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Frisco Jenny was orphaned by the 1906 earthquake and fire and has become the madame of a prosperous bawdy house. She puts her son up for adoption and he rises to prominence as district attorney dedicated to closing down such houses. When her underling Dutton proposes telling the DA that Frisco Jenny is his birth mother, she kills the underling not to cause trouble for her son now the successful DA, she must face execution. Written by
Ed Stephan <email@example.com>
Give the great Ruth Chatterton credit for continuing to play leading roles in films into her forties. It's easier to do that today but back then, with Joan Crawford not even being walked to her car when she left MGM at 40, it wasn't so easy. People always say, well, that's not true, those actresses worked. Really? Did they work like Harrison Ford works today? Clint Eastwood? Or were they playing character parts that weren't leads and starring in B, black and white movies?
Chatterton here stars in "Frisco Jenny" from 1932. After the San Francisco earthquake, she and her baby are left destitute. She becomes the boss of a thinly-disguised bordello and rakes it in. During a soirée one night, her friend and partner Steve (Louis Calhern) catches someone cheating him at craps and kills him. Jenny helps him cover it up and winds up in prison. He bails her out.
Hearing social services is going to take the baby, Jenny's housekeeper takes her to her family in Chinatown. Steve advises her to let the child live with friends of his who have money and will be good parents. She relents.
When the heat cools off, a few years later, she decides to take her son and move to Europe. But when she meets him again, he doesn't know her and wants to stay with his parents. She can't bear to take him and make him miserable, so she gives him up.
She carefully monitors his growing up, and even is an unseen hand in helping him. Years later, their paths cross again.
Ruth Chatterton is excellent as Jenny, a strong, loyal woman who is unapologetic about what she has to do to survive. Former matinée idol Louis Calhern gives a polished performance as Steve. Donald Cook plays her grown-up son.
Similar in many respects to Madame X. Directed by William Wellman, who gives the film extra flair.
A great film in which to see Ruth Chatterton.
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