing just that.

Flo, on the other hand, shows herself to be very clever about giving men the wrong impression but little else. She rightfully leaves Tommy when it is proven that he is fooling around behind her back. She has Maizee call Haines’ wife to get out of what could have been a sticky situation and manages to trick Haines into signing a merger letter.

The two men in her life, Tommy, and Danny, are not really nice to her, accusing her of being less virtuous than she really is. At the end of the film, she ends up choosing the lesser of the two evils, Danny. In what was supposed to be a happy ending, Flo supposedly gives in to Danny on the eve of their marriage. Sort of sad to see her give in to a man who only minutes before was dumping her and besmirching her character.

Loretta Young in She Had to Say Yes.

Loretta Young is good in the role. Young had been in films since she was a child of 4 starting with The Primrose Ring (1917), a silent film now lost. Along the way, she would also appear as an Arab child in The Sheik (1921), Laugh, Clown, Laugh (1928), and Loose Ankles (1930). She was just 22 when this film was released and it was one of nine she would have released in 1935. She’s pretty and poised. Young would have a long career and would eventually win an Academy Award for Best Actress for her role in The Farmer's Daughter (1947).

Lyle Talbot may best be remembered as the Nelsons' neighbor in The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet for ten years on ABC. However, his career began at the beginning of sound films and he would go on to appear in over 150 films as well as dozens of appearances on other TV shows, his final appearance being on Newhart TV show in 1987.

Regis Toomey would have an equally long career in films, appearing in over 180, including such films as G Men (1935), Indianapolis Speedway (1939), His Girl Friday (1940), They Died with Their Boots On (1941), Spellbound (1945), The Big Sleep (1946), The Bishop's Wife (1947), Mighty Joe Young (1949), Drums Across the River (1954), Guys and Dolls (1955), and The Out-of-Towners (1970). His is a familiar face, but not known for leading roles.

Hugh Herbert was a popular movie comedian. Even if you don’t know his name, you are probably aware of the absent-minded and flustered character he’s best known for playing. He would flutter his fingers together and talk to himself, repeating the same phrases: "hoo-hoo-hoo, wonderful, wonderful, hoo-hoo-hoo!" The catchphrase was slightly altered in the 1940s after imitators, including Curly Howard of The Three Stooges, copied it a “woo-woo”. Herbert himself changed his routine to match. Seeing him playing a letch seems to go against type.

Winnie Lightner plays Maizee in She Had to Say Yes.

Winnie Lightner, who plays Maizee, has the distinction of being the first movie performer in history ever to be censored for what she said or sang on screen rather than for anything she did visually. Her Vitaphone short in 1928 was held up by censors over the content of the songs she sang, which include “We Love It”, "God Help a Sailor on a Night Like This", "That Brand-New Model of Mine", and "We've Got a Lot to Learn." She offers one of the few bright spots in She Had to Say Yes.

The New York Times film critic, Frank S. Nugent, gave the film negative reviews but added, "The unfortunate part of it is that the picture has some bright lines and threatens, here and there, actually to become amusing. Hugh Herbert and Winnie Lightner wheedled a few laughs from the stranded Strand visitors, but the gayety was short-lived. It would have been a relief to everyone if Miss Young had only said "No!"

Nugent’s assessment is only too true. It's easy to see why Busby Berkeley is best known for his choreography and not his directing.  There are a few moments, but not enough to save this film. Being pre-Code doesn’t make the film salacious nor does it make it necessarily worth watching.

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