Roger Richebé tackles here a subject which was not common in the thirties:women in jail.Although inevitably dated,his depiction avoids the usual clichés: voyeurism,sadism ,lesbianism,etc .It's so sober it almost predates Robert Bresson ("les Anges Du Péché" ).The prisoners are not allowed to talk aloud,so they whisper in the night and that scene when Renée Saint-Cyr and Viviane Romance have a conversation in their cells is probably the best in the whole movie.
The title is partly a misnomer though.Only a small part really takes place in jail.And the rest is not very satisfying.The screenplay,using a long flashback plus a small one for good measure is a bit desultory. Viviane Romance sings two songs which are mostly filler.Only Marguerite Deval,as Madame Gaby ,stands out.The precedent year ,in Jean Gremillon's "Gueule d'Amour" she was a mother who urged his daughter to sleep with all the rich men around to lead a life of luxury.Here Madame Gaby is a "nice" woman who helps the ex-convicts with their "rehabilitation": a hostess job in shady nightclubs for instance ,not to mention blackmail when they marry a wealthy man.Dig this line of hers: "A field officer told it so: women get a promotion in reverse ,the older they get ,the less they make money".
Madame Gaby is a forerunner of Madame Alice,a character featured in Richebé's highly superior "Gibier De Potence" where Arletty takes care of young....men and provides them with jobs in pornographic photographs.
At the time,Richebé was more at ease in comedies ,as "Madame Sans-Gene" (1939) and "L'Habit Vert" (1937) show.
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