Virtue

Dullsville

Virtue (1932)

     How do you make Carole Lombard look like a prostitute/ex-prostitute? Give her some dark eyeliner. One would not suspect from viewing most of the contents of Virtue that Lombard’s Mae is meant to be a reformed hooker as her style of dress and manner suggest anything but. In truth, the only difference I saw in this Lombard compared to her other roles was some excessive eye liner. Nevertheless, Mae is what she is, but a poorly acted plot does this story no favors.

     Following an arrest and conviction on an unspoken crime, Mae is ordered to exit Manhattan and not return, but the gal hops the train before leaving the island. She rides along in a taxi driven by our male lead, Pat O’Brien as Jimmy, but skips out on the fare. When she later delivers the money to the duped driver, the two hit it off and begin dating. The trouble with Pat is all he can do is yammer on about how no one can tell him about women and that marriage is the worst fate imaginable. Pat is saving up to buy a share in a gas station and knows that marriage will suck his finances dry. Nevertheless, the two wed.

     On their wedding night, Pat learns of Mae’s past profession of “picking up men off the street” but not from his wife, rather a copper who wants to arrest the girl for disobeying her sentence. Pat slaps Mae but later opts to stay in the marriage. All is fine, despite some minor suspicions on Pat’s part, until an old friend of Mae’s requires surgery and convinces the gal to loan her Pat’s money. What follows is more complicated than a case of missing money as murder charges arise and Pat has to decide whether he wants Mae and Mae must choose whether she should take the lug back.

     Lombard does her standard good acting, but the other players in Virtue drag it down. No one is terribly likeable and the story does not leave the audience rooting for Mae and Pat to work things out. The editing is also sloppy at times with some awkward cuts between shots within a single scene that produce a jarring effect. Editing, except when employed in artistic or subliminal ways, is meant to be invisible, allowing seamless transitions between angles, but some goofs or just poor judgement here make Virtue stand out as a bit amateur on the editing front.

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