Big Business Girl was released during the pre-code era of Hollywood in 1931. The pre-code era was a time in Hollywood between the introduction of sound pictures in 1929 and the enforcement of the Motion Picture Production Code in 1934. Loretta Young stars in this romantic comedy about a small-town little lady learning the ins and out of Big Apple business. Pretty young Claire is in love with her university bandleader husband, Johnny Saunders. Graduation sees Johnny bound for Paris and Claire off to an ad agency in Manhattan. Claire is quickly mentored out of the secretarial pool and into a corner copywriter office by her boss, cynical and seductive RJ Clayton, played by Ricardo Cortez. In time, Claire comes to be tempted by RJ’s offers of extra lessons outside the office, just in time for Johnny to surprise her with a sudden return from Paris.
Big Business Girl took advantage of the pre-code era as this is filled with sexual innuendos from start to finish and centers around a young girl flirting with her boss while she is married. This is a typical movie nowadays but back in the 1930s, these movies shocked movie-goers. To my surprise, the character played Loretta Young remains pure despite her constant flirting with her boss. The characters involved help this rather blah film move forward. While watching the film, I was constantly wondering if Claire was really interested in her boss or was she faithful to her husband who was in another country. The back and forth of “will she or won’t she” helped this film progress. I didn’t find her husband, played by Frank Albertson, and her boss, played by Ricardo Cortez, to be particularly interesting. Johnny, her husband is unreliable, and Robert is cruel, which makes it hard to root for anyone. I found Claire to be a strong character in the beginning of the movie where she was headstrong and was ambitious and she clearly cared about her career and tried to move forward in it.
Earlier parts in the film showed strong potential for being a drama regarding workplace and relationships. That is quickly tossed aside for the second part of the film as it becomes a love triangle between a former lover and a new suitor. I would have loved to see Claire become the big business girl that the title promised but at the time of this release, that wasn’t plausible by average movie-goers.
The end of the film offers some humorous moments with a professional divorce correspondent showing up and wreaking havoc. These moments are easily some of the best of the film and leaves the movie rather open ended. She may have been a professional home-wrecker, but she could also be what Johnny is looking for.
This presentation for Big Business Girl is nice for a film released in 1931. The DVD transfer captures the look of the big flashy clothes of that era. The film does look a little grainy, but the sole purpose was protecting this film for future viewing. The audio is good, and the dialog is perfectly rendered so conversations are captured kindly. This film’s DVD transfer is released through Warner Archive Collection but sees no special features. I would have appreciated at least a trailer for the film as it’s always interesting to see how trailers were created back then.
I would have liked to see more of the business aspect to the film, which would have been inspiring for plenty who viewed the film in the 1930s. It was hard to root for any of the characters throughout as each one of them had personalities that weren’t very likable. I enjoyed viewing this pre-code film though and exploring more of Hollywood’s earlier films.
The Warner Archive generously provided Hotchka with a DVD of the film for reviewing purposes.