Shopworn (1932)

“Your thoughts are just like your kitchen … DIRTY”

A very young Barbara Stanwyck shines in Shopworn, a dreary little drama that doesn’t have a great deal to recommend it. The film begins rather abruptly with an accident that claims the life of Kitty Lane’s (Barbara Stanwyck) father. The death scene is atrociously acted, and that is unfortunate as it basically opens the film.

Kitty Lane, now orphaned, and penniless, goes to her Aunt who works in a café in a university town. Kitty quickly becomes the attraction at the café, but class places an almost insurmountable obstacle between her and the young men who come in to flirt. One day she meets the serious minded David Livingston (Regis Toomey), and a romance blossoms briefly before his mother sabotages it.

The plot of Shopworn–a romance ruined by class–is not new. Here, Livingston’s mother (Clara Bandick) is selfish, malicious and hysterical, and while she’s convinced that Kitty will ruin her son’s career, she basically wants to keep him all to herself. She uses her money and influence to ensure that her son doesn’t marry Kitty.

Years pass, Kitty becomes a famous and notorious actress, and so ironically she becomes even a worse match for David in his mother’s possessive and snobby view. But this time, Kitty has power and money to fight back.

Stanwyck fans will treasure seeing her in this role, but the rest of the cast just seem left in the dust. There was no chemistry between Kitty and her leading man, little or no character development, and the film’s conclusion is abrupt and simplistic. Keep an eye open for Zazu Pitts as Kitty’s Aunt Dot.

From director Nick Grinde.

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