(director: William Wellman; screenwriters: from the play “The Mud Lark” by Arthur Stringer/Robert Lord; cinematographer: Sidney Hickox; editor: William Holmes; music: Leo F. Forbstein; cast: Barbara Stanwyck (Joan Gordon, aka Francine La Rue), George Brent (James ‘Jim’ Gilson), Lyle Talbot (Eddie ‘Ed’ Fields), Hardie Albright (Don Leslie), David Landau (Bull McDowell), Murray Kinnell (Spike Forgan), Leila Bennett (Emily, the Hotel Maid), Clarence H. Wilson ( Justice of the Peace), Lucille Ward (Wife of Justice of Peace), Victor Potel (Clyde); Runtime: 70; MPAA Rating: NR; Warner Brothers; 1932)
“Brent and Stanwyck do a nice job of opposites falling in love.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

William Wellman directs this Pre-Code Warner Brothers romantic drama. It’s based on a play “The Mud Lark” by Arthur Stringer and written by Robert Lord.

Manhattan nightclub-torch singer Joan Gordon (Barbara Stanwyck) breaks off being a kept woman with married ex-con bootlegger Eddie Fields (Lyle Talbot) but gets dumped by her wealthy socially prominent suitor Don Leslie, whose dad had private detectives discover Joan’s involvement with the thug. Joan secretly goes to Montreal and changes her name to Francine La Rue, working again as a nightclub singer. Eddie, who is still crazy about her, has his boys locate her there. When Joan discovers that her daffy hotel maid Emily sent in Francine’s photo to become a mail-order bride of North Dakota farmer Jim Gilson (George Brent), she coughs up $100 to replace her. Greeted in Elk’s Creek by Jim in a horse and buggy, they purchase the wedding ring and get married in a civil ceremony before going home. She marries under her correct name of Joan (while no mention is made of why she’s not called Emily!). On the ride back to the farm, she’s turned off by Jim’s cold. In the bedroom he frightens her by kissing her hard on the lips, and she slaps him; as a result his feelings are hurt and he sleeps in the barn. The next night the neighbors come to “shivelry” the new couple by partying in their house, which is their excuse to get drunk, plays country music and post office. When the couple play post office, Joan apologizes to Jim; but he refuses to accept it and they continue sleeping alone.

Jim informs Joan he must send her back to Montreal because the bank is going to foreclose on his mortgage if he doesn’t raise $800, and he can’t support her as promised. Since he can’t plant his wheat until spring, he doesn’t see how he can save the farm. Bull McDowell (David Landau) makes a bogus offers to take care of his mortgage if Jim will work for him and Joan will become his housekeeper (implying she will sleep with him); but they decline.

During the harsh winter, Joan goes and helps a neighboring mother with her infant. She comes back in a blizzard and finds Eddie there. Jim gets upset about Eddie, while the bootlegger tells Joan he loves her madly and wants to get her away from this dump. Joan tells Eddie she really loves Jim and farm life; Eddie says he’ll wait in town a few days in case she changes her mind. When she learns that in 15 days unless they come up with the bread, Bull will buy their place. Joan meets Eddie in the bar and he lends her the $800. Jim sees them together and without trying to understand, he punches out Eddie. Joan pays the banker and makes him send a letter saying Jim can plant the wheat because he has a mortgage extension until September, without mentioning she already paid off the mortgage. After they sow the seeds in the spring and begin to harvest the wheat in the summer, Bull sets fire to their wheat fields at night. Jim and Joan put out the fire with blankets, and Jim carries a tired but happy Joan into the bedroom to consummate the marriage. That was something the audience was very much in favor of. Joan has chosen the honest hard work of farm life and the quiet life in the sticks over the fast-lane in the city. Not much of a story as Stanwyck goes from a slut to a lady of impeccable virtue, but Brent and Stanwyck do a nice job of opposites falling in love.

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