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Ladies They Talk About (1933)

Unrated | | Crime, Drama, Romance | 4 February 1933 (USA)
Attractive Nan, member of a bank-robbery gang, goes to prison thanks to evangelist Dave Slade...who loves her.


Brown Holmes (screen play), William McGrath (screen play) | 3 more credits »

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Complete credited cast:
Barbara Stanwyck ... Nan Taylor
Preston Foster ... David Slade (as Preston S. Foster)
Lyle Talbot ... Don
Dorothy Burgess ... Susie
Lillian Roth ... Linda
Maude Eburne ... Aunt Maggie
Ruth Donnelly ... Noonan
Harold Huber ... Lefty Simons
Robert McWade ... District Attorney Walter Simpson


Gun moll Nan Taylor, caught after an otherwise successful bank robbery, falls for radio crusader David Slade and confides her guilt to him. Much to her surprise, he turns her in. As a "new fish" at San Quentin, Nan fits right in, but won't see Slade, who still loves her. Then she learns that her former partners in crime, Don and Dutch, are on the other side of the wall in the men's section...and have an escape plan. Written by Rod Crawford <puffinus@u.washington.edu>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


You'll talk, too, when you learn the real truth about "Ladies They Talk About." (Print Ad- Winthrop News, ((Winthrop Minn.)) 23 February 1933)


Crime | Drama | Romance


Unrated | See all certifications »






Release Date:

4 February 1933 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Women in Prison See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Warner Bros. See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


Film has some rather blatant and oddball plugs for Warner Brothers stars. In several scenes photos of Joe E. Brown (whom Lillian Roth sings to) and Dick Powell are seen in the women's cells. See more »


In the overview shot of San Quentin, smoke is pouring out of a smokestack on the right when it suddenly, completely disappears in the last second of the shot. See more »


Susie: Listen. Don't think you can walk in here and take over this joint. There's a lot of big sharks in here that just live on fresh fish like you.
Nan Taylor: Yeah, when they add you up what do you spell?
See more »


Featured in American Grindhouse (2010) See more »


St. Louis Blues
(1914) (uncredited)
Written by W.C. Handy
Played during the opening credits and at the end
Sung offscreen by Etta Moten in a prison sequence
See more »

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User Reviews

Tough Broads
14 May 2003 | by rmax304823See all my reviews

It's a little surprising for those of us who grew up on a double dose of the aging Stanwyck playing an almost hysterical, often villainous matriarch in low-budget theatrical releases or on TV, to see how pale, slender, and vulnerable she was in the early 30s.

Here she's the daughter of a small-town deacon who has suffered through one lecture too many and gone wrong, sent to San Quention for involvement in a bank robbery. (I think -- come to think about it, I'm not sure WHY she was sent up. No evidence links her to complicity in the robbery. All that stands against her is an informal confession to a guy she likes, not made under oath, and easily recanted. Well -- no matter.) Preston Foster is the righteous DA she falls for. He grew up in the same small town, the son of the town drunk, but he straightened up and flew right. Too right, for some tastes. By the way, the small town they grew up in, in which everyone knew everyone else's name, is Benicia, now absorbed into the greater San Francisco Bay Area and it has a population of more than 25,000.

The plot, which comes from a play, carries a lot of familiar real-life baggage and is less interesting than the characters we meet in the course of a kind of tribal study of the ladies' section of San Quentin. There are, first of all, quite a few African-Americans among the inmates, a bit surprising considering the audience the film was aimed at. They're treated mostly humorously but not moreso than the white inmates, and the humor isn't stereotypical. Ruth Donnelly, a familiar face in old movies if there ever was one, is the not entirely unsympathetic warden or whatever her title is. She sometimes carries around a gigantic cockatoo or something on her shoulder which seems to serve no purpose except to scare defiant inmates when it flexes its wings and squawks. Lillian Roth has a prominent supporting part. She's quite pretty, and she sings old songs with more zest than Susan Hayward did in the weeper, "I'll Cry Tomorrow." (Great title, there, Hollywood.) There is the elderly Madam, happily ensconced in her chair, making wisecracks about how all the inmates are now "my girls." Nobody in the movie is thoroughly rotten. If there is a villain, it is the woman who has been born again while in prison and is spiteful, jealous and judgmental. Saints preserve us from zealots. Stanwyck is a surprise in her performance too. She's as good as she's ever been, slouching around in her prison dress, hands in pockets, giving as good as she gets. A grim cigar-smoking dyke is held up for fun without being ridiculed or turned into a monster.

The movie is a curiosity. It's easy to watch, kind of fun, and not badly done. Snippy dialogue, a quick pace, an unpretentious plot, all make it worth a watch.

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