Carole Lombard, Roger Pryor, and May Robson in Lady by Choice (1934)


(director: David Burton; screenwriters: Jo Swerling/from the story by Dwight Taylor; cinematographer: Ted Tetzlaff; editor: Viola Lawrence; music: Louis Silvers; cast: Carole Lombard (‘Alabam’ Georgia Lee), May Robson (Patsy Patterson), Roger Pryor (Johnny Mills), Walter Connolly (Judge Daly), Arthur Hohl (Kendall), Raymond Walburn (Front O’Malley), Henry Kolker (David Opper), Snowflake (Mose); Runtime: 76; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Robert North; Columbia; 1934)

“No problem with Carole Lombard in this modest sentimental comedy, she has the part down pat.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

No problem with Carole Lombard in this modest sentimental comedy, she has the part down pat. The problem is with the pic’s rehashed story line that is trite, wears thin and seems too familiar. Director David Burton (“Jennie”/”Let’s Fall In Love”/”The Man Who Wouldn’t Talk”) bases it on the story by Dwight Taylor; it was robustly written by Jo Swerling as a sequel to Frank Capra’s Damon Runyon adaptation of Lady for a Day (1933).

Warner: spoiler in the next paragraph.

Patsy Patterson (May Robson) is a drunken old woman leading the life of a derelict, who is arrested for starting a barroom brawl by attacking a singing waiter singing, according to Patsy, a disingenuous song about his mother. Judge Daly (Walter Connolly) contacts Patsy’s well-heeled lawyer Johnny Mills (Roger Pryor), who looks after her because those were his dying father’s last words (it’s learned later they were lovers). They arrange to place the reluctant curmudgeonly Patsy in a women’s old age home. Fan dancer Alabam Lee (Carole Lombard) is convicted by Judge Daly in the same night court of a morals code violation because of her lewd act, but is given a suspended sentence along with a fine. Lee’s brash publicist, Front O’Malley (Raymond Walburn), brainstorms that as a publicity gag on Mother’s Day his client should adopt a mother. Patsy, now living in the old age home, is chosen and bonds with Lee, and soon uncovers that her manager (Arthur Hohl) is a crook who has been cheating her out of her wages. After firing her manager and publicist, Patsy takes over running Lee’s career. When Patsy wins $7,000 gambling, she uses the money for dancing, voice and acting lessons trying to elevate Lee’s showbiz career. Patsy also uses her contact with the big-time producer Opper (Henry Kolker) to get Lee an audition. But Opper says she has no talent and the dejected Lee agrees. In the meantime, Johnny has fallen for Lee and the two plan to marry. But Johnny’s mom objects and threatens to cut off his inheritance. Lee, not wanting that, leaves him and rejoins her crooked manager in a fan-dancer show. Patsy, realizing that the two are really love birds, drops a dime on Lee to Judge Daly and the show is raided. The judge gives Lee a choice of marriage to Johnny or prison, and I’ll let you guess her choice.