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Film / Virtue

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You can't kick this broad out of NYC.
Virtue (1932) is a Pre-Code era film directed by Edward Buzzell, starring Carole Lombard and Pat O’Brien.

Mae (Lombard) is a New York City hooker who wants a change to her call-girl lifestyle. When she meets naïve cabbie Jimmy (O’Brien), he gives her another chance at life. They become friends and soon fall in love and get married, but Jimmy finds out about her past life and isn’t pleased. He decides to forget her past until events brings the subject back again.

This film shows the following tropes:

  • Amusement Park: Jimmy and Mae go to Coney Island for their honeymoon.
  • Clear Their Name: What Jimmy sets out to do when Mae's been framed for Gert's murder.
  • Crazy Jealous Guy: Jimmy follows Mae after he catches her in a lie and finds her consorting with her old prostitute friends. He sees a man kissing a woman through a window and thinks it’s Mae. But it turns out he’s wrong.
  • Dark Secret: Mae tries to keep her hooker past from Jimmy, but when the officer that kicked her out of the city finds her with Jimmy, he thinks she’s turning tricks once more, not knowing they’ve just been married. Jimmy's distrust only increases.
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  • Defiled Forever: Jimmy is visibly upset when he finds out that Mae was a prostitute, but he tries his best to forget it. Until he suspects Mae. It’s obvious that he was waiting for her to screw up and prove to him that a former prostitute can’t be a good wife.
  • The Exile: Mae has been kicked out of NYC, but she returns almost straight away.
  • A Fool and His New Money Are Soon Parted: A former prostitute friend of Mae called Gert is very sick and asks for $200 in order to get a life-saving surgery for some unknown disease. Gert even fails a suicide attempt for this. Now Jimmy has been saving all his money to buy a gas station, and Mae knows it would be a problem if Jimmy found out, but she lends the money to Gert. It turns out that this was all a tall tale con by Gert.
  • Frame-Up: When Mae finds out about Gert’s tale, she tracks her down and gives her a no-holds-barred-slapdown because she wants her money, dammit, and tells her to have it ready for the next day. The next day, Gert is telling her worries to Toots who won’t lend her any money. So, she steals from him, they get in a fight, and he inadvertently kills her. He takes the body into the other room, and when Mae comes for her money, she finds some and goes on her way. Now with this dead body and everything pointing to Toots, all he has to do is get (Mayo Methot), his girlfriend, and hope she’ll give him a good alibi.
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  • A Friend in Need: Lil is Mae’s old friend who’s also a prostitute. She once helped Mae by giving her some dough when she came back to NYC, but her biggest help comes later. It’s established that she’s madly in love with Toots, and when she realizes that Toots is the one that set up Mae with the death of Gert, she decides to give him an alibi. However, it turns out this was just a ruse to get Toots into the DA’s office and turn Toots’ supposed alibi into nothing when she admits he wasn’t in her room during the murder.
  • Hooker with a Heart of Gold: Both Lil and Mae embody this trope whereas Gert is the aversion.
  • Know-Nothing Know-It-All: Jimmy thinks he’s sized up Mae pretty well when he guesses that she’s a “steno” out of a job.
  • Slut-Shaming: Jimmy makes it clear to his friend that he wants a virgin through and through, and he thinks he’s won the lottery with Mae, but he’s later crushed to find out she was a prostitute. And he doesn’t let her live it down.
  • Streetwalker: It was the Great Depression! She needed to eat!