TCM was airing a pre-code gem the other night: Baby Face. Barbara Stanwyck plays Lilly, the girl from the wrong side of the tracks who will do anything to get on the right side of the tracks. In true, pre-code fashion, it is made explicitly clear that she sleeps her way to the top of an office building–literally. It’s a hoot to watch. George Brent plays the male protagonist and is well, George Brent. Early George Brent. I think he became more memorable as he aged and started playing more character roles. Here he’s totally outmatched by Stanwyck.
One thing I really love about this film is how very unrepentant Lilly is. She doesn’t give two hoots about any of the men she uses or what befalls her. She is loyal to her friend (played ably by in Theresa Harris). There’s a tacked-on ending that reportedly was added to shut up the Hayes Office (the Production Code given teeth by then and 1934 was the start of the new regime’s reign of terror er…power), but it doesn’t negate the rest of the film’s impact.