Barbara Stanwyck, George Brent, Donald Cook, Margaret Lindsay,
This defining example of pre-Code depravity also establishes femme fatalism as both an economic and a philosophical position. “I’m a tramp and who’s to blame? My father!” Thus spake Lily Powers (Barbara Stanwyck), who starts as the sweetheart of the night shift at her dad’s mangy mill-town speakeasy and soon sleeps her way to the top of the Gotham Trust Company, one floor at a time. (Among her victims there is a very young John Wayne). The movie was trimmed before its release to appease horrified censors; this print, preserved from the uncut negative, contains plenty of jaw-dropping moments, but probably the most surprising are the repeated references to Nietzsche. A philosophical cobbler sends Lily Thoughts out of Season as a Christmas gift: “Crush out all sentiment.” Sly, glittering, and opaque, Stanwyck’s Lily hardly needs the advice.