The Strange Love of Molly Louvain (1932) Poster

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Lee Tracy Drives Hard Hitting Film
Ron Oliver14 June 2001
THE STRANGE LOVE OF MOLLY LOUVAIN pushes her to look for love with all the wrong men, leading inevitably to unwed pregnancy, betrayal & murder...

This obscure little crime film highlights the kind of fast-moving, tough-talking picture which Warner Bros. did so well in the early 1930's. Good production values help tremendously, but the biggest asset is the piston-powered performance of Lee Tracy as a cynical, amoral reporter. Although his character doesn't appear until 30 minutes into the story, once on screen he dominates his scenes, as he typically did during his heyday. This picture was made shortly before Tracy moved to MGM for his 5 memorable appearances there in 1933. His spectacular fall from grace would spin him out to the minor studios, but here he's in his prime, or nearly so.

The other two sides to the film's romantic triangle are made up of Ann Dvorak, very good in the title role, and Richard Cromwell, impressive as the innocent college kid infatuated with her. A sprinkling of character actors - Guy Kibbee, Leslie Fenton, Frank McHugh & Charles Middleton - add to the film's success.

Movie mavens will recognize J. Farrell MacDonald as a murdered cop, silent movie comic 'Snub' Pollard as a bill collector & Louise Beavers as a washroom attendant, all uncredited.

The film's rather gamey plot proclaims its pre-Production Code status.
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What was Warner Bros. drinking?
politian22 October 2006
Whatever it was, it's too bad there doesn't seem to be any of it left. Warner Bros. pre-code was like a renaissance atelier - genius in the air, tons of talent on hand, cranking out, if not masterpieces, some unforgettable confections. Tons of bit part players in this one, it's as though they couldn't let anyone just walk on and act, the scene had to be chewed through. This sometimes seems distracting when you're caught up in the story, which, as with "Three on a Match," uses the threatened child to keep you in suspense. But with Lee Tracy and Ann D., plus all these superb faces and shticks, can anyone really complain? Worthwhile to think about why this Warner Bros. vision of life seems to get tremendous lift from exploiting a certain idea of the US press, never better represented than by Tracy - at least until Grant in "His Girl Friday."
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Definitely 3*** in my book
moveebob21 May 1999
Curtiz' slick, odd, interesting little flick. Ann Dvorak is a small-town go-getter. Her boyfriend deserts her. She hooks up with a worthless, hustling traveling salesman and has a daughter by the boyfriend who dropped her. She tries to drop the salesman and gets involved in a murder imbroglio, but gets off with the help of fast-talking newspaper reporter Lee Tracy. Fast paced and acted in Warner's best style
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The plot leaves something to be desired
calvinnme27 December 2009
Molly Louvain is a girl who has become pregnant by a rich young fellow that loves her and wants to marry her. He has told her that he intends to tell his mother that night before Molly gets to his house to attend his birthday party. However, when Molly shows up at the family estate she is told by the butler that mother and son left suddenly for Europe. Apparently Molly's fiancé loved mother's millions more than he loved Molly and no doubt Molly's would-have-been mother-in-law could not tolerate the idea of a member of the huddled masses being her future daughter-in-law. All alone in the world, Molly turns to shady character Nicky Gant, who takes her away from her home town and out on the road. Molly figures he's possibly financing their way with stick-ups, but Molly asks no questions as she has a baby to think of. One day Nick gets in a shoot-out with the cops with Molly at the wheel of the car, and suddenly Molly is up to her neck in Nick's past and present illegal activities. She dyes her hair blonde and decides to hide out under a false name in a small apartment until the heat is off. Molly has two problems that complicate matters even further - she is unable to go check on her baby, who she has left with kindly acquaintances, and ambitious reporter Scotty Cornell lives across the hall and is determined to find Molly Louvain and crack the story of a lifetime.

This film is watchable largely because nobody plays a woman suffering from the internal moral struggle of good versus evil like Ann Dvorak (as Molly Louvain) and nobody plays the smart aleck reporter that will do anything for a story like Lee Tracy (as Scotty Cornell). However, the film seems incomplete in so many ways. There is no chemistry between Tracy and Dvorak at all, and a story like this needs their chemistry in order to have their relationship in the film seem something other than tacked on. The ending is also woefully incomplete. It seems like Warners ran out of budget and the powers that be just said "stop here and write some dialogue to round this thing out".

I'd recommend this just to see Lee Tracy and Ann Dvorak do the kind of acting they do best, just don't expect the kind of precode sizzle you saw in any of James Cagney's and Joan Blondell's films.
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Ann is the whole show
jjnxn-16 March 2012
The great Ann Dvorak wraps this up with her special brand of magic. It's really a shame she isn't more well known today. A lot of that seems to be because she didn't really have the ambition to stay on top after her initial burst of stardom which is a shame, she was always an arresting screen presence. Here as a woman more sinned against than sinner she is compelling and once she switches to platinum hair very striking. Her troubles are common ones faced in many pre-code dramas but she handles them with grit and skill. Her large expressive eyes tell volumes. Lee Tracy is abrasive but that was his usual persona so if your a fan he isn't bad, I've always found him an acquired taste. Efficiently directed by Curtiz this zips right along even if the ending is a bit of a letdown.
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Pre-Code, and how!
marcslope9 March 2012
Fast little Warners item, from a play by Maurine Watkins--who wrote the source material for "Chicago," and this hard-boiled B is very much cut from the same cloth, with big-city corruption, tough-talking dames, and vice not always unrewarded. Ann Dvorak, always good in this sort of part, is the girl from the wrong side of the tracks whose attempts to crash high society are thwarted, and ends up a fugitive, for reasons she's not quite guilty and not quite innocent of. She's also an unwed mom, and not entirely an unsympathetic one, this being a year before they started fully enforcing the Production Code. Lee Tracy plays, as he was born to play, a fast-talking, fast-thinking newspaperman, and watching him at his peak is sort of like watching Cagney--he's so lively he's impossible not to like, even playing a reprobate like this. The story doesn't quite hang together: If Molly was really abandoned by her mom at seven, as she states early on, she's only 16 at the start of the film, which makes no sense at all. And while nobody, not even Tracy, is able to recognize the peroxide version of Molly as the same on-the-lam gal in the picture they have of her, her infant daughter does, at once. The tone's uneven, too, veering between melodrama and uneasy comedy. But Dvorak and Tracy are so watchable, and the supporting cast (Richard Cromwell, Guy Kibbee, Frank McHugh) so quintessential early-'30s Warners, it's a fine time-waster.
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"Wouldn't it be awful if we fell in love?"
utgard1426 August 2014
Molly Louvain (Ann Dvorak) is knocked up and abandoned by a rich guy. So she takes up with a dirty crook (Leslie Fenton), then a naive bellhop (Richard Cromwell), and finally a cynical reporter (Lee Tracy). She's the Goldilocks of love. Fun Pre-Coder from WB is a nice showcase for lovely Dvorak, one of classic Hollywood's most under-appreciated talents. She dyes her hair blonde in this. Gotta say she looked better as a brunette. This is also the movie she met her first husband Leslie Fenton. The two married not long after this was released. Lee Tracy doesn't show up until a half hour or so into the picture but things pick up once he does. His scenes with Dvorak are filled with snappy banter and excellent chemistry. The movie really takes off when these two are together.
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The Delectable Miss Dvorak
kidboots30 March 2011
Warning: Spoilers
Feisty Ann Dvorak first came to Hollywood as a dancer and choreographer but her dark intense beauty was such that when she broke free of the chorus line she made an immediate impact. "The Strange Love of Molly Louvain" was her first starring role - but unfortunately Lee Tracy got all the attention. Like Ann, pre-code films were his specialty and even though he didn't enter the movie until half way through he proved a huge hit with the audiences.

All the boys love Molly (Dvorak) but Molly's heart belongs to Ralph (Don Dillaway), a spineless, rich "momma's boy", who within ten minutes of the film's start, has left her flat - not only holding the baby but fleeing abroad with his mother, who doesn't think Molly is good enough for her son (the usual story). Molly also flees with Nicki (Leslie Fenton), a smooth talking lady's stocking salesman, but after a few years on the road, she is fed up with the life they lead, living on money from petty crime. Leaving her child with a kindly woman and Nick, drinking his troubles away, she becomes a dance hall hostess. She meets up with Jimmie (Richard Cromwell), a bellhop she knew from her old life, who used to have a huge crush on her and is now at University. Before too long they are involved in a police chase, thanks to Nick - the end of which has a policeman dead and Nick fighting for his life. With a new "blonde bombshell" look she and Jimmy are now on the run and run into fast talking newspaper man Scotty (Lee Tracy - who else!!)

Cromwell proves that "handsome" is not enough - you need personality!! Tracy and Dvorak have it in spades and they make a sensational team with wisecracks flying all over the place. Sparks fly - if only they had become a screen team. Tracy was definitely an asset to this rather muddled movie. The first half had plenty of action as Molly goes from cigarette girl to gangster's girl to dance hall girl to girl on the run but when she and Jimmy stop running thank goodness Lee Tracy is there to really liven up what could have become a pretty pedestrian movie..

This movie had a special significance to Ann. It was were she met husband, Leslie Fenton, and when the movie finished they eloped. Ann also composed songs in her spare time and in this movie one of them is featured - "Gold Digger Lady". She plays it on the piano, in between snatches of "When We're Alone".

Highly Recommended.
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Lee Tracy and a bit of skin
jondaris24 April 2006
I can sum up in six words the reasons to see this movie: Lee Tracy, Lee Tracy, and Lee Tracy. He's in top form in this combination of melodrama and crime film. Unfortunately, despite some clever dialog, the plot of this pre-code is almost painful.

Molly Louvain (Ann Dvorak) is being pursued by hustler Nicky Grant(Leslie Fenton) and bellboy Jimmy Cook (Richard Cromwell), but she's preparing to marry a rich man who will take her away from a life as a cigar clerk. After being dumped by her rich boyfriend, she takes off with Grant.

Fast forward three years, and Louvain has had the rich boyfriend's baby, and Grant has gone from being a traveling salesman to a small time crook.

After a policeman is murdered, Molly finds herself hiding from the law. Complications ensue, none of which are really resolved in the end.

Dvorak wasn't much of an actress. She does the best she can with the script, which can't decide if she's a hard-boiled vamp or an innocent victim, sometimes changing direction within a scene. It's difficult to generate a lot of sympathy for Molly, since whenever she's faced with a decision, she automatically makes the worst one possible. Her best scene is one where she briefly flashes her assets while changing clothes, which may explain why her career hit the skids after the Production Code.

Fenton, Dvorak's real-life husband, is good in the role of sleazy crook Nicky Grant, the kind of role at which he excelled. Richard Cromwell's stilted, wooden delivery always drives me insane, and here is no exception.

But it's Tracy, as the journalist who is falling for Molly even as he tries to get the story of her capture, who is really the reason to see this film. He keeps the film watchable and entertaining, even through the train wreck of a script.
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A brunette saint, a blonde sinner, and all the same person!
mark.waltz24 March 2015
Warning: Spoilers
In one of her few leading roles, the powerful dramatic actress Ann Dvorak tries to get past a mediocre script involving a troubled young woman trying to get through her own mediocre past. She's pregnant out of wedlock, abandoned by the wealthy father (disappearing without a trace thanks to an obviously possessive unseen society matron mother), and in her effort to support her child, ends up a fugitive in hiding with reporter Lee Tracy trying to get the goods on her. The non-sensical situation lacks in any real character motivation or believable plot development and culminates with Tracy stealing her from her obviously decent boyfriend (Richard Cromwell) seemingly so he can expose her as the notorious moll she's gained an undeserved reputation for being.

While not unattractive, Dvorak didn't have traditional leading lady looks which made her perfect as the other woman, gangster's moll or scheming sister to the heroine. Photographing rather harshly, the switch of her hair color from black to blonde accentuates that even more. This is pretty much no different than the women's soap opera type films which starred such Warners contract players as the very young Bette Davis, Barbara Stanwyck, Kay Francis, Joan Blondell or Jean Muir, but Dvorak lacks their obvious vulnerability and the script lacks conviction. Much of the supporting cast is wasted, but there are good moments for Tracy (especially his kind-hearted send-off of Cromwell) and Charles B. Middleton as a very assertive police sergeant. The pre-code spark is there amongst a few spicy lines but that isn't enough to make this one memorable.
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Maternal Love and True Love? Nah!
disinterested_spectator11 December 2014
Warning: Spoilers
In the opening scene of this movie, the title character is crying because she is pregnant. Her rich boyfriend promises to marry her, but he quickly deserts her by leaving town. The plot summary for this movie identifies this boyfriend as Jimmy, but that is a mistake. We never see the rich boyfriend again.

Jimmy, on the other hand, is a clean-cut medical student who is not rich at all, which is why he has to work as a bellhop. Jimmy loves Molly, but she rejects him. She is attracted to a gangster, and goes off with him instead, getting involved in a few of his crimes, and handing her daughter over to an orphanage. When she runs into Jimmy a few years later, he still loves her and wants to marry her and be a father to her daughter. At first she agrees to marry him, but she actually desires Scotty, a hardboiled reporter who promises only that he will show her a good time for a while and then dump her. She likes the idea. In fact, this makes her realize why her own mother abandoned her when she was a child, because when a woman really wants a man, nothing else matters, not even her own child. Jimmy walks in while they are kissing, and she tells him she has decided to run off with Scotty instead.

In the last reel, Scotty has a change of heart, promises to help her fight the charges against her for her involvement with the gangster, and then marry her. That a movie should feature a fallen woman who would reject the love of a good man like Jimmy (twice) and knowingly choose men who are scoundrels instead is amazing enough. That she should end up living happily ever after by doing so is a story that could exist only in the pre-Code universe. Or in real life.

Trivia: this may be the first movie in which the person shooting a gun and the person being hit with the bullet are in the same frame.
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has the distinct feel of Warner Brothers all over it
blanche-229 August 2014
Warner Brothers used to put out gritty crime films that were unmistakable, and this one is no exception. And happily, it's pre-code, which is even better.

Ann Dvorak is Molly Louvain, who is hoping to marry a wealthy young man since she's carrying his baby. He promises to tell his mother about them, but he must have run into some problems -- such as disinheritance. He and mom have gone to Europe by the time Molly gets to the house to celebrate his birthday.

Miserable, Molly takes up with Nick Gant (Leslie Fenton, Dvorak's future husband), a crook, and can raise her daughter comfortably since he's good at robbery. However, Molly is the wheel man when Nick has a shootout with the cops, and she goes on the lam after leaving her child with someone she trusts.

Molly dyes her hair blond and takes an apartment in a false name.Alas, there's a reporter across the hall (Lee Tracy) who wants to find Molly so he can have a career-making story. She gets a job as a dance hall hostess and runs into a bellhop she knew, who was crazy about her (Richard Cromwell). She and Jimmie have to go on the run after Nick shows up again and gets them into more trouble. Then guess who she runs into who's hot on her trail.

Fast-moving, fast-talking film with a lively performance by Lee Tracy, who has great chemistry with Dvorak. The striking Dvorak was a perfect '30s film actress, acting in a style that went well with those films. Today it would be considered overdone. She hated being at Warners because they gave her below average movies and next to no money -- she found out she was making the same salary as the little boy in Three on a Match, and she wasn't happy. She eventually moved to England, did some films, and devoted herself to war service. She never liked Hollywood and ultimately retired.

Richard Cromwell was a matinée idol for a short time but doesn't register much, though he was cute. Gay, he was Angela Lansbury's first husband for a few months, and before film stardom and after it, he enjoyed a very successful career as an artist.

All in all, a watchable film with a crackerjack performance by Lee Tracy and it's always good to see Ann Dvorak.
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another typical gangsta film from the 1930s
ksf-210 April 2018
Anne Dvorak got into silent films as a child, and was the perfect age to star when talkies began. In addition, the film code wasn't in yet, so they could still accurately reflect ALL types of relationships.. in one of her first credited roles, Dvorak is Molly, who always dreams of marrying her own prince charming. Some real adult themes in this one, and good thing it was before the film code. Trying to avoid any spoilers, but she cozies up to the bad guy when the nice guy bails out on her. Guy Kibbee is "the cop". Co-stars Lee Tracy, who made some great films with Jean Harlow. Frank McHugh is in here, yet again, as a newspaper reporter. It's another Michael Curtiz film, waaaay before Casablanca. It's your typical girl-caught-up-with-gangsta film from the early 1930s. At least she doesn't use the squeaky high baby voice that so many used during that period. It's ok. has its ups and downs. It is refreshing to see real life situations, after so many white-washed films in the 1930s and 1940s. Shows on Turner Classics now and then.
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