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TEN CENTS A DANCE (director: Lionel Barrymore; screenwriters: Jo Swerling/Dorothy Howell; cinematographers: Ernie Haller/Gilbert Warrenton; editor: Arthur Huffsmith; music: Bakaleinikoff; cast: Barbara Stanwyck (Barbara O’Neill), Ricardo Cortez (Bradley Carlton), Sally Blane (Molly), Monroe Owsley (Eddie Miller), Blanche Friderici (Mrs. Blanchard), Phyllis Crane (Eunice), Olive Tell (Mrs. Carlton), Victor Potel (Smith, a sailor), Al Hill (Jones, a sailor), Jack Byron (Leo), Pat Harmon (Casey), David Newell (Ralph Sheridan), Martha Sleeper (Nancy Sheridan); Runtime: 75; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Harry Cohn/Frank Fouce; Sony Pictures Home Entertainment (Columbia); 1931)
Barbara’s worth the price of admission, even if the theater ticket price is more than ten cents.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Oscar-winning actor Lionel Barrymore(“The Rogue Song”/”Madame X”/”The Unholy Night”) helms a below average melodrama about the travails of a virtuous taxi dancer. It’s a pre-code film, therefore it’s racy. It’s poorly written by Jo Swerling and Dorothy Howell. What is valued here is the dynamic performance by Barbara Stanwyck. She is just dandy as the feisty innocent working-girl with a big-heart. Barbara can almost make even this rubbish seem bearable.

Barbara O’Neill (Barbara Stanwyck) works as a dance hostess at the Palais de Dance,” a raunchy dance hall in New York City, where men must buy a ten cent ticket to dance with a hostess. The lonely wealthy businessman Bradley Carlton (Ricardo Cortez) goes to the dance hall and is taken with Barbara and gives her a $100 tip for just talking with him. But Barbara rebuffs his romantic desires and mistakenly marries the ne’er-do-well Eddie Miller (Monroe Owsley), a destitute resident in her boarding house she gave her tip money to pay the rent. Though Barbara remains loyal to her cowardly husband, in their short marriage, he betrays her trust by embezzling $5,000 from Carlton. He got the job as bookkeeper thanks to Barbara.

The superficial film fails to tell us much about the life of a taxi dancer that’s even remotely real, Barbara’s romances are all unconvincing and it lacks the imagination to rise above its low-level characterizations. But Barbara’s worth the price of admission, even if the theater ticket price is more than ten cents.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”