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Nan and Linda in the big house.
Ladies They Talk About (1933) is a pre-code Warner Bros. film about lawbreaking Nan Taylor (Barbara Stanwyck) who goes to an all women jail for a failed bank heist.
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Nan's childhood friend, a reformed evangelical, David Slade (Preston Foster), almost helps her out of the conviction until she privately confesses to the crime. Even though he's in love with her, he turns her in.

In prison, Nan must learn the ropes of the jail hierarchy with the help of Linda (Lilian Roth) and battle out turf rules with tough girl, Susie (Dorothy Burgess). Susie happens to love Slade's sermons; she hears them over the radio and is insistent on following him as soon as she’s free.

Meanwhile, Nan’s male friends from the botched bank robbery want her help to escape prison. Nan uses Slade yet again to get a letter out of town, but the letter is intercepted, giving up the escape plan. Nan gets caught, her friends are killed, and she gets another year added to her sentence.

A year later, Nan is out and swears revenge on Slade; she's ready to kill.

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The movie was remade in 1942 as Lady Gangster.


Tropes:

  • Alpha Bitch: Susie. Nan puts her in her place very quickly.
  • Bank Robbery: Doesn’t work out for Nan at all.
  • Butch Lesbian: It’s heavily coded, but Linda gives the tour of the jail to Nan and says to watch out for the one woman because she “likes to wrestle.” She is always seen smoking a cigar and wearing masculine clothing.
  • Dark Action Girl: Nan isn’t scared to throw a punch at anyone who pisses her off.
  • Death Glare: Don’t anger Nan.
  • Failure Is the Only Option: Nan’s heist friends get caught and killed.
  • Grande Dame: There's Mrs. Arlington who still thinks she can pull her high society card whenever something doesn't go her way. Even when she killed a woman by putting glass in her food.
  • Great Escape: Nan helps her male counterparts, much to her detriment.
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  • Girls Behind Bars: The film panders a bit with the scantily clad girls, but the prison still doesn’t look like too much fun. It’s more like a tough reform school.
  • Have a Gay Old Time: "For a dumb dick you have a memory like an elephant." (A "dick" being a detective, of course.)
  • Luxury Prison Suite: The prisoners get private cells with drawers, comfortable beds, their own record players, and tables.
  • Misplaced Retribution: Nan thinks that Slade betrayed her and her friends, but her letter was intercepted by the police without Slade's help.
  • Parrot Pet Position: The matron always has her pet parrot on her shoulder.
  • Pretty in Mink: Nan sports one during the heist and when she’s finally out of the big house.
  • The Remake: Remade as a 1940s b-movie with the same plot, starring Faye Emerson.
  • Revenge Before Reason: Nan goes to kill Slade at one of his sermons. There’s a huge crowd and a policeman even recognizes her before she goes in the building. Susie was there, too, and witnessed the attempted murder!
  • Skeleton Key: Nan gets the pass key, and imprints it on a bar of soap to get it to the guys on the other side, so they can escape.
  • Stalker Shrine: Susie has newspaper clippings and photos of David all over her cell walls.
  • The Stool Pigeon: Slade tells on Nan when she confesses to helping the bank heist.
    • Nan also thinks Slade stabbed her in the back and blabbed about the escape. He didn't.

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