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Working Girls (1931)

Two sisters, May, older, naive, and June, younger and worldly, arrive in New York straight from the country and settle down in a boarding house. Their search for jobs leads them to find beaus and romantic trouble.



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Cast overview:
Dorothy Hall ...
Boyd Wheeler
Dr. Joseph Von Schrader
Pat Kelly
Louise Adams
Mary Forbes ...
Mrs. Johnstone
Frances Moffett ...
Lou Hollings
Dorothy Stickney ...


Two sisters have arrived in New York straight from the country and settle down in one of those boarding houses for single women. May, the older, is a bit naive, while June, the younger, is much more worldly and world-wise. The next day, they go out looking for jobs and June makes sure her older sister gets one, while she snags herself a job and a saxophone playing beau named Pat Kelly. May also finds a beau, Boyd Wheeler, a young lawyer with a degree from Harvard. While June enjoys herself and the presents she gets from Kelly, May falls more and more in love with Boyd and rejects a proposal from her boss, archaeologist Dr. von Schrader, who then fires her. Without a job, May is free to spend even more time with Boyd, despite her sister's warnings. She is heartbroken when she learns that Boyd has gotten engaged to a society girl. June does her best to comfort her sister and decides to ask Dr. von Schrader to hire May again. Since von Schrader has fallen in love with June, he rehires ...

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis







Release Date:

12 December 1931 (USA)  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

1.20 : 1
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Did You Know?


One of over 700 Paramount Productions, filmed between 1929 and 1949, which were sold to MCA/Universal in 1958 for television distribution, and have been owned and controlled by Universal ever since. See more »


June Thorpe: If you haven't money enough for the wedding ring, I'll lend you some of Kelly's.
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User Reviews

An interesting film. Lesbianism, fornication, illegitimacy, wisecracks .. who could ask for anything more?
3 August 2003 | by See all my reviews

Dorothy Arzner makes the film interesting by the way she depicts the clichéd story and by the touches she adds.

An aura of lesbianism pervades the beginning of the film, set in a woman's hostel, as women are seen dancing closely arm in arm, and one (Dorothy Stickney) winks and smiles suggestively at another (Judith Wood), with the latter winking back!

Lesbianism lays dormant the rest of the film as focus shifts to sisters Judith Wood and Dorothy Hall and their attempt to become "working girls." Double entendres fill the screen as Hall is hired by lecherous professor Paul Lukas, mostly because he feels she can give him "satisfaction." Lukas suggests she get boots to protect her feet during rainy weather; caught in a shoe store by a friend, Hall explains, "My boss told me to get some rubbers!"

At the shoe store, Hall meets rich Harvard man Charles 'Buddy' Rogers and falls in love. After months of courtship, they accidentally spend an evening alone together and the inevitable happens. Equally inevitable, Rogers, having conquered, silently abandons Hall and becomes engaged to Frances Dee, a woman from his own social class. Roger's conquest has lingering effects, though, as Hall is with child. When Judith Wood finds out, she gets a gun and demands Rogers marry her sister! Rogers has no qualms about complying. As he tells a friend, he prefers Hall over Dee: Dee is of his station, his social equal and no fun, while Hall, being of the working class, looks up to him and treats him like a God, and this he likes! This is an incredibly cynical film, especially where men are concerned!

Dorothy Hall steals the picture as Jane Thorpe, her last screen role. Judith Wood, who, billed as Helen Johnson played Dot in "The Divorcée" (1930), is equally good. Less so is Paul Lukas. He gives a confused performance; not completely sleazy, but not completely honorable, and not at all funny. Lukas gives a similar confused performance in another Arzner film, "Anybody's Woman" (1930).

This film didn't get much of a release in 1931, being effectively buried by Paramount. Little wonder given its content! It's well worth tracking down. The UCLA Television and Motion Picture Archive has beautifully restored it, along with five other Arzner Paramount films. It's an 8/10.

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