Pre-Code Crazy: Under Eighteen (1932)
Selecting this month’s Pre-Code Crazy pick was a tiny bit difficult – TCM’s December line-up isn’t exactly brimming with pre-Code features. But no worries –I found a good one; it’s airing on December 2nd, so start making plans now to check out Under Eighteen, starring Marian Marsh, Warren William, Anita Page, and Norman Foster.
This feature focuses primarily on the character played by Marian Marsh, a sweet young seamstress by the name of Margie Evans. Margie is in the center of a maelstrom, if you will. She and her mother live in a tenement on the Lower East Side of New York. She’s a first-hand witness to the unhappy marriage of her big sister, Sophie (Anita Page), whose unemployed husband is a gambler and a spendthrift, living off the glory days when he was a billiards champion. She sees the models at her job wearing furs and jewels, riding in limousines, and taking lavish trips – all due to the largess of their “Sugar Daddies.” Her good-natured boyfriend, Jimmy Slocum (Regis Toomey), vows to rescue her from her current situation and insists that prosperity is just around the corner, but he doesn’t seem in a big hurry to get there.
By the time her pregnant sister gets socked in the eye during an argument with her husband, Margie has come to a decision: “I’ve seen all I want of marriage,” she tells her mother. “I’ve made up my mind that any time I hand myself to a man for life, it’s cash on delivery.”
Serendipity tiptoes into Margie’s life in the form of a chance meeting with Raymond Harding (the always fascinating Warren William), a mega-bucks Broadway producer who takes a liking to her – during a shopping trip with his girlfriend, no less. (Margie’s boyfriend knew what he was talking about when he referred to Harding as “girl nutty.”) When her sister decides to divorce her no-good spouse, Margie turns to Harding for financial assistance. And that’s when the movie really kicks into high gear!
Margie’s boyfriend picks her up from work in his grocery truck, and instantly starts an argument with her about modeling in front of that “rich, no-good heel” Raymond Harding. He questions where she got the orchids she’s wearing, accusing her of receiving them for “showing [her] shape.” Margie tells him, “Don’t be an ass.”
Margie and Sophie go to a lawyer to discuss Sophie’s plans for the divorce. As the rather oily attorney itemizes his fees, he pours himself a shot of liquor from a flask he retrieves from his desk. He offers a drink to the women and when they decline, he downs the liquid, explaining, “Helps my gas.”
When Margie goes to Harding’s penthouse apartment to ask him for a loan, she finds that he’s having a pool party – and, boy, is it some party! There’s some of everything going on, no matter where you look. A tuxedo-clad gent runs hand in hand with a woman wearing a bathing suit. A drunken party-goer tosses a fistful of jewels in the pool and invites the guests to dive for them, causing a dozen women (and one man!) to dive in – some in full-length gowns. A woman rips off her necklace and ring and throws them at her companion, telling him he doesn’t “know the difference between [his] horses and [his] women.” A woman bobs up and down in the pool on top of an inflated pony – well, that one you’ll just have to see for yourself.
“Marriage. It’s a great game – yes, for men that make saps out of girls like you and me.” Sophie (Anita Page)
“A girl’s got to use her brains to get anything out of this life.” Margie (Marian Marsh)
“You’re wasting your time. They haven’t got a dime. They’ve got cars and clothes, but when a man has to hold a girl that way, he’s not giving her cash to spend on some other man. They’re allowed about as much freedom as one of their Airedales on a leash. ” Seamstress (Claire McDowell)
“Why not take off your clothes and stay a while?” Raymond Harding (Warren William)
Check out Under Eighteen on TCM Tuesday, December 2nd. You only owe it to yourself. And be sure to pop over to Speakeasy to find out Kristina’s Pre-Code Crazy pick for December!