Kay Francis … Natalie Upton
Roland Young … Linkhorne ‘Link’ Gibson
Alan Dinehart … Lawrence ‘Larry’ Baldwin
Gloria Stuart … Doris ‘Dodo’ Baldwin
Marjorie Gateson … Lois Baldwin
Allen Vincent … Clarke Upton
Adrienne Dore … Frances
Louise Beavers … Mattie, Natalie’s maid
Directed by Archie Mayo.
Produced by Hal B. Wallis.
Original Music by W. Franke Harling & Matty Malneck.
Cinematography by Ernest Haller.
Film Editing by James Gibbon.
Art Direction by Anton Grot.
Released May 26, 1932.
A Warner Bros. Picture.
Box Office Information:
Cost of Production: $195,000
Domestic Gross: $250,000
Foreign Gross: $89,000
Total Gross: $339,000
See the Box Office Page for more info.
Street of Women (1932) provided Kay Francis her second consecutive starring vehicle for her new studio, Warner Bros.
The plot is that of a typical Kay Francis melodrama. She loves a rich, older man, whose daughter is in love with Kay’s younger brother. Francis is not only beautifully gowned in this tearjerker, but her character is another working, professional woman. This time, the owner of her own dress shop.
Alan Dinehart plays the lover, Allen Vincent plays the younger brother, and, in her film debut, Gloria Stuart is the daughter. Which relationship has to end for these victims to find stability? That is the question asked by Street of Women, answered in the final reel after many tears from its female lead.
Kay had sparkled in Man Wanted (1932), her first film for Warner Bros. after completing three years of employment at Paramount. Now an established star at a new studio, Kay Francis was hyped up with the typical studio-generated publicity. But Street of Women was a decent turnout from a studio which tended to overlook the strength of a story for sharp costumed characters placed in elaborate surroundings.
The film was based on the 1931 novel of the same name by Polan Banks, which was adapted to the screen by Charles Kenyon. Directed by Archie Mayo, Kay was placed in the guiding hands of genius Hal B, Wallis, perhaps the greatest producer at Warner Brothers at the time. Designer Earl Luick created some beautiful clothes for Kay to wear as the owner of a fashion boutique in the center of Manhattan. This film can be pointed to as the one which cemented Kay’s influence in the fashion world off the screen.
Still, some were not impressed…
Running only 59 minutes, Movie Mirror noted that “Kay Francis, since she went to Warners, has been working hard and fast, turning out pictures rapidly. The chief trouble is they look like it. Her first Warner film wasn‘t any wow. Neither is this.”
Reviewed favorable by critics or not, the film helped firmly establish Francis as a star in her own right.
The people of New York are frantic over the construction of the Baldwin Building, soon to be the world’s tallest structure. Perhaps the most ambitious project man has ever undertaken, behind that powerful man, Larry Baldwin, is of course a woman.
Natalie Upton owns a dress salon in Manhattan. She has been involved with Larry Baldwin for some time now, though she is not the typical selfish, younger mistress. She actually loves Larry for who he is, unlike his wife, Lois, who is with him only for social clout.
While Larry has paved some of the way for Natalie’s success, make no mistake, her eye for fashion is what made her salon a sensation. And it is the money she has gathered from her own creations which have paid for her brother Clarke’s tuition for the Paris School of Architecture.
When Natalie hears that Clarke is coming home, she tells Larry that they can no longer see each other. She tearfully tells him that Clarke is still very young, and wouldn’t understand the situation. “We’ve had our happiness,” she tells Larry, who agrees to her request.
Larry’s daughter Doris is having her debutante party, and Clarke is invited. Him and Doris have known each other for sometime now, and, since he is coming home, begin to take their relationship a few steps further. Neither Larry nor Natalie knew of the relationship between Clarke and Doris, and, in Natalie’s mind, this is even more of a reason for them to give each other up.
In the mean time, Lois has become suspicious of Larry’s affair. Already having denied permission for a divorce, she walks into Natalie’s shop and demands to see her. Without once telling Natalie she knows about the affair, Lois makes sure Natalie knows her name and unofficially insults Natalie’s taste of style.
At Natalie’s apartment, Larry stops by to see her. As the two discuss their predicament, Clarke walks in, overhearing everything. “Well, who do I owe thanks to my Paris education,” he asks, “the lady who gave her services or the gentlemen who paid for them?” When Natalie tries to explain, he jerks his head to Larry and tells him that he will repay every cent. Natalie tries to plead with Clarke, telling him that the money came from her salon, but he wont have none of it.
Clarke packs his things and abandons everyone, including Doris.
The two run into each other sometime later at a party. Doris is too emotionally wrecked to talk to him, and heads out. Clarke takes off after her, and they hop in Doris car, getting into a terrible accident discussing their relationship and breakup.
The two decide to marry, and Clarke also reconciles with Natalie.
As for Lois, well, she has agreed to a divorce, and heads to Reno to get it. Larry and Natalie are reunited in front of the Baldwin building, where they embrace.
This is one of my all-time favorite Kay Francis movies. Street of Women represents everything she was so famous for.. She is a working woman, wears great clothes, is photographed beautifully, and of course she suffers relentlessly until the final reel. Everything in here is in place for her screen persona, and not one detail needs to be changed about this picture.
While not an artistic triumph like Give Me Your Heart (1936) or Confession (1937), this Warner Brothers film gives Kay some great moments to prove herself as an actress. In her first scenes with Alan Dinehart, she’s flirty and seductive, making us believe that a woman as beautiful as she is can really be in love with a man lacking in handsome appeal like Dinehart.
Their roles and performances play off of one another nicely.
Natalie has a motherly attitude towards Clarke that is touching. While he can not be too much younger than her, one can obviously tell she is of major influence in his life. Kay and Allen Vincent have a special chemistry between them that allows us to know that, whatever their situation is with their parents is, they always have each other, and are going to be their for each other no matter what choices the other one makes.
Roland Young has the wise character role in which he provides guidance for all of the character’s situations. Unfortunately, he is not as important in the film’s plot as he is in Give Me Your Heart.
Street of Women was Gloria Stuart’s film debut. It shows in some scenes.
Fast-paced and ending just as soon as it unfolds, Street of Women is great for an introduction to Kay Francis movies. It’s one of the many brief movies she made in these years which kept the audiences going back for more.
Love and the construction of a tall building are discussed in “Street of Women,” a verbose triangle affair which is now occupying the screen of the Warners’ Strand. It has several cleverly composed scenes and praiseworthy acting, particularly by Roland Young and Marjorie Gateson, who interpret the rôles of the more or less unfortunate beings in the story. Miss Gateson appears as Lois, whose husband, Larry Baldwin, does not conceal the fact he would welcome the idea of being sued for a divorce. As for Mr. Young, he portrays in his usual facile fashion, Link Gibson, who is so enamored of Natalie Upton that he proposes marriage to her at least once a day. His hopes of success in this direction are, however, blighted, for Natalie happens to be in love with Baldwin, who reciprocates her affection.
There is also to be considered the love existing between Larry and his daughter, Doris, and Natalie’s devotion to her brother Clarke. Matters are further complicated by a romance between Doris and Clarke. Hence the idle thoughts of the young man in Spring are not neglected. But it does seem a pity that Link Gibson has to be left out in the cold, for he is far more sympathetic than Larry, who is seen in the person of Allan Dinehart.
Larry, who is supposed to be responsible for building Gotham’s highest skyscraper, in a radio talk gives credit to a woman for the inspiration. His wife is congratulated, but Larry really refers to Natalie.
At the psychological moment in this tale there is the inevitable contretemps. Clarke is indignant when he hears that his sister is partial to Larry and off he goes to South America, believing that Larry had footed the bills for his education abroad. He returns, however, as all juveniles do in motion pictures, and, as might be surmised, he next encounters Doris at a dance. He follows her to her car and insists on riding with her and there is a crash, when, one sees by the speedometer, they are traveling at seventy miles an hour. Both are injured, but it is this accident that causes Lois to be a little less flint-hearted, for she announces that she is going to Nevada.
Allan Dinehart does fairly well considering the writing of his part. Kay Francis is attractive and pleasing as Natalie, and Gloria Stuart is satisfactory as Doris.
Other pictorial subjects on the same program are S. S. Van Dine’s “Side Show Murder” and Bobby Jones’s golf lesson on “The Spoon.”
Published in the New York Times, May 30, 1932.