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Film / Forbidden (1932)

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Forbidden is a 1932 melodrama film directed by Frank Capra, based on the novel Back Street by Fannie Hurst.

Lulu Smith (Barbara Stanwyck) is a frumpy librarian in a small town. She gets bored with being a frumpy librarian, so she blows her savings—over $1600 in 1932 money, so, quite a bit—on a lavish cruise to Havana. For a while she doesn't meet anybody, until one night a fellow named Bob (Adolphe Menjou) wanders into her cabin by mistake after drinking way too much at dinner. Bob, it turns out, is a successful lawyer. They hit it off immediately, falling into a whirlwind romance.

Either they live in the same town or she follows him, because back on land they are still dating, as Bob mulls a run for district attorney. Lulu gets a job at a newspaper and draws the romantic attentions of the editor, Al Holland (Ralph Bellamy), but she only has eyes for Bob. So she's pretty unpleasantly surprised one night when Bob confesses that he is married, and can't divorce his wife, as she has serious health issues. Lulu breaks up with him... and does not tell him that she is pregnant.


  • Concealment Equals Cover: Averted. Lulu shoots Al twice through a kitchen door. (Then she opens the door and shoots him four more times.)
  • Death Glare: Al, who hates the hell out of Bob, gets a seat right behind him on the convention stand and stares daggers at him. Then he mutters insults over Bob's shoulder as the MC gives a nominating speech for Bob.
  • Double Entendre: Bob shows up at the apartment and jokes that he's the census taker. Lulu says "Oh, I lost my census long ago."
  • Downer Ending: Shortly after springing Lulu from jail with a pardon, Bob dies. Before he dies he scribbles out a will which leaves her half of his fortune. Lulu takes the will, and throws it in the garbage rather than ruin Bob's reputation or embarrass her daughter. Then she walks away and disappears in the crowd, loveless and alone, and the movie ends.

  • Inadvertent Entrance Cue: Al, hectoring his reporters to find the anonymous birth mother of Bob's (supposedly) adopted child, says "I want Jane Doe right hear in this office!" As the words are leaving his lips Lulu is opening the door and entering his office.
  • Incurable Cough of Death: Bob starts coughing as he visits Lulu after getting nominated governor. Sure enough, he dies after being governor for less than a year.
  • Kubrick Stare: Bob does this over the dinner table to Lulu, as he reveals that he knows all, that Lulu is the mother of Bob's baby and was his mistress for nearly 20 years before marrying Al.
  • Love Martyr: Lulu really does not come out well for her relationship with Bob. She gets knocked up, and he refuses to leave his wife. Bob tracks her down, which blows up in their faces when Al catches the two of them together, forcing Lulu to pretend that she's governess to little Roberta, which forces her to give up Roberta. She doesn't get married or have any other children, instead settling for life as Bob's secret mistress. She marries Al to try and stop him from exposing Bob, and murders Al when that doesn't work. Bob does at least pardon her when he becomes governor, but when he dies and leaves her half of his money, Lulu tears up the will in order to avoid ruining Bob's reputation.
  • Match Cut: A gag has a match cut from a yawning dog to one of Lulu's coworkers at the library yawning.
  • Meet Cute: Lulu and Bob meet when he stumbles into her room by mistake while drunk.
  • The Mistress: Lulu. She's perfectly willing to be Bob's mistress after finding out he's married, but he breaks it off. Then, after he tracks her down and finds out she had a baby, they reunite and she continues to be his mistress for somewhere around 15 years, while Bob ascends up the political ladder.
  • Pen Name: Whoever writes the "Advice to the Lovelorn" column at the paper signs it "Mary Sunshine". Lulu takes the pseudonym when she takes the job.
  • Romantic False Lead: In movie after movie after movie throughout his career, Ralph Bellamy was the false romantic lead who Did Not Get the Girl. In this one it's a little different, as while he's still the false romantic lead, he does get the girl—but Lulu is only marrying him to try and stop him from running the story. When Al finds out the truth, unlike most false romantic leads of Bellamy's career who went away quietly, he turns angry and violent.
  • She Cleans Up Nicely: Lulu the librarian, with her glasses and severe hairdo, turns into glamorous Barbara Stanwyck when she goes on the cruise.
  • Shout-Out: Bob and Lulu are goofing around with Halloween masks. He puts his on and says "Strange interlude!" This is a reference to the play Strange Interlude, which often has actors deliver dialogue while wearing masks.
  • 6 Is 9: A pretty weird example. Bob is in compartment 99 on the cruise ship. But he is apparently drunk enough that he mistook the 66 on Lulu's compartment for 99 and entered her cabin instead.
  • Time-Passes Montage: 15 years or so pass as illustrated by Lulu posting pictures in her scrapbook of little Roberta as she grows from a small child to a grown woman. The clippings also tell of Bob's policial career, which has gone from district attorney before the montage, to mayor, congressman, and senator, with Bob running for governor when the montage ends.

Alternative Title(s): Forbidden