FERNANDO’s CORNER ~ posted January 29th, 2018

Thanks to my brother, who sent me Cary Grant’s The Vault Collection as a birthday gift, I was finally able to see “The Woman Accused” (1933), a Paramount film starring Nancy Carroll, an underrated talent and star from the Pre Code Era (maybe a future assignment Scott O’Brien?) and the great Cary Grant, in a very early stage of his film career.

The film is completely Pre-Code as it tells the story of a girl (Carroll) who has lived with and been the lover of an older man with connections to the underworld (Louis Calhern), and who wants to start a new life with a young lawyer (Grant). Although she broke up with her ex-lover, he doesn’t want to let her go…. The film is pretty bold in some of its subjects and scenes, especially one memorable whipping scene that is truly jaw-dropping (won’t give away more) and the ending has nothing to do with the “punishments” the Code demanded.

Nancy Carroll, who by then was on her way down in terms of popularity, does a fine job as the troubled young woman who wants to live her life with this young lawyer who has swept her off her feet. Carroll was very talented and gives an honest performance, although a better director than Paul Sloane could have helped her give an even better performance. Cary Grant is good as her love interest. Louis Calhern is adequately nasty as the older man who won’t let her go.

A mention apart goes to three of the supporting players of the film. As I see more and more films from the Classic Era, I am value more its character players; I also discover new ones I wasn’t familiar with. Ladies first: Norma Mitchell is superb as Nancy’s maid and companion…the woman who has taken care and protected her since she was five years old. She stands by her and looks after her like a lioness. She gives a splendid performance. It’s a pity she only appeared in three films in her entire career. John Halliday, is once again excellent as a lawyer who is set to hunt down Carroll and expose her. And last but not least, Jack La Rue who was definitely THE Pre-Code actor supreme. After seeing him as the decadent hitman he plays here and in such Pre-Codes ~ “The Story of Temple Drake” (1933), to name one of the prominent films that comes to my mind ~ I am able to nominate him as such :). Besides, he has range. The year before he played the good priest in “A Farewell to Arms.”

Irving Pichel, another overlooked and talented character actor (and later ~ director), plays a D.A. and the achingly beautiful Lona André, a kind of “sister” of the priceless Toby Wing, plays a bubbly young friend of Carroll’s and Grant’s characters.

BTW the films has a very unique beginning in which all the writers who are credited for the story are shown; thus, I got to see for the first time in my life the famed Viña Delmar!!, as well as Ursula Parrott, Vicki Baum, Zane Grey et al. A treat.

A truly splendid Pre-Code in spite of its few flaws. With a more skilled director this film could have been even better than it actually is.


Go to Fernando’s Corner to see his other Paramount entries.


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