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The Ladies of Leisure
Ladies of Leisure (1930) is a Frank Capra film, starring Barbara Stanwyck, Marie Prevost, and Ralph Graves.
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This early sound film follows the story of prostitute Kay (Stanwyck) who falls for WASP painter Jerry (Graves) and their struggle to love despite their class difference.

This film began the director-actor relationship between Stanwyck and Capra which would result in three more pre-code films note  and Meet John Doe.

Fun fact: There is a sound and a silent version of this film (characteristic of this transitional period in film history), but whether with or without spoken dialogue, both versions highlight Joseph Walker’s gorgeous cinematography.


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Tropes:

  • Big Heroic Run: Dot (Marie Prevost) runs up several flights of stairs to let Jerry know Kay has run away with Bill.
  • Break His Heart to Save Him: Jerry’s mother convinces Kay that she should break off her relationship in the kindest way possible. Kay opts for not telling him that she’s going to Havana with Bill.
  • Bungled Suicide: The idea of being Bill’s “party-girl” and leaving Jerry for good, leaves Kay with only one choice (in her mind, anyways). She jumps off starboard but is saved by the crew.
  • Dating What Daddy Hates: Kay, a former prostitute, is not worthy for the extremely rich and WASP-y Strongs.
  • Defrosting Ice Queen: Once Jerry treats Kay like a human rather than an object, she lets her tough girl façade down.
  • Disposable Fiancé: Jerry’s got one, and she conveniently disappears after a second scene.
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  • Driven to Suicide: While breaking his heart, Kay thinks suicide is the only answer to her troubles.
  • Epic Tracking Shot: Epic for the early sound film era. The film begins with bottles smashing on pavement. The camera then pans up a building to reveal a party. Slowly, it zooms on the drunken revelers who were throwing the bottles and follows them throughout the party.
  • Family Business: The Strongs deal with railway constructions.
  • Fat Girl: Definitely Hollywood Pudgy for Marie Prevost, typecast this way during the pre-code era.
  • Fat Best Friend: The Big Fun variety with dashes of The Ditz for Dot, who may not be the brightest but is fiercely loyal to Kay.
  • Heaven Above: Jerry’s painting is titled “Hope” and when he and Kay admire the stars together, they finally achieve the look he’s been wanting for his portrait.
  • Hooker with a Heart of Gold: Kay describes herself as a “party-girl” but that’s code for prostitute, through and through.
  • Match Cut: The sophisticated tea of the Strongs is match cut with the practical hot coffee (sustenance for a long night out, no doubt) for Kay and Dot.
  • My Own Private "I Do": Given that Jerry’s parents don’t approve of their upcoming marriage, Jerry and Kay decide to run away together to Arizona because Jerry is keen on the state.
  • Secret Test of Character: Kay, decides not to steal from Jerry who gave her a lift home. And for his test, Jerry doesn’t try to take advantage of Kay when she stays the night at his studio.
  • Uptown Girl: Kay is the poor girl who falls for the rich Jerry.

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