Red Headed Woman

Ambitious Lil (Jean Harlow) pins a picture of her rich boss Mr. Legendre (Chester Morris, rhymes with “gender”) to her garter and heads for his home, hoping to make hay while his wife's in Cleveland. In comes Lil, out goes wife, and soon, over Mr. Legendre's objections, Lil becomes the new Mrs. Legendre. Like Warner Bros.' later Baby Face, another comic-melodramatic story of a woman seducing her way up the social ladder, Red Headed Woman was a target of censorship even in this relatively forgiving era. Anita Loos's script is blithely cynical about the exchange of sex for privilege, and blunt about the sometimes brutal power of lust (when her lover slaps her, Lil says, “do it again, I like it”—so he does). The film's audacity is still jaw-dropping, from the opening dialogue—“Can you see through this?” “I'm afraid, you can, dear.” “I'll wear it!”—through to the ending, in which crime is not only unpunished, but positively celebrated.
—Juliet Clark

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