Lilly (Baby Face) sleeps her way from basement speakeasy bartender, literally floor by floor, to the top floor of a New York office building. Bank sub-manager Jimmy McCoy finds her a job in the bank only to be cast aside as she hooks up with the bank's president. When he complains of not seeing her she says: "I'm working so hard I have to go to bed early every night."Written by
Ed Stephan <firstname.lastname@example.org>
In spring of 1933 this film was submitted to the New York State Board of Censors, who rejected it, demanding a number of cuts and changes. Warner Brothers made these changes prior to the film's release in July 1933. In 2004, a "dupe negative" copy of the film as it existed prior to being censored was located at the Library of Congress. This uncensored version received its public premiere at the London Film Festival in November 2004, more than 70 years after it was made. See more »
When Lily reads from Nietzsche's book, Thoughts Out Of Season, the page that's highlighted repeats the same paragraph above, and again below, the highlighted lines. See more »
Oh, that? It come while you was out. Its some books from old Mr. Cragg, back in Erie.
You run along and have a good time.
I sliced some turkey for you. Its in the ice box.
See more »
The original release had to be cut by four minutes to pass inspection by the New York Board of Censors. The cuts were mostly very minor but the most notable were the scene where Lily admits that she began working as a prostitute when she was fourteen and the scene the boxcar with the yardman, the close-up of the hand turning out the light. These scenes were cut before the film's release in 1933 and were not seen publicly until 2004. See more »
Finally, the uncut version of "Baby Face" surfaces and from what source? The Library of Congress. The restored four minutes, snippets here and there, make for a much better film. We now know that Baby Face was pimped by her old man from the time she was at least fourteen years of age. Another reason d'tat for her behavior and cold, calculating exterior.
Barbara Stanwyck is indeed amazing in the role of Lily Powers (notice the moniker), a part that called for just the right amount of sexuality coated with power, cunning, and revenge, yet tinged with virginal pretense when called for, a very difficult portrayal to make convincing. Barbara Stanwyck conveys the necessary nuances to show that though she sleeps her way to the top (literally), she still has good in her heart--note the way she treats those few who have been kind to her such as Chico (the marvelous actress Theresa Harris) and the old philosopher. And though she exploits her sexuality to make mush of men who are rich and powerful, those same men are attempting to exploit her for their carnal desires with no intention of permanent ties until they fall in love with her.
Lily Powers fails to understand, at first, that emotions are difficult to ride, that it's easy to lose control. One possible result is death. Hitching a wagon to a star of course materialism can take one to a destination where nothing else exists but the ephemeral, and it's a cold lonely location.
A word should be said about the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche whose will to power is stressed in "Baby Face" by the elderly philosopher who befriends Lilly when she is still turning tricks for her old man. "Baby Face" was released the same year Adolf Hitler came to power in Germany. Though it's highly unlikely that the semi-literate Hitler understood much about Nietzsche, he considered himself a Nietzschean to the nth degree and touted it along side his other rantings. "Baby Face" serves as an indictment of the popular interpretation of Nietzsche's will to power concept, especially in the final scenes.
Although "You've got the cutest little baby face." is apropos as a theme for "Baby Face," an even more telling and applicable melody is W. C. Handy's "St. Louis Blues" played throughout the film, especially at times when the camera has to drift away from what would otherwise be sexually explicit scenes. "St. Louis Blues" is also used wisely toward the end as Lily begins to see beyond materialism to eternal values. Chico is singing a raw, salacious version of "St. Louis Blues" when Lily, now disagreeing with the lyrics, orders her to stop.
The restored version of "Baby Face" makes the film more modern in its approach and attitude toward sex as power than many a new Hollywood release. By all means watch this gem from the distant past and enjoy.
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