Ladies of Leisure (1930) Poster

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I've got both sound and silent versions
jpb5811 April 2007
Warning: Spoilers
The sound version of Ladies of Leisure is immeasurably better than the silent version which has floated around for years. I suspect the silent is easily available because it is public domain and the sound version is copyrighted and being hoarded.

A friend in Europe sent me a rare copy of the sound version on PAL disc which I converted to NTSC for myself. The silent version I've had a few years.

It was a delight to actually SEE the sets in the sound version, first of all. Clarity is so much better! In the silent version the artist's (Ralph Graves) dwelling looks like a slimy, dirty hovel because the print is so lousy. In the sound version it looks just what it was supposed to be: a very rich guy's penthouse apartment in Manhattan. What a contrast!

In the sound version Marie Prevost gets many more scenes; in the silent version her part is cut to practically nil. However in both versions I did get a little ticked off at the script constantly harping on her weight. We all know how Marie died and it's terrible to hear lines constantly like: "If you gain another 10 pounds no one will look at you." Poor dear Marie. It wasn't bad enough she had to hear it in real life, she had to hear it on screen as well! The big problem is she does NOT look fat! She looks NORMAL! Just not a skinny stringbean like so many other actresses. She was a delight no matter what she weighed; why didn't someone help that woman instead of knock her down? She made a lot of money for the studios in her day and then they dumped her when she needed help. Cruel Hollywood!

In the sound version the music is MUCH better, more sophisticated. The silent version has a rather horrid piano soundtrack as I recall which made me think of fingernails being scraped against a chalkboard.

There are also more scenes with Lowell Sherman in the sound version as well but that didn't make much difference because his part wasn't substantial and neither was his character's personality; just another wolf after the girls for cheap sex.

If there is anything that is better in the silent version it is the key scene where the two people, the artist (Graves) and the model (Stanwyck) finally admit they are head over heels in love with one another. That's such a bittersweet scene. Because there are no words spoken in the silent version Ralph and Barbara had to communicate more with their eyes and body language, and that made this key scene more powerful and far less awkward than in the sound version. So for all you readers who have only seen the silent version rest assured you at least can enjoy this beautiful love scene in its best framework.

A pleasant precode for the early Barbara Stanwyck fan and interesting to study the differences in the two versions.

8 out of 10
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6/10
The Movie That Made Barbara Stanwyck a Star
HarlowMGM15 January 2005
23 year old Barbara Stanwyck became a leading film star in 1930 with the release of LADIES OF LEISURE, after having starred in two flops in 1929. This is a very slender story of a good time girl who falls in love with a millionaire's son who basically is just interested in her as a model for a painting he wants to do. Given how free-wheeling and blunt most early talkies were on morality, this movie is surprisingly discreet about Stanwyck's character's past. We are supposed to read into the story she's a prostitute (or more accurately, a former mistress) - but in her first scene she is fleeing a yacht party that's too risqué for her!! Stanwyck rings honesty out of a cardboard script and she's got good support from three second-tier silent stars who are quite good in talkies - Ralph Graves as the object of her affection, Marie Prevost as her wisecracking, less prudish pal, and especially Lowell Sherman as Graves' drunken buddy who is very open to being Stanwyck's next sugar daddy yet the best scene is the confrontation being Stanwyck and Graves' mother, superbly played by a somewhat unsung character actress, Nance O'Neil.

The movie's minor fame today rests on it being Stanwyck's first screen success and an early hit for director Frank Capra yet Capra's direction is rather dull and often awkward and the movie is very badly edited with some scenes conspicuously made up of different takes with shot angles and acting rhythms off among other giveaways (to say nothing of the scene where Graves answers the phone and says "Hello" way before the receiver is anywhere near his mouth!!) As mentioned by another reviewer, a "silent" version of the film was also shot (the smaller studios like Columbia were still making silent versions of some of their films up to 1931 for the ever dwindling number of movie theaters that were still not wired for sound), I don't know anything about the silent version being available on video and not the sound film, possibly the silent version fell into public domain and that's why that version alone is on tape, however the sound version still exists and was shown on American Movie Classics in the early 1990's back when that channel actually showed classic movies. Turner Classic Movies, on the other hand, has so many MGM and Warner Bros. films at their disposal they hardly need to go elsewhere for films so it's not likely they will bother to pick up rights to this movie from Columbia. I wouldn't be surprised, however, one day to see it and a number of other early Capra talkies together in a boxed DVD set given his legend as a director.
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7/10
in the Capra mold
mukava99118 February 2009
LADIES OF LEISURE, adapted to the screen from a play, is another in a long line of Frank Capra-directed films that pits the lower orders against the upper through the device of a romantic entanglement. In this case it's "lady of leisure" (read: prostitute or good time gal) Barbara Stanwyck against the slightly bohemian scion of a wealthy banking family (Ralph Graves). The theme of the movie is set right away as we see a bustling Manhattan street at night. Suddenly bottles fall from the sky and explode on the sidewalk, narrowly missing pedestrians. They are coming from a group of drunken young women who are tossing them over a penthouse terrace balcony for kicks. These party girls have been hired by dissolute swell Lowell Sherman, a friend of Graves, who, offended by the crudity of the party scene, hops into his roadster for a drive into the country. He stops by a lake where he sees a young woman (Stanwyck) dressed in an evening gown rowing herself ashore in a canoe. It turns out she too is a party girl and is also escaping a wild party, this time on a yacht. He finds her attractive and offers her a ride back to the city. As is her habit, she picks his pocket while he's driving. Thus the plot line is set. We know what will happen by the end. Along the way we are treated to a beautifully etched characterization by Stanwyck who covers a wide range of acting territory from crude and lowdown to transcendentally idealistic. The equally inventive Marie Prevost provides generous support as her overweight roommate. Lowell Sherman, playing the same type of hard-drinking, pleasure-loving sophisticate as he often did in other movies (Bachelor Apartment, What Price Hollywood), is also excellent.

For whatever reason, Ralph Graves cannot perform like a flesh and blood human being. His movements are stiff and unmotivated, his emotions seem forced and sudden. Even the expression on his face looks pasted on from some other character in some other movie. All wrong. One is not surprised to see that within a few years he was playing uncredited bit parts in third-rate movies. His silent film credits are numerous and go back to the teens so one can only wonder what his appeal was. He is not bad looking, so one must assume that his substantial silent film career owed a lot to his appearance.
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8/10
Stanwyck wonderful in early talkie Capra
brianina29 May 2001
It's the old hooker-with-a-heart-of-gold story but Barbara Stanwyck and director Frank Capra make it shine. Not only is Stanwyck great but there isn't a bad performance by anyone in the film, even down to the minor characters. Capra attains a naturalness from his actors rare at this point in the talkies. The only complaint might by that Ralph Graves' accent is more convincing for a cowboy than a son of the upper crust, but that's a quibble. Other pluses are Jo Swerling's smart dialogue with hardly an unnecessary line and John Walker's cinematography, the best of its time (the night scene as Stanwyck spends the night on Graves' couch is a marvel of lighting, pacing and atmosphere).
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6/10
Good early Barbara Stanwyck tear-jerker directed by Capra...
Neil Doyle18 May 2009
Considering that movies only began to talk in 1928, this early sound film starring BARBARA STANWYCK as a girl of ill repute (she calls herself a party girl), and RALPH GRAVES as an artist who wants to use her as a model, is not bad at all. It's certainly one of the better jobs in sound recording for a film made in the early '30s. As usual with films of this period, there is almost no music on the soundtrack except for the moment when "The End" is flashed on the screen. In the TCM print I watched, the screen then fades to black while some "exit" music is played against a dark screen.

Stanwyck is the prostitute with a heart of gold who finds a good man and doesn't want to let him go, even when his family objects to their union when he proposes marriage. She is convinced by the mother to give him up--but circumstances change after she makes a rash decision.

Stanwyck is excellent at conveying the brassy qualities of the character, but then reveals the softer nature of the girl as she falls in love with the man who only wants to paint her portrait. The tenderness of the romance that develops is full of nuances that one wouldn't expect from a Frank Capra film. The sentimental ending is more in keeping with his usual style.

RALPH GRAVES gives a quiet, assured performance as the man who finds that he does really love Stanwyck. LOWELL SHERMAN does his usual schtick as an inebriated friend who flounces around making wisecracks. MARIE PREVOST has some good moments as Stanwyck's roommate and NANCE O'NEIL does a good job as Grave's well-meaning mother.

Stanwyck fans will appreciate her well modulated performance.
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5/10
Rich Boy Meets Party Girl
bkoganbing18 May 2009
The creative team of Barbara Stanwyck and director Frank Capra makes its debut in Ladies Of Leisure which casts a young Barbara as a party girl who falls big time for artist Ralph Graves after he hires her to model for him. They did a total of five films together, the last one Meet John Doe is considered a classic.

Ladies Of Leisure is far from that, but you can see why it helped make Barbara Stanwyck the star she became. Their are hints of her later Oscar nominated part in Stella Dallas in her performance here.

Ralph Graves isn't just any artist, he's the son of railroad tycoon George Fawcett and Nance O'Neil, but business just doesn't interest him which displeases dad. Fawcett wants him to forget this art kick and join the family firm. But that's nothing compared to how he and O'Neil feel about their son when he brings Stanwyck home after he's fallen for her.

The production values aren't the greatest, remember this is Columbia Pictures while it was still a poverty row studio like Monogram. Still Capra and Stanwyck show traces of the movie legends they became.

Nothing terribly special about Ladies Of Leisure other than these two people coming together for the first time.
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8/10
Despite another review to the contrary, the sound version of this film does exist--and I watched it.
MartinHafer1 February 2009
Warning: Spoilers
I was very surprised by this early talkie. While it begins very much like an exploitative Pre-Code film like Barbara Stanwyck's BABY FACE, this film turns out to be quite different. Now some of the material in this film probably would not have made it past the censors in post-1934 Hollywood, this isn't a sleazy film. Though I enjoy occasionally watching some of the wilder and raunchier Pre-Code sizzlers, this is not one of them, as Stanwyck's character is not the amoral gold digger you think she might be.

Early in the film, a bored rich guy (Ralph Graves) leaves a party early and meets up with Stanwyck--who narrowly escaped a party that was too wild for her taste. He takes her home and proposes that she come to work for him as a model, as he's trying to start a career as a painter. It's pretty obvious that she is just a "good time girl" but Graves sees her as the ideal subject of his new painting. When word of his spending time with this loose woman spreads, Graves' parents are distressed and dad threatens to disown him. However, in the meantime, Stanwyck and Graves have fallen in love and plan on marrying--as Stanwyck has given up her wicked ways and wants to be a good wife. But, when she receives a visit from the man's mother, she has second thoughts in a very touching scene. See the rest of the film to find out how all this is resolved.

While this is definitely a soap opera-like movie and has many very emotional moments, somehow director Frank Capra and Stanwyck managed to avoid sappiness and seems true. In fact, while many of her later films are far more famous, this is one of her best performances--with what seem to be real emotions when she acts--complete with tears. Because of this, a rather standard film manages to be so much more--and is well worth watching.

By the way, another reviewer stated that only the silent version is available. However, just recently Turner Classic Movies did play the sound version and my review is based on this one. For a 1930 talking film, the sound quality was pretty good and very watchable.
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Rough, but interesting.
yarborough12 September 2002
This movie is one of the legendary Barbara Stanwyck's earliest starring roles. The title of the movie actually refers to prostitutes and that is what Stanwyck plays in this one, though it is, of course, only suggested. The set-up is that Stanwyck, a prostitute, is hired by a painter to be a model for one of his paintings. Through the course of the movie, Stanwyck's character, who has never know real love, is touched by the young painter's caring gestures (though to him, he is only being polite). As always, the beautiful Stanwyck carries the movie in the palm of her hand, and when the film is serious, it's pretty decent. Some problems arise in the humorous scenes with her chubby co-star (who died later in the decade because of self-starvation), a stereotypical, high-pitched, talkative New York girl who has too much of a silly vaudevillian personality to generate many laughs (remember, this is early 1930 and vaudeville was just beginning to wind down). Like a lot of early talkies, this movie is roughly edited, and the acting by the male lead is somewhat wooden. The story is okay, perhaps a bit too sentimental, but the movie is an interesting glance into the 1930s and the early stages of a screen Goddess' career.
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7/10
Capra Directs Stanwyck In Star-Making Role
CitizenCaine20 June 2009
Warning: Spoilers
Frank Capra produced, co-wrote, and directed this Barbara Stanwyck performance, her fourth film. It's a star-making performance for her as her character runs the gamut of emotions from A to Z. She plays a mistress with a heart of gold for all it's worth. Ralph Graves plays a rich boy/artist who runs into Stanwyck one night when both are escaping glitzy parties. It's revealed Stanwyck and her room mate, Marie Prevost, are probably not the type of girl you bring home to mother. Lowell Sherman is the would be sugar daddy Stanwyck keeps in the wings while working on Graves. In the hands of a lesser director, Ladies Of Leisure would have become simply another in a long line of boy meets girl from the wrong side of the tracks melodramas. Frank Capra provides just the right touches and fosters a winning Stanwyck performance that elevates the picture above most of its kind. Almost every Capra film focused on romance, like this one, offers an enchantingly unique experience regarding how its counterparts fall in love. This film is no exception.

Stanwyck spends the night with Graves one rainy night, and Graves puts her up in his artist's studio while he goes to his bedroom. A girl with Stanwyck's background sees it as refreshing because she's used to guys making passes every chance they get. Watching Stanwyck try to get breakfast ready the next morning will break your heart as she watches Graves go about his business without readily acknowledging her efforts or falling for her as she wants. Graves' parents are played by George Fawcett and Nance O'Neil who are simply trying to look out for what's best for their son's future in rejecting the romance. O'Neil and Stanwyck have a terrific scene together near the end as Stanwyck returns to her rented room with Marie Prevost when O'Neil arrives to have it out with her. Both women display the nuances of mixed emotions in trying to see the opposite point of view.

Capra provides nice touches like stop/start motion transitions fixated on the same objects and then pulling the camera back to reveal a different location. Another trademark in Capra's films is the use of motifs repeated throughout the film like the references to Arizona and the stars. Jo Swerling adapted the film based on the play by David Belasco and Milton Herbert Gropper. If one could yield some criticism of the film, aside from its creaky plot, it would be Ralph Graves' acting. Graves is simply a poor match for Stanwyck; there's not a lot of chemistry between them, and he doesn't have the acting chops compared to her. In a few years, like so many other actors and actresses of the silent era, Graves' acting would be reduced to smaller and smaller parts. This is only an inkling of what was to come from a Capra directed film. *** of 4 stars.
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10/10
Only the silent version is available on tape
yardbirdsraveup28 June 2004
...which makes us ask the question: why??? In 1930 Columbia Pictures produced Ladies of Leisure in both sound and silent form; probably a way to satisfy audiences who either preferred one or the other. Barbara Stanwcyk was a hot item by this time and was heavily marketed by both Columbia and later by First National, Warner Brothers. Frank Capra directed this early Stanwyck vehicle which gives it more credence to have this tape available to all who wish to see it. I saw this film only once, back in 1974 and to the best of my knowledge, this gem has never surfaced again.

I checked TCM to see if this movie was available on tape and only the silent version is. For some reason (litigation?) this film has not been shown, yet deserves to be. I know that another Stanwyck vehicle, (So Big - 1932) was embroiled in litigation for decades, finally making it's "premier showing" on TV just a couple of years ago! Is this the same problem with Ladies of Leisure? Ladies of Leisure is a great movie for those who are interested in Stanwyck's early career in films. It should be available on VHS/DVD or even televised again.
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Stanwyck good, Graves not so hot.
bill-7901 February 2009
One reviewer here complimented the whole cast of "Ladies of Leisure." Well, I must respectfully disagree. I found Ralph Graves' performance to be rather wooden. Graves had been in films since he was teenager just after Word Ware I had ended, but clearly he found it difficult to deliver a natural performance in the sound medium.

I do recommend the film for historical purposes if nothing else. It was released in the Spring of 1930 and may have been filmed in late 1929. That would definitely qualify "Ladies of Leisure" as a member of that first generation of sound films dating from 1928 to 1930.

One thing I wondered about is whether a boom mic was used. I think someone else opined that hidden mics, placed here and there around the set were still used in this production. I do know from my reading that sound film technology was making progress just about on a week by week basis in those early days.
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6/10
Avoid the silent version if possible
clark-927 January 2002
Reviews of this film do not make clear that it apparently is available in both sound and silent versions. The version of this film borrowed from our local library was the silent version as apparently this film was Capra's 2nd talkie and last silent (per Moviediva web site). It had a very distracting soundtrack that did not match the moods on the screen at all. Still, if you are a Capra or Stanwyck fan, the silent version is better than none at all and worth the time. Hopefully, I will be able to see a sound version on Turner or AMC.
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9/10
A slow-burning classic melodrama
Igenlode Wordsmith8 November 2010
Warning: Spoilers
I love a good weepie -- particularly when I have no idea in advance that it's going to be one; every so often my over-the-top spoiler-avoiding policy does pay off in trumps! -- and this film turns out to be a real corker. I haven't seen so much surreptitious sniffling among the audience after the lights went up since "A Matter of Life and Death": and that's a compliment.

Perhaps it's no surprise that this is the first of the early Capra films to really click into place with me so far, given that I've found that the most successful scenes from his silents have been the poignant moments rather than the sometimes crude treatment of the humour -- Mack Sennett's influence perhaps hard to shake. This time the director gets a sparkling dialogue script and a stellar leading lady in a five-star "woman's picture", and for my money the results exceed those from some of the better-known 'Capraesque' films of his later years.

Having recently seen and been disappointed by the celebrated "An Affair to Remember", I would add that "Ladies of Leisure", clearly falling in the same genre, managed to succeed for me where the later melodrama somehow failed to deliver. The banter is involving, the characters engaging, and the central romance -- despite falling under all the cases of cliché and despite my initial longing in both cases to see expectations undermined -- manages to break through in convincing reversal and enlist my sympathies utterly. I was particularly engaged by Ralph Graves, who infuses what could have been an all too worthy two-dimensional hero, with scarcely a defect to his character, with a full measure of conviction as a human being and a great deal of likability and charm; I am amazed to see all the specific IMDb criticisms of him as 'wooden' in this role, and wonder if it is a question of English versus American expectations of male behaviour. I found him delightful in a role that could easily have been played very badly.

Barbara Stanwyck, of course, is the central figure, depicting with utter believability both the hard-as-nails shell of the party girl for hire whom Jerry first meets, and the glimpse of 'Hope' that inspires him to employ her as a model for a new painting -- and then spend frustrating days trying to relocate beneath her wise-cracking, gum-chewing exterior! In her scene with Jerry's mother she plays out the time-honoured renunciation theme with the passion and conviction of a Violetta Valery; indeed it's hard not to hear echoes of "La Traviata" in her role here. And if you have ever longed to hear the 'fallen woman' in this situation instead answer back her sanctimonious accuser with "No, I won't give him up and you can't make me -- get out!", Miss Stanwyck flings all the fire and justification into the defiance for which one could wish; even if she eventually lapses into allowing herself to be beaten down by convention. Fortunately, she has what Violetta lacked: a pragmatic friend with both feet upon the ground and no qualms about eavesdropping when clearly necessary...

The long-delayed love scenes are so real as to be tactile in their intensity, the sparing and well-delivered poignancies tear at your heart, the melodrama has your pulse racing, yet the film is often also very funny. The banter between the two girls is as hard-boiled with dry fizz as that of any Warner Brothers product, and Lowell Sherman, dissolutely charming and almost permanently sozzled, is the heroine's male counterpart in more ways than one, though Kay's streetwise wits are a match for almost anyone. There is a hilarious scene where Dot is attempting to lose weight via a patent machine at the same time as trying to answer the door, an echo of earlier physical humour amid dozens of moments that are half-laugh, half-tears.

The only acting that I felt sometimes struck the wrong note was that of the older generation, Nance O'Neill and George Fawcett as Jerry's parents, who slide a little too far into the sonorous melodrama vein when it comes to the big confrontations. Otherwise, from its bombs-on-the-sidewalk smash opening to its final fadeout, this film rarely puts a foot wrong. It could so easily have been utterly hackneyed; films that go for high emotion gamble everything on transfixing the audience out of potential disbelief. Instead, it resonates not only with the audience and mores of its era but down to our own. Miss Stanwyck deserved to be a star on this showing, and she would be.
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8/10
Nicely understated, if soapy, drama
Michael Morrison18 May 2009
Barbara Stanwyck looked sweet and innocent, even though her character is supposed to have been around.

For someone making only her fourth movie, she was a treat to watch, and not just because of her looks. She gave a terrific performance.

Others have criticized Ralph Graves, in his twelfth year of film acting, but I thought he was marvelously realistic, giving a wonderful under-acted performance.

Jimmy Cagney said when he, and some others, came to California with their under-acting, they changed Hollywood. Graves might have been just ahead of his time.

Lowell Sherman was surely the pluperfect movie cad. In this film, too, he gave a superb performance.

Marie Prevost, though, stole the show ... well, she at least came in a close second to Stanwyck. Her brash, brassy character was funny, touching, adorable ... even if she wasn't someone a young man might want to bring home to mother.

Again there was a corny, silly telling of the story via a newspaper headline that surely could have been better told some other way; but, over all, this movie is a good story, well told and well acted, and a great look at its time in history.

By the way, a note to Yard Bird: Most likely the reason it was made in silent and sound versions was to be sure every theater could play it. At the time, not all theaters had yet converted to sound.

It was the sound version that played in May of 2009 on Turner Classic Movies. I would guess it is now available for purchase.

Added early on 7 October 2017: In fact, "Ladies of Leisure" is available on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OJ8HmUcuJfU
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6/10
Pretty good old flick
marcuspi28 January 2009
Warning: Spoilers
I suppose the phrase "Women of Leisure" means prostitutes. I didn't know this before I watched this film, and actually I didn't even look at the title until the movie was almost over. If there was some hint that the girls were prostitutes, it would have made a lot more sense that the man's family didn't want her. Or the fact that Barbara Stanwyk's character was 'burst into tears' in love after only three days with the guy, even though he treated her like hell. The room mate was great. Especially in the restaurant scene when she asked her date if she looked fat, then proceeded to tell the waiter to add gobs and gobs of oil. All in all, you gotta like this movie, and Barbara Stanwyk. How she can attempt suicide by jumping in the harbor and wake up with perfect hair, I'll never know.
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See it for Lowell Sherman
DrScore1 July 2011
This early talkie (so early I understand there was a silent version shot simultaneously) introduced me to the actor Lowell Sherman. Sherman plays drunken cad/best friend to leading man Ralph Graves, who portrays a rich artist. Barbara Stanwyck plays a roaring twenties-esque party girl who ends up modeling for Graves.

Stanwyck is excellent and captivating. This was early in her career, and it must've been clear that she was destined to become a star after this film came out. Ralph Graves, on the other hand, turns in one of the worst performances I've ever seen. Stiff, wooden, he almost sinks the picture. He doesn't connect emotionally with his own character or anyone else's. His career seemed to tank after this film. No surprise there.

Lloyd Sherman plays your proto-typical cad, and he's the best thing in the movie. He's a scoundrel, overtly trying to get down Stanwyck's pants while still maintaining his charm. Though you're supposed to root against him, you kind of like this ne'er do well. He fully embodies the role, and as far as talkies are concerned, I'd say he invented the drunken cad, the inebriated sophisticate. Actors as disparate as William Powell (think Thin Man) to Dudley Moore (think Arthur) owe Sherman a debt of gratitude.

Like Ralph Graves, Sherman is kind of forgotten today. It's not because, like Graves, he didn't have the goods to last and make his mark. It's because Sherman died a few years later, of pneumonia. At the time of his death, he was just starting to direct as well. If you love charming movie scoundrels, raise a glass in Mr. Sherman's honor. He would approve.
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6/10
One the cusp of the code-can't quite tell which side
cluciano6315 September 2012
Warning: Spoilers
A pretty good film of its kind, with Barbara Stanwyck giving her usual high level of performance. I find Ralph Graves, who plays her artist/lover, to be a stiff and totally miscast as an artist. He seems more like an undertaker and the worst part of the movie is trying to figure out why Barbara's character was ever attracted to him in the first place. Otherwise, acting is good and the plot is one that we've seen before; poor, "working" girl in love with son of a rich, important family. Of course they object.

The only time Barbara does not ring true is in the emotional scene when his mother comes to ask her to give him up. It is a bit over the top. Again, the problem is Ralph Graves. He is not worth all of that drama and sobbing. And what an odd-looking man he was, with an unusually shaped head.

Kind of a ridiculous ending, but so many of the movies of the day had that in common. At least she was allowed to live.
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8/10
Barbara's Legend Begins!!
kidboots15 June 2011
Warning: Spoilers
After starring in two flops, Barbara Stanwyck found herself with a Columbia contract (at that time not something to brag about) at the same time that Frank Capra, Columbia's whiz kid director was casting "Ladies of Leisure" from the 1924 play called "Ladies of the Evening". Stanwyck was not Capra's idea of Kay, the shopworn heroine and Stanwyck, who had had some awful filmic experiences (and being married to egomaniac Frank Fay didn't help) was unco-operative and had no confidence so she and Capra initially clashed. She apparently snapped "Oh Hell, you don't want any part of me" and walked out but Capra looked at some earlier tests and realised how wrong he was and a marvellous film team was born. Released in 1930, the movie became Columbia's greatest box office success to date with Stanwyck and Capra earning the highest praise.

The story was a blend of "Pygmalion" and "Camille" with Jerry (Ralph Graves) becoming bored one night with yet another riotous party (Lowell Sherman as Bill has a marvelous scene when he paints a picture on a party-goers back!!) drives down to the waterfront and encounters hard boiled Kay (Barbara Stanwyck). She is also escaping from a boat party - she is a "party girl" and proud of it!! She is amazed that he is such a gentleman - "30 miles and not even a pass!!" Jerry is a painter and thinks he has found the perfect model for his picture of "Hope". As the sessions progress Kay finds she has deep feelings for him and during a heavy rainstorm when he convinces her to stay the night (again he is a proper gentleman), she awakes dewy eyed but he is all business.

Jerry's mother (Nance O'Neill) is all set to like her but a chance meeting with bubbly Dot (Marie Prevost) convinces her that Kay is only a gold-digger and when she finally meets Kay, she is already convinced that she will bring Jerry down. To leave Jerry free to reconcile with his parents Kay goes to Havana with Bill, but on the boat attempts suicide when she can no longer keep up the charade. Stanwyck builds the dramatic intensity as the movie progresses, initially she is a good time party girl, shallow and glib but you start to see the deeper feelings come out. It wouldn't be a Stanwyck movie without a scene of high emotion and she definitely has a couple of those, especially her scene with Nance O'Neill.

Another person who counted "Ladies of Leisure" as a milestone was Jo Swerling. She had been churning out poverty row productions for Columbia and confidently convinced Capra he could make "a silk purse out of a sow's ear" - she ended up becoming Harry Cohn's right hand woman!!!

Highly Recommended.
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5/10
Its OK
Alex da Silva30 July 2009
Kay (Barbara Stanwyck) and Dot (Marie Prevost) are a couple of slags who share an apartment. They are the gold-digging type of prostitute - not the decent type who do it for the love of their career. Anyway, Kay meets a wealthy painter Jerry (Ralph Graves) who asks her to be his model. She agrees and they fall in love. Jerry has another girlfriend Claire (Juliette Compton) who his parents approve of. However, while Jerry does not see eye-to-eye with his father (George Fawcett), his mother (Nance O'Neill) is more sympathetic to him and his wishes. But even she does not approve of a union between her son and a slut. She visits Kay to warn her off............

The film is interesting and has a few good scenes, eg, the confrontation between Barbara Stanwyck and Nance O'Neill and the scenes with Marie Prevost. She provides some funny moments as does Jerry's playboy artist friend Bill (Lowell Sherman). However, there are also drawn out scenes of melodrama that can get quite dull and I didn't think much of Ralph Graves as a leading man.

Overall, the film was watchable even though I fell asleep during a melodramatic bit, although this may have been as a result of a large pizza that I had just eaten. It's interesting as a slice of 1930 and the film is OK.
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5/10
Stanwyck becomes a star
garysheski18 May 2009
This was different type of role for Stanwyck: As opposed to her earlier (and later) roles as the "in your face" disenfranchised young rebel, this one is a toned-down version of that character and we see the beginnings of her true talents as a a great dramatic actress. The story itself is rather droll and lame, mostly forgettable, but Stanwyck stands out as the real star of the picture. Unfortunately, that "young punk" persona she portrayed in those early films stayed with her as the overbearing, bitchy matriarch for the remainder of her career. This one is a rarity of that period where we get to see her in a semi-dramatic role: We sympathize with her not for her harshness in others, but as a shopworn, downtrodden working girl, used mercilessly by Graves and the others. Quite good, in the opinion of this '20s flapper fan like her and Joan Crawford, who also went on to become one of the great dramatic stars of the era.
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8/10
"If a girl's been cured of Consumption . . . "
Edgar Allan Pooh11 October 2017
Warning: Spoilers
" . . . don't they raise the bars (to her leading a normal life) for her?" Gold-digging hooker Kay Arnold plaintively asks her latest "sap's" Mommy. By Kay's logic, Mrs. Strong should welcome her into the Railroad Mogul Family with open arms upon Kay's assertion that she's no longer a Walking Venereal Disease. IT'S A WONDERFUL SEX LIFE, director Frank Capra contends during LADIES OF LEISURE. Capra seems to be preaching that the Robber Barons and the Barin' Bobbers should all be friends (to anachronistically paraphrase OKLAHOMA!). Speaking of Barin' Bobbers, most of Kay's infamous nude silhouette strip scene beginning at 42:32 midway through her first sleep-over at Sap Jerry Strong's Bachelor Pad has gone missing from the surviving print of this 1930 Anything Goes Era flick, thanks to the Pope's over-zealous Scissormen who began snipping the "Good Bits" (or "Pinkies") from America's cinematic output, both retrospectively and Forward even until Today, back in 1934. Though some have complained about this method of "filling the Stacks" of the Secret Vatican Library, can you imagine how many Altar Boys and First Communion Girls have been saved from Total Debauchery by this trove of FORBIDDEN H0LLYWOOD?
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7/10
Stanwyck; real greatness starts here.
Michael O'Keefe8 August 2014
Warning: Spoilers
Barbara Stanwyck's fourth movie and famed director Frank Capra presents her the vehicle to start her ride to stardom. Jerry Strong(Ralph Graves)is the son of a wealthy railroad magnet(George Fawcett), but he angers dear old dad by not wanting to follow in his footsteps. Jerry wants to be an artist, although hasn't found his perfect model to pose for him. On a middle-of-the-night drive, the younger Strong rescues the lovely Kay Arnold(Stanwyck)sneaking out of a party. Yes, she describes herself as a "party girl"...this is the mid 30s, OK. Strong has found his model and Miss Arnold really wants the money to pose. It takes a while for a romance to begin smoldering; about the same time Jerry's father demands he leave the girl with the bad reputation alone or more or less lose his inheritance. It is not hard to recognize the beauty of the young Miss Stanwyck. My favorite sequence is watching her through a raindrop soaked window changing into sleepwear. This is a passionate romance drama, of course filmed in Black & White. Ninety-nine minutes passes quickly. Rounding out the cast: Lowell Sherman, Marie Prevost and Nance O'Neil.
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7/10
The first Stanwyck-Capra collaboration. Better works to come.
Lawson15 January 2010
This is the first Barbara Stanwyck and Frank Capra collaboration, and it's obvious that while both have yet to perfect their craft, they already possess the raw talent that indicates great things to come.

It's a melodrama, with perhaps a unique enough story to stand out. A professional party-attendee (i.e. a pretty girl to paid to pad the attendance) mets an artist and heir at the party, who decides to paint her and they fall in love, but their differences in status threaten to tear them apart.

Already in 1930 Stanwyck was portraying one of her trademark hard-outside- soft-inside-sassy-all-over roles, even though she was a tad too smushy in this one - probably because the script demanded it. It's not the most sparkling of screenplays, but the highlight here is Stanwyck anyway, and Capra captures her magnificently.
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Stanwyck's Show
Michael_Elliott23 May 2009
Ladies of Leisure (1930)

** 1/2 (out of 4)

Frank Capra's remake of a (now lost) 1926 film has Barbara Stanwyck playing a "party girl" who begins working as a model for an artist (Ralph Graves). The two have an up and down relationship but soon they fall in love, which doesn't sit too well with his rich family who knows her secret. This film starts off with one thinking they're going to get a Pre-Code sexploitation but it quickly turns into a very dramatic love story. I think there are quite a few flaws here but this is certainly the best of the early sound Capra movies that I've seen. Apparently there's a silent version of this out there and I'd like to see it at some point so hopefully TCM will show it. What works best with this film is the performance by Stanwyck who is pretty remarkable considering this was only her third film (4th if you count her work as an extra). She gives a very dramatic and believable performance but also gives that Stanwyck style that she is best known for. Seeing her with that style so early on in her career made me wonder if Capra had a major part with that. This is the film that made her a star so I guess it's a possibility. Graves, on the other hand, didn't have me too impressed as he came off quite wooden and at times I really couldn't figure out what he was trying to display on screen. George Fawcett, a veteran of several D.W. Griffith features, does a very good job in the role of the father. The film still has quite a few flaws and that includes poor technology because a lot of the sound is pretty bad. Just check out the scene where we first see Stanwyck and she's trying to talk to Graves. You can't even make out what she's saying. Another problem is a rather snails pace, which starts to hurt the film towards the end. With that said, there are still some remarkable sequences here with the best being the scene between Stanwyck and Graves' mother in the film. This sequence is high drama at its very best and is reason enough to see the film.
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Over-Worked
dougdoepke4 June 2009
Slow-moving, over-long hundred minutes that a few years ago would have been dubbed a "woman's" picture. Though directed by the legendary Frank Capra, too many scenes labor at getting the point across-- the overnight episode, the many scenes of Kay {Stanwyck} "pining" for her man. Frankly, I found myself hitting "fast forward" to eliminate some of the redundancies. Now, I'm not opposed to love stories; I'm just opposed to the needless stretching of a point, and this film has too many over-worked scenes. Too bad that the sparkling opening scene proves misleading. My guess is that movie makers in 1929 were still feeling their way through the new sound technology, even the talented Capra. Certainly, his later films show both the economy and pacing generally absent from this early effort.

At least the young Stanwyck gets to show her acting chops as she runs the emotional gamut from great joy to deep sadness. It's quite a performance in an especially demanding role. The trouble is her co-star Ralph Graves has all the charm and appeal of dried cement. Next to Stanwyck, he's a deadening presence and makes drawn-out scenes seem endless. As a supposed artist, he's simply miscast. Unfortunately, he also sounds like one of those silent screen stars unable to deliver the new technology in convincing fashion. Too bad that the enlivening Prevost and the amusing Sherman don't have more scenes to boost the energy level.

Nonetheless, there is one scene that almost redeems the rest. Mrs. Strong (Nance O'Neill) visits Kay to break off the disreputable Kay's engagement to her son Jerry (Graves). In an ace performance, Strong enters as a proud, assured woman of wealth and breeding, convinced that son Jerry is about to make a huge mistake marrying a floozie. However, as Kay's noble nature emerges under a common concern for Jerry's wellbeing, Mom begins to see past Kay's dubious reputation just as Jerry has. The emotional stages each moves through toward a mutual respect proves quite compelling. It's a marvelously written and performed sequence, full of nuance and conflicting emotion, and in my view the film's real centerpiece.

Anyway, for those interested, the movie now stands mainly as an early look (before her teeth were fixed) at one of the screen's outstanding personalities.
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