12 million Americans are out of work. Trina is homeless and hungry when Bill takes her under his wing, showing her a squatter's camp where she can live. She's soon in love with him, making a castle for him inside a shack; but he's bluff, gruff, and a "bindlestiff," a guy who can't stay put. When Trina tells Bill she's pregnant, he's ready to jump a freight train and move on, but first he wants to leave Trina with some money, so he partners up with Bragg, the camp's louse (who's been eyeing Trina), to rob a toy store. He's shot and the cops are closing in: does he have any options? Written by
As other reviewers have noted, this is an unjustly neglected Depression-era film. Directed by Frank Borzage (two Oscars) and written by Jo Swerling (Leave Her to Heaven, The Westerner, Lifeboat, etc.), it is a tough-minded, well-structured and -realized move about denizens of a New York City shantytown. They're grifters, beggars, and women forced into prostitution, but they're a community of people both good and bad, with loyalties as complex as any group's.
Perhaps primary among this movie's many admirable qualities is the contrast between Spencer Tracy's character, Bill, and Loretta Young's Trina. He tough-talking, physically aggressive, and evidently fearless-- but Bill is not the character who gives this film its steely sense of survival. While he blusters, Trina actually hangs tough (if that term can be applied to a character so ladylike). Her devotion to him is obvious, and complete. When she becomes pregnant, she says she will raise it herself if he wants to leave, or "I'll even give up the kid if you'll only be happy." Such is the dignity of Loretta Young's performance (at age 20) as a quite simple character, that she seems neither weak or dependent, but rather a woman who recognizes happiness when she finds it, and wants nothing more.
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