Parole Girl (1933) Poster

(1933)

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6/10
"You're working a clever racket girly, but you got caught".
classicsoncall15 October 2009
Warning: Spoilers
Despite the high degree improbability of it all, this turned out to be a fairly entertaining picture. Hopefully with today's offering on Turner Classics, this film might put together the requisite number of votes to get a rating on this board. It has some of the appeal found in the exploitation flicks of the same era, but with writing and direction that places it a notch above.

The story involves a young woman who gets tangled up with a smarmy con man (Hale Hamilton) doing a pickpocket grift that leads to a shakedown at targeted retail stores. When Sylvia (Mae Clarke) gets busted and sent to prison for a year long stretch, she plots her revenge against the insurance adjuster who wouldn't bend the rules to let her off easy in the first place. That angle might have played out a lot more believably if one of Sylvia's prison buddies (Marie Prevost) hadn't been involved with the same guy (Ralph Bellamy) a couple of years earlier. In one of the wildest stretches of imagination, both ex-cons duped the gullible Joe Smith (seriously, not an alias) into a phony marriage. Obviously, a whole lot of thought wasn't put into this story, but that's what they came up with.

Naturally, this one plays out with Smith and Sylvia hooking up together for real once they discover they have feelings for each other following a series of events that bring out their better natures. Not entirely unexpected, but again, it takes a bit of a stretch to get there.

Veteran character actor Ralph Bellamy eventually went on to become a well regarded and respected performer, even though he never made it as a major headliner. Mae Clark is probably best known for taking a grapefruit in the kisser from Jimmy Cagney in 1931's "The Public Enemy". Their hook-up here doesn't involve too much chemistry, but considering the circumstances, that's to be expected. The thing that I kept wondering about was how a couple of ex-jailbird floozies like Sylvia and Jeanie always walked around in such fashionable clothes.

Addendum dated 10/17/09: Forty eight hours ago, this film didn't have the minimum five votes needed to insure an IMDb rating, nor did it have a single review. As I write this, the film has twenty two votes and four comments. I read that as a testament to the dedication serious cinema fans apply to their entertainment, particularly as it applies to films offered on Turner Classics. I have seen a similar pattern for prior TCM offerings, and would like to thank and encourage those viewers for going the extra mile in pursuit of their passion and interest.
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8/10
Love That Title!!!
kidboots21 January 2011
Warning: Spoilers
It promises gritty, hard hitting pre-code earthiness and it almost delivers. Supposedly based on the story "Dance of the Millions" but, really, it is a re-working of Bayard Veiller's popular play "Within the Law". It had already been given the 4 star treatment at MGM as "Paid" (1930) with Joan Crawford. The link between the two movies is sweet Marie Prevost, who played a similar character in both - a ditsy cell mate who teams up with Mae/Joan when they are paroled. Poor Marie spent almost as much time behind bars as Sylvia Sidney. "Everything I do is on the level" to which Mae replies "Well, since you've been in prison - blackmail, larceny and extortion are now crimes"!!!

It is interesting, when you view Mae Clarke's performances, she has sincerity and honesty in every part she plays but she just couldn't make the leap to the A grade. Her films were excellent "Waterloo Bridge" and "Night World" etc but by 1933 her bid for stardom was over and "Parole Girl" was described as "bottom of the barrel". It certainly wasn't that!!! While it wasn't in the same league as MGM's "Paid" - it was a perfect vehicle for Mae.

Sylvia Day (Mae Clarke) is accused of picking a gentleman's pocket in a department store. She is dragged, humiliated in front of customers, to the manager's office, but it is all a misunderstanding. Then Sylvia goes into her award winning performance - she cries, she sobs and she walks out with a cheque for $500. But it is all a scam - she and the "gentleman", Tony (Hale Hamilton) are working together and while Sylvia is determined to go straight she is persuaded to do one last job. Of course they are caught and she comes up against a stony store manager, Joe Smith(Ralph Bellamy) who is not softened by her pleas for leniency. She is sent to prison for a year and after her release her only thought is to make Smith pay - and pay he does!!! After renewing his acquaintance (he doesn't know her), she gets him "cockeyed" and he wakes up next morning - married!!! Of course it is all bogus as Tony has performed the ceremony.

From now on a lot of the grittiness goes and is replaced by pre- code fun as Sylvia glides around in assorted negligees. Mae Clarke does sport an unattractive "butch" hairstyle and I am glad this seems to be the only film that she chose to wear it. There are a couple of glitches to their happiness. Tony is upset that Sylvia has thrown him over and plans to get even with her by slipping a counterfeit bill in her purse but Joe, unexpectedly, comes to her rescue and they really start to fall in love. Then Joe's wife appears - yes, he is already married and to none other than Jeannie (Marie Prevost) Sylvia's little pal from the big house. But everything is smoothed out and all under 70 minutes. After all this was in 1933 when they really knew how to make movies.

Highly Recommended.
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No fury when a woman is loved
jarrodmcdonald-126 February 2014
Mae Clarke and Ralph Bellamy have excellent chemistry in Parole Girl. But what really puts this film on the map is its ability to take a theme like revenge and make a routine prison film into something more. Here, it becomes an unlikely romance.

The supporting characters enliven the proceedings. There's the friend who throws the apple out the window on the train, and the boss who comes to dinner but enjoys sitting in the kitchen. But the most interesting bit occurs earlier in the picture. It's a dramatic prison fire scene, and it is one of the best-staged action scenes this writer has viewed in a long time.
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7/10
Good Movie That Could be Remade Again
svaldez-417 October 2009
I recorded this movie and watched it in the morning. It was well worth it, even though it was short and the plot is sometimes very contrived, but then again most movie plots are contrived. Mae Clark did a very good job playing a woman who is basically good but due to circumstances does not always follow the most moral path. I won't go into more but the movie was very entertaining. You can tell the movie is pre-code and that adds just enough of an edge to make it interesting.

Ralph Bellamy did a good job of playing the forced upon husband. He was quite entertaining. Mr. Taylor played by Ferdinand Gottschalk was an interesting character it reminded me of the old days when having a wife and kids increased your chance of promotion at the company. Those days are gone, but it does give you an insight into what life was pre-1960's.
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6/10
Entertaining Rework of 1912 Play...
xerses1316 October 2009
PAROLE GIRL (1933) is a variation of the Girl who seeks retribution for a alleged wrong done to her. The original play WITHIN THE LAW (1912) no doubt was the source material for this screenplay. Just changed enough, to avoid being sued for plagiarism.

THE NUTS; Sylvia Day (Mae Clarke) gets picked up for shop-lifting. Joe Smith (Ralph Bellamy) is not sympathetic to her problems. In fact never sees her but has flunky turn her over to the law. After serving time and out on 'Parole' she tricks Smith into marrying her to exact her revenge. Eventually pair fall in love and at the fade out REALLY get married. At 67" it is just long enough to be entertaining without taxing the audience.

WITHIN THE LAW would be filmed in 1916, 1917, 1923. In 1930 it would be filmed under the title of PAID M.G.M. and star Joan Crawford. The version we are most familiar with is WITHIN THE LAW (1939) M.G.M. and would feature contract player Ruth Hussey, running 65". Last version was INTAQUAM (1969) a Shaktiman Enterprises, production of India. Though this plot-line had been used from T.V. movies too soap operas.

One final note, the attractive Mae Clarke though looking very chic had the most unflattering 'butch' hairstyle to grace the 'silver screen'.
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5/10
Improbable but Charming
jramaro15 October 2009
If you find yourself sleepless at 3 am and you've got an hour and fifteen minutes to kill with Turner Classic Movies, you can do worse than this charming romance that, while mostly predictable, takes you places and keeps up a good pace.

"Parole Girl" comes with a competent cast, pre Hays' era sexuality, and a time capsule visit to 1930's America. I counted at least six improbable plot devices, but, oh--who cares? Bellamy was believable. And I fell in love with the intelligent, cunning Mae Clark.

What guy, sleepless at 3 am wouldn't hope to find himself in Bellamy's predicament with a woman as alluring and devious as Mae Clark's character?
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8/10
Revenge vs Love? No contest
howdymax15 October 2009
Warning: Spoilers
Parole Girl. I love that title. This is a forgotten little gem from Columbia, but really was a perfect fit for Warner's. Surprisingly directed by Eddie Cline, who was best known for his association (and patience) with WC Fields. He created some of the most memorable comedies on screen, but managed to put together an interesting and sympathetic effort in this movie.

It stars Mae Clarke, best known for getting a grapefruit in her mush by Jimmy Cagney in Public Enemy. Other than that her movies were mostly forgettable as far as I can tell. But she did a great job in this one. She plays a young girl lured into a series of schemes by an old family friend played to the hilt by Hale Hamilton. I have to admit, I wasn't familiar with his work, but he certainly performed here. When Mae is caught by a department store dick in an extortion scam, she is sent up the river for a year. She blames the department store manager, played by Ralph Bellamy, for the pinch and promises revenge. After her release she meets up with him, and through a complicated series of maneuvers,convinces him they married. Since he was already married, she threatens to ruin his life if he doesn't play ball. Her plan is to take him for everything he's got, but of course, it all backfires on her. I bet you will never guess what happens.

This was pre-code and there are a number of examples of that naughty dialog that we all loved so much. This is a B movie well worth watching. The entire cast does a credible job with a really stand out performance by Mae Clarke. She was appealing and sympathetic without being annoying. That is sometimes a fine line to walk, but she did it.
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6/10
nice B movie
blanche-213 June 2015
Mae Clarke, she of the grapefruit in the face, and Ralph Bellamy star in "Parole Girl," a 1933 film.

Clarke plays Sylvia, who works a department store con with a male partner. He accuses her of stealing his wallet and yells "stop, thief," they both go to the manager's office, he finds his wallet, she sobs, and the store pays her off.

Unfortunately the police alert the store to the con artists as she's sitting in the office. Terrified of going to prison, she begs the manager to let her go. He wants to, but when he checks with the man above him, Joe Smith (Bellamy) he says he has no power to do that. She begs and sobs, but it's no go.

Sylvia winds up in prison, serving for a year, but she manages to not only start a fire, but work to put it out, and then faint - all part of her plan. She is released due to her heroics. She's not interested in returning to con work. She wants to destroy the life of Joe Smith.

Sylvia approaches Joe while he's smashed and stages a fake marriage, knowing full well he has a wife from whom he's separated. She then blackmails him with his bigamy. They have to act as a married couple until Sylvia's parole is over. Guess what happens.

This could have been an ordinary movie but it isn't, thanks to the nice work of the two stars. Clarke is an underrated actress - she was excellent in the 1930 Waterloo Bridge, which is much grittier than the Taylor-Leigh version. She was a very honest actress, not at all over the top, even though it was the style of the day.

Bellamy, of course, is super. This film was just after the beginning of his awesome 60-year career.

Entertaining.
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Fun and Charming "B" Film
Michael_Elliott21 November 2009
Parole Girl (1933)

** 1/2 (out of 4)

Silly but extremely entertaining drama from Columbia has Mae Clarke once again taking "C" level material and raising it a notch. This time out she plays a troubled but smart woman in a con game with a man (Hale Hamilton) who pretty much owns her. She ends up in jail after getting caught ripping off shopping stores and once behind bars she swears vengeance on the insurance man (Ralph Bellamy) who refused to give her a break and demand that she go to jail. This is an extremely bizarre and strange little gem that will certainly keep fans of "B" movies entertained because you'll never quite know where the thing is going. For starters, the story itself is downright stupid as we're never really given a good reason as to why this woman would be so angry with this man. Why not the judge, store owner or the con man who got her into the racket? You also have to consider the fact that she's never seen this man so how she actually manages to do her thing is never quite clear. Another funny thing with the story is that it of course has to have a few twists and turns, which includes the woman eventually falling for the man but soon her scam backfires once again with a twist that I won't ruin here. Clarke turns in a very good performance and it certainly ranks as one of the best I've seen from her. She's very believable in the early scenes of fear as she begs not to be sent to jail. She's also believable as the hell bent femme fatale out for revenge. She plays both sides of the coin perfectly and her chemistry with Bellamy is very realistic and makes for an interesting 65-minutes. Bellamy, one of my favorite character actors from this period, manages to have all the charm and dignity that we've come to expect from him. Marie Prevost is quite annoying but that's the way her character was meant to be. This film has certainly been forgotten throughout the decades and I'm sure not too many were overly interested in it back when it was released. I'm sure most people, like myself, will be drawn to it because they're fans of FRANKENSTEIN and want to see Clarke in another role. Those people will certainly want to check this film out but fans of "B" movies will as well as the movie goes fast enough to not have any dull moments and in the end it's the perfect filler if you're up late at night and need something quick to watch.
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8/10
Late Blooming Mae
richardchatten18 September 2016
Warning: Spoilers
With a title like that - and with Mae Clarke best remembered today as a punchbag for Jimmie Cagney - one approaches this film expecting gritty lowlife drama. This expectation is reinforced by an extremely atmospheric opening sequence (which makes excellent use of tracking shots and realistic sound), seemingly shot in a genuine department store, with store detective Lee Phelps pursuing Miss Clarke as she heads for the exit after a customer loudly accuses her of picking his pocket. She ends up going to jail after the manager of a different store, Ralph Bellamy, refuses her pleas for mercy for a different offence (Bellamy's explanation that "the store's rule has always been to prosecute, our insurance company insists upon it" carries the hint that the brutal, unyielding capitalist system bears some of the blame for her plight); and her time in jail culminates in a superbly staged sequence set in the prison workshop when she demonstrates neither for the first or last time her adroitness as a manipulator by deliberating starting a fire and then 'heroically' turning an extinguisher on it.

The film's title and her journey through the lower depths can in retrospect be seen as Depression-era window dressing serving as a prologue to the vengeful game of marital cat-&-mouse Clarke then begins at the expense of the hapless Bellamy when she emerges from prison, which comprises the rest of the film. Five years earlier with a racier title implying sexual rather than criminal intrigue this story could easily have been a vehicle for the likes of Norma Shearer, with both the many preposterous plot contrivances resembling those of a silent film, and Clarke's chic boyish haircut reinforcing her resemblance to a silent film heroine. Aided by elegant photography by the great Joseph August, Eddie Cline so deftly handles both the early action & drama and the later scenes of sexual tension that it may after all be worth investigating his filmography beyond the vehicles for W.C.Fields with which his name is associated.

A charming cameo by Ferdinand Gottschalk as Bellamy's boss deserves particular mention in a uniformly good cast; and Mae Clarke here turns in a real star performance displaying a wide emotional range as well as a rapport with Bellamy. Unfortunately she was on the very brink of a precipitous fall from grace resulting from the double-whammy of a nervous breakdown brought on by overwork in June 1932, followed by a car accident the month 'Parole Girl' was released in March 1933 in which her jaw was broken. She thus well exemplifies that lost generation whose work continues to surprise and delight discoverers of pre-Code Hollywood.
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7/10
Revenge is sweet, especially when love results from it.
mark.waltz24 July 2018
Warning: Spoilers
Bad girl Mae Clarke is too involved in a racket that results in payment over being wrongfully accused of being a pick-pocket. Along with shady partner Hale Hamilton, Clarke goes from department store to department store, using the phony accusation of stealing Hamilton's wallet as a way of extorting money from the department store management. She doesn't count on an insurance company catching onto her racket, ending up in jail for her petty crime yet paroled for trying to put out a fire she deliberately started simply so she could be paroled. Recognizing drunken department store insurance manager Ralph Bellamy who had refused to help her escape a prison sentence, Clarke sets up a phony marriage (with Hamilton as the justice of the peace) and sets up house with him. When con-artist fellow prisoner Marie Prevost shows up at her door, Clarke is too tempted to join in on other rackets, but will her growing feelings for Bellamy, the sap of all saps, keep her from going through with abandoning him?

A clever, if somewhat preposterous plotline, helps make this pre-code drama about bad girls turning good work, along with the great performances of Clarke (aka "the grapefruit girl" from "The Public Enemy"), Bellamy, Hamilton, Ferdinand Gottschalk (as Bellamy's boss) and especially Prevost. The script by Norman Krasna is filled with clever innuendos and plot developments, and the direction by Edward F. Cline is fast moving and tight. Every set-up of each plot development is exceptionally clever, and as a result, this ends up being one of the great sleepers of the pre-code drama that just a year later would be too scandalous to be made into a film. Clarke is extremely unique as a leading lady and gives one of her best performances. Gottschalk is adorable as the lovable old coot who loves to cook and enjoys watching Bellamy and Clarke be affectionate as they dine on his delectables, even if their marriage unbeknownst to him is a sham. Prevost, in her last major role, is an absolute delight, stealing every moment she is on screen, making me wonder why she would soon be reduced to bit parts that lead to an early death just a few years later.
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4/10
Give a girl a break
bkoganbing20 August 2015
Mae Clarke is in the title role of Parole Girl who while out on parole plots some revenge against store manager Ralph Bellamy who insisted on her arrest. I won't go into the racket as it was quite a pip. But as Mae and her accomplice who didn't get caught Hale Hamilton learned these department do pool intelligence.

After a short stint in prison cut short by her heroic action during a prison fire Clarke is put on parole and she plans some revenge against Bellamy. Using his taste for booze she gets him drunk and marries him. Now there's vengeance for you.

And then the film takes an abrupt and sappy turn as Clarke and Bellamy start falling for each other. I mean, Ralph Bellamy? C'mon.

Giving good performances are Hamilton whose a devil may care con man and really doesn't care about anything and Marie Prevost as Clarke's prison running girl buddy.

But the premise to the whole film is bizarre.
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4/10
Enjoyable but stupid and I suspect monkeys wrote much of the script.
MartinHafer24 October 2009
Warning: Spoilers
This film is very entertaining but simply never makes any sense--like the studio hired monkeys to write much of the film. The story begins with Mae Clark and her accomplice conning some department stores out of money. However, when Clark is eventually caught (and rightfully so--she is after all a thief), she vows to destroy a man who worked for a department store that insisted she be prosecuted (Ralph Bellamy). So, as she sits in jail she spends all her energy thinking about how to hurt this one particular man--which makes no sense since they never even met in the film. Why she should hate this particular man and not the judge or prosecuting attorney or her accomplice (who pushed her into a life of crime)? And, what makes even less sense is that her plot is then so complicated! This just didn't make sense and made me a bit annoyed. After all, there were some good story elements and good actors but the plot just seemed 100% contrived.

Here is the crazy plot. Once Clark gets out of jail, she meets Bellamy and gets him drunk. Then, she produces a fake marriage certificate the next morning--which complicates his life, as he already is married--to a lady that Clark met while in prison!!! Wow, the odds of this are 68 bazillion to one! So, to avoid being arrested for bigamy, he agrees to let her lead him around by the nose and make him 100% miserable. Why didn't he immediately go to the police and report the blackmail? This is especially true since being drunk is a legitimate reason to nullify the wedding--at which point they would have found out that the new wedding was a hoax. I just hate films where people do things that no logical or reasonable person would have done. Again and again, both Clark and Bellamy react in the least logical manner imaginable. The worst is a bit later when Clark is caught committing another crime and Bellamy could have just let the police take her away--yet he vouches for her and prevents her arrest!! And, sadly, although she is evil, you KNOW that by the end of the film everything will work out perfectly--making it predictable and very formulaic. How such a cretin like Clark could become a good and decent lady by the end of the film makes no sense--especially since she worked so long and so hard to destroy Bellamy!! This all is a shame. As I said, the actors were good and with a Pre-Code title like "Parole Girl" you'd expect a lot more pizazz and fireworks--not a contrived and limp story like this one.

Despite disliking much of the film, I did like the character played by Bellamy's boss. He was a great character--well acted and fascinatingly different. He was a wonderful addition to the film and perhaps this represents a portion of the film NOT written by the monkeys!!
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