A Girl Must Live (1939) Poster

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8 ReviewsOrdered By: Helpfulness
Igenlode Wordsmith9 August 2006
The main pleasure of this film is its snappy script (I suspect it would take several viewings to catch all the quickfire barbs that the girls fling at each other). The singing and dancing isn't up to much -- this isn't supposed to be West End stuff, but the cast of a distinctly second-rate outfit, Joe Gold's Golden Girls -- but the cattiness on display is top-notch.

The plot centres around three girls, the Nice One, the Exotic One and the Common One, all out to hook the same man; the outcome is, of course, no surprise. There is also a subplot concerning a kleptomaniac con-man and his various schemes, plus an array of 'types' on display, from the wealthy northern industrialist (or in this case, fur-merchant) to the superannuated Shakespearian actor, the tippling butler, the sound-effects lady from the BBC (she first starred as "the scream in 'East Lynne'"), and the sex-mad chorus line. With hindsight, the plot is pretty slender (we never do learn anything much about who the runaway heroine really is) and the ending a bit flat, but the fun to be had is in trying to follow the dialogue and catch all the assorted insults and innuendoes.

Nothing very special, but worth a look or a recommendation to a friend for an undemanding night's entertainment. There's no depth to speak of below the quick-moving surface, but the quips run fast and furious and the girls are as hardboiled as they come.
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Great Comedy
malcolmgsw17 December 2007
I beg to differ with the other review on this film,it is something special.For a start directed by Carol Reed at the start of his career.Just look at the cast Lockwood,Palmer Houston supported by Harrison,Marriott and making one of his rare film appearances George Robey.Once the film gets past the opening sequence in the finishing school it really hits its stride.There are so many funny lines that you missed them on the first viewing .aAn example"the rice pudding wasn't very popular""we will have it for curry tomorrow",The constant badinage between Palmer and Houston is hilarious.Lockwood being the straight woman in all of this.The musical numbers are not meant to be that great but the lyrics are really funny .Even if you are not Btitish give this a try,i don't think you will be disappointed.
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Margaret wins the "bitch-fest"
howardmorley15 February 2008
Carol Reed directed this fast moving farce in 1939 about three showgirls: Margaret Lockwood, Renee Houston and Lilli Palmer who vie for the attention and possibly marriage, of the Earl of Pangborough (Hugh Sinclair).Margaret initially escapes from a Swiss finishing school, by climbing down knotted bedsheets, nearly straining her leg in the process.The headmistress is the redoubtable Martita Hunt, (Martita played a similar role in The Man in Grey in 1943) She is assisted by Muriel Aked who played a deputy head to Margaret Rutherford in "The Happiest Days of your Life" (1951).Before escaping, one of the débutantes suggests to Margaret she adopts the stage name of "Leslie James" as her mother, of that name, was a famous music hall star and it will give Margaret a "leg up" in the profession.Armed with this alter ego, Margaret finds a boarding house (thinly disguised as Bedford Square in Holborn, London) run by and full of mainly odd theatrical folk, (there is a sole sanitary salesman there).Among the "resting" actors are two bitching showgirls, Renne Houston and Lilli Palmer who aggressively compete with each other and try to ensnare any eligible man who has a few quid in his pocket.One of these is a romantic, elderly but married fur salesman, Horace Blount, who may finance the burlesque show.Horace is played by real life music hall star, George Robey.Renee and Lilli's rivalry rapidly descends to physical violence and theft in their efforts to best each other and win a rich patron.Margaret, on the other hand, is the perfect lady and establishes her well mannered moral credentials early on when she explains to the other débutantes in Switzerland that the reason she is escaping from the school is that her recently widowed mother cannot afford the fees any more.She will get a job to repay the school for the outstanding balance she owes.

Naunton Wayne (minus Basil Radford), for once appears as a smooth talking conman and pickpocket who gets to play a funny drunk scene with the director of the show, Joe Gold.Naunton is allowed to show his versatility as an actor aside from his usual partnership role he adopted in the several films with the aforementioned BR.He even appears to like women!The Earl of Pangborough's savvy aunt is the aristocratic Helen Haye who is given a few comic lines for a change.Although Margaret tries to land the Earl her strategy is far more subtle than the overt tactics used by the other two feuding girls.

This is no lush Hollywood musical and the show tunes are mediocre but you do get to see Margaret and the girls in revealing costumes doing high kicking singing and dancing routines.The ending was too rushed and could have been lengthened by letting the story unfold at a more even and natural pace.For this reason I rated it 6/10.If you would like to see Margaret in a full film musical try "I'll Be Your Sweetheart" as it has many old time (circa 1900) music hall songs familiar to many viewers.

Incidentally in "A Girl Must Live", does anyone know the identity of the brunette showgirl whose bathing costume was too revealing for the other girls who hoped to swim at Pangborough manor?.If so post here please since the IMDb.com full list of the cast only gives the names of the principal actors and she was therefore uncredited.Although she did have one line to say, boy! was she attractive! A bit of research by me reveals her name is Judy Gray.She only has one credited role on IMDb.com which is "Josette" in "Alibi" (1942)Any other info, would be appreciated.
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A GIRL MUST LIVE {Edited Version} (Carol Reed, 1939) ***
MARIO GAUCI4 January 2014
When I know that multiple versions exist of a film I am on the point of acquiring, I obviously try to go for the longer edition or, at least, the one which most adheres to the director's original conception (I opted not to say vision here in view of the lighthearted nature of the movie under review – which, as it turned out, proved yet another blunder on my part…but more on this later!). Sometimes, however, I only learn after the fact that a film has been trimmed as, when I added it to my collection, I had no prior knowledge of such a variant being in circulation (often at the expense of the uncut release) to begin with! Needless to say, this film is one such case (running for a brief 68 minutes against the official 92!) – besides, I was under the impression that it was going to be a drama...but then realized the thing was actually a comedy!

Anyway, this is one of the better-regarded efforts in director Reed's early career – yet, being a showcase for catty females against a music- hall backdrop, a fairly atypical one when viewed in retrospect. The end result, while undeniably dated, is reasonably entertaining – serving pretty much as the British counterpart of the clearly superior STAGE DOOR (1937); despite a plethora of talent involved (including scriptwriter Frank Launder and cast members Lilli Palmer, Naunton Wayne and George Robey – the latter best-known nowadays for playing a dying Falstaff in Laurence Olivier's HENRY V {1944}), as with virtually all the British films of its era, this simply does not have the polish one associates with the contemporaneous Hollywood product – with the shrill sound recording, for one, effecting the viewer's intelligibility of the dialogue throughout!

The narrative is simple (read: wish-fulfillment – with heroine Margaret Lockwood, passing herself off as the offspring of a retired celebrity performer, obtaining both a part in a stage-show and an aristocratic husband without half-trying!) but not unengaging; frankly, the funniest line is the one where a dancer remarks that she does not mind if a man looked like (beloved British comedian) Will Hay as long as he had money…and, with this in mind, I should point out that Moore Marriott, Hay's frequent aged partner, is credited here but his entire role appears to have been among the casualties of the heavy streamlining involved!
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Living girl.
morrison-dylan-fan15 June 2013
Warning: Spoilers
With Father's Day coming up,I decided last week to take a look around Ebay with the hope of tracking down a movie that my dad could enjoy watching on the day.Taking a look at a seller's page on the site,I was thrilled to discover a rare film by director Carol Reed which was made decades before his high-kicking musical Oliver,and and a few years before Reed's Film Noir Spiv classic The Third Man,which led to me excitingly getting ready to take a glimpse at the very early days of Reeds's career.

The plot:

Hiding in the bed of a fellow student in an all-girls boarding school as two teachers walk by late at night,a girl (who gives herself the fake name of Leslie James,so that she can pretend to be the daughter of a currently big name actress) is helped by her fellow students to escape from the school by climbing down a rope made of all of the bed sheets,so that James can go and search for the stardom which she has been dreaming about.

Finding herself to have very little money,Leslie decides to stay in a low-rent building that is filled with low rung cabaret performing women.Getting caught up in the groups training,James soon finds herself being given a lead role in the cabaret performance's,due to the manager of the group seeing Leslie as a shining star.As James just begins to get used to all of the routines,she finds herself caught up in an engulfing gossip,due to having recently been photographed with a strange man,is actually the wealthy (and single) Earl of Pangborough,who with having been on a travelling adventure for a number of years,is currently looking for the hand of a fine young lady.

As Leslie tries to calm the tensions down in the group,James begins to suspect that along with the mass in-fighting over getting the chance to become the future Mrs.Earl of Pangborough,one of her fellow dancers may also be a highly skilled,pickpocketing thief.

View on the film:

For their adaptation of Emery Bonnet's novel,writers Frank Launder,Austin Melford and Michael Pertwee create a screenplay which attempts to combined a Screwball,double-meaning Comedy centre,with a more dramatic heist edge.Whilst the writer's do attempt to fully join up the elements of the movie,the Screwball Comedy and heist elements never quite gel in a totally comfortable position,with the wonderfully,rather daring for its time catchy dialogue being unable to deliver a knock out final punch line,due to the more dramatic heist parts offsetting the wonderfully direction that the hilarious dialogue is building towards.

Whilst his directing is not as stylish as it would become a few years later with the classic Film Noir The Third Man,director Carol Reed shows a real relish in pushing the must risqué parts of the film right to the very front,with each of the dancers that Leslie joins wearing the tightest clothes possible and Reed also show a real tongue for some light satire of the times (from every woman going crazy for the "returning hero" Pangborough,to the main back of the all girls cabaret group being an "opp North" business man").Along with the Comedy parts of the movie,Reed also gives the heist sections some much needed style by shooting each of the scene in an atmospheric,low-lit appearance.

Entering the movie hiding under a school girl's bed, the beautiful Margaret Lockwood gives an excellent,charismatic performance,with Lockwood showing James to be someone,who despite being new to the business is still able to deliver a sharp,witty put down,whilst also having an endearing desire to become part of the group,which along with a great Hugh Sinclair as the overly flamboyant Earl of Pangbourgh,make this girls live performance one that is worth savouring.
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Stage Door with More Laughs and Less Melodrama
waldog200610 July 2011
Anyone who has seen Gregory LaCava's 'Stage Door' will be familiar with the 'aspiring-actresses/chorus-girls-living-in-a-boarding-house-and- competing-for-the-attentions-of-rich-men' theme that is also presented here. I came to this because it was a Margaret Lockwood film I hadn't seen, but it was full of welcome surprises: Carol Reed directed at a fast lick that has been compared to Preston Sturges,the musical numbers wouldn't have been out of place in 'The Boyfriend', Lilli Palmer is a comic-erotic revelation, the laughs come thick and fast with perfect timing,racy dialogue that somehow evaded the censor, and plotting that has a neo-Wodehousian symmetry. Of course, you have to like this kind of thing in the first place, but this is one of those unsung British films of the 30s that need to be restored to their full glory and given a commentary to boot. "What's for lunch?" "Well, it was 'ot pot. Now it's just pot."
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Why do they have mice in the house since they have a lot of cats?
mark.waltz11 November 2017
Warning: Spoilers
So asks one of the actresses who lives in a theatrical boarding house in this variation of such famous American films as "Stage Door" and "Little Miss Broadway". Of course, she's not referring to the furry kind, but the human kind. It's crack after crack as two hard-boiled veterans at the game (Renee Huston and Lilli Palmer) deal with shy Margaret Lockwood, the daughter of a famous stage actress determined to make it and stay sweet. This British comedy with songs and dances is a complete charmer, filled with some great one liners and some terrific minor characters, going from the apartment owner who has life sized paintings of her on stage (looking like Peter Pan), social climbing floozies, stage door Johnny's and the money men who attract the social climbing floozies.

This is a look at the gorgeous Margaret Lockwood, fresh from the success of "The Lady Vanishes", going from Hitchcock to a young, rising director named Carol Reed. I found this extremely easy to get into, totally charmed by the British expressions that us Americans refer to as "eccentricities". These films only played selected art houses in the states, so to find them after exploring the vast American movie classics makes me take a different look at the brilliance of 1930's British cinema. To see Margaret Lockwood before she began playing murderous vixens too adds a different viewpoint towards her career. A young Lilli Palmer is elegantly bitchy and gets some really good lines. An absolute charming discovery!
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One of the better gold digger comedies
SimonJack12 October 2015
Warning: Spoilers
A slew of films were made during the first decade of sound movies that had a theme of gold diggers. It was true of Hollywood, USA, and of the "Hollywoods" across the pond – notably, the film centers of England and France. "A Girl Must Live" is one such movie, made in England. It has the most common trappings used in such films – a chorus line for the milieu of the hunters and the hunted. Part of the humor of these films is that the roles are played out in reverse of what proper society would have them be. In other words, the hunters are the hunted and the hunted are the hunters.

This rendition of a common theme has a cast of top female players in British cinema of the time. Margaret Lockwood has star billing and is very good as Leslie James. She comes to the chorus line after fleeing a girl's school. She's the only one of the girls who is not outwardly trying to snag a wealthy man. One can guess who gets the hero in the end. He's the Earl of Pangborough, a supporting character played well by Hugh Sinclair.

But, what gives this version of the over-used plot a lift is the constant feuding between two of the protagonists, Gloria Lind and Clytie Devine. It's always over the next prey. Renee Houston and Lilli Palmer play the two unabashedly open gold diggers to perfection. Their attempts at one-upmanship and sneaky tricks on one another are the best part of this comedy. In real life, such feuding likely would get on everyone else's nerves. But here, it's what carries all of the humor in the story.

I found it interesting in her biography, that Lilli Palmer (nee Lilli Marie Peiser) fled Nazi Germany in the early 1930s with her family. She was born in Posen, Prussia, Germany (now Poznan, Poland). Her parents were Jewish. Her father was a German surgeon, and her mother was an Austrian actress. She learned English and French as well as German growing up. She got her acting start in Berlin, but the family fled shortly after Hitler came to power. Lilli went to England and resumed her acting career. She was married to Rex Harrison from 1943 to 1957, and they had one child. She made many films in the U.S. and abroad. She was a big star in postwar German cinema. In her last years she lived in California where she died of cancer in 1986.
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