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Although lesser known than the 1940 film starring Vivien Leigh, the first screen version of Robert E. Sherwood’s play is in many ways deserves equal recognition. Not only is it well directed by James Whale, but it also features a surprising performance by Mae Clarke, who stars as a down-at-heel chorus girl that turns to prostitution during World War I only to fall for an American soldier (Kent Douglass, aka Douglass Montgomery), knowing her profession will always keep them apart. After viewing Whale’s work on another war story, Journey’s End (1930), Universal’s head of production, Carl Laemmle Jr., knew he’d found the perfect director. Clarke was cast on the strength of her performance as the streetwalker in The Front Page (1931), and working closely with Whale, she delivered the performance of her career. With its adult subject matter, the film was heavily edited in some areas and was pulled from circulation when strict Production Code enforcement arrived in 1934. MGM bought the story rights for its own version and put the original in the vaults until it was rediscovered in 1975. A dispute over rights kept it out of view for another two decades. (d. James Whale, 81m, 35mm)

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