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Letty, a young woman who ended up pregnant, unmarried and on the streets at fifteen is bitter and determined that her child will not grow up to be taken advantage of. Letty teaches her child to lie, steal, cheat and anything else he'll need to be street smart. We meet Letty when Mickey is 7-1/2. Mal enters the picture when his truck and Mickey, who is hanging on to the back of a delivery truck and being pulled along the streets on his roller skates, collide. Mickey is not injured badly, but when Letty discovers that Mal is rich, she concocts a scheme to take Mal to the cleaners. When her plot is uncovered, Letty is also discovered for the unfit parent that she is, and Mickey is taken away from her. Mal and his wife Alice, unable to have children of their own, take Mickey in and give him a father's love, a true mother's love, and a home he can call his own. Letty is jealous of Mickey's growing attachment to these two good people and she still sees Mal as a ticket to riches. Letty ... Written by
The film ran into censorship problems from the start, mainly from the character portrayed by Loretta Young and the skimpy clothes she wore. It was rejected twice by the Hays office before it was finally given an approval certificate, after several cuts and retakes (and all this before the Production Code was more rigorously enforced). Sidney Lanfield directed retakes on 10 November 1933 because director Lowell Sherman was on vacation; other retakes were made early in 1934. In 1935, the film was on a list at the Hays Office, of those films whose release should be halted, but it is not known if any action was ever taken. See more »
Letty (Loretta Young) is a tramp. Early in the film she is established as a classy, attractive girl who appreciates fine things. The viewer is then given a shock when she suddenly changes in demeanor. I was impressed with the way Loretta Young was able to go from "nice" to "naughty" in one scene, giving away her character's true nature beyond a doubt. For nearly the full length of the movie we see Letty trying to cheat her way through life, convinced it is the only way to survive.
Audiences of 1934 may have been looking for escapism in motion pictures, but I do not believe they could have found Loretta Young's character appealing. Pregnant at 15, she was taken in by a kind book store owner, but as she reached her early 20's she had taught herself and her son to win at any cost. In doing so, she becomes an escort to prominent men while her son, Mickey (Jackie Kelk), learns to be "street-wise" at a very early age. You could easily imagine Mickey ending up in prison. Having a lawyer offer advice on how to commit a new scam was a nice touch. Surely no one could feel sorry for Letty losing her son as an unfit mother. Loretta played that "unfit" part perfectly.
Cary Grant really blended into the background in Born To Be Bad. His star was rising, but virtually any lead actor could have played Mal Trevor. Jackie Kelk was slightly older than his character, Mickey, at the time the movie was made. I found Mickey's change of heart to be a bit too easy, but as others have commented the movie is a bit short. Maybe with more time to show the supporting characters develop the movie would have made more sense. The only characters that really had any depth were Letty and Mickey.
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