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Red-Headed Woman

(1932 b 80')

En: 6 Ed: 6

A woman uses her sexual charms to gain the affection of wealthy men and a French lover.

Lil (Jean Harlow) pacifies her bootlegging boyfriend's anger with a kiss and promptly leaves him to romance her boss by offering to do work for him at his house while his wife is in Cleveland. Bill Legendre (Chester Morris) tells her he loves his wife; but a drink and dancing leads to kissing; then his wife Irene (Leila Hyams) returns early. Bill tells Irene it started and will end that day; but Lil tells her friend Sally (Una Merkel) she intends to hook a rich man. Bill's father William (Lewis Stone) offers Lil a job in Cleveland to save his son's marriage, but she refuses to be bought off. Bill tells Lil she must go, but she corners him in a phone booth and gets him to promise to visit her. Bill and Irene go home and make up, causing Lil to get drunk and go to his house to complain of the broken date. Irene locks herself in her bedroom, and Bill follows Lil home. He gives her money to get out of town, but she locks the inside of the bedroom door. He slaps her and knocks her down; but she just lays there crying and hides the key in her bra.

A court grants Irene a divorce from Bill, but her aunt persuades Irene to go after Bill. Lil comes out of the bedroom to tell her they are married. Irene predicts she will lose Bill, because she got him with sex not love. Lil resents not being invited to a big banquet and complains to Bill she never meets his friends. Lil meets the wealthy Gaerste (Henry Stephenson) and blackmails him into inviting his friends to her party. He does so, and Lil is happy until she finds the departing guests went across the street to Irene's. Lil tells them off, and Bill carries her home. Crying, Lil asks to visit Gaerste in New York. William suspects Lil and Gaerste, and Bill warns Lil about cheating. Lil calls on Gaerste, kisses him, and soon he wants to marry her. While in love with his chauffeur Albert (Charles Boyer), Lil is going to marry Gaerste; but Bill shows up with photos a detective took of her and Albert. Gaerste fires the chauffeur, and Albert offers to take Lil to Paris; but he doesn't have enough money for her. So she returns to Bill, but he moves out and reconciles with Irene. William gives Lil a check for $500, which she grabs before stopping Bill's car and shooting him. He survives and does not prosecute. Two years later he and his father see Lil in Paris. In the final scene she is romancing a rich old man in the back-seat of a car Albert is driving.

Censors were perturbed that Lil was not punished for her sins; but except for the shooting incident perhaps she got what she deserved. She could manipulate a man with sex, but did this give her real love? and wasn't she providing entertainment and pleasure? The story still provides a warning to men about the temptations of lust.

Copyright © 1999 by Sanderson Beck

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