Cast & Crew
Letty Strong, a hard-boiled woman, makes a living modeling dresses and entertaining male buyers who come to New York to purchase dresses for their stores. She raises her unruly, illegitimate seven-year-old son Mickey according to the principle of "survival of the fittest" and without regard to conventional morality, because she wants him to grow up strong, so that no one can put anything over on him like what happened to her when, at age fifteen, she was left pregnant and alone. When a milk truck driven by Malcolm Trevor, the president of the company, hits Mickey, Letty sues Malcolm. However, Malcolm's lawyer presents motion picture evidence that proves her case is built on lies that she made the boy relate. The outraged judge orders Mickey to be taken away from Letty. After she pleads with Malcolm, he intercedes with the judge and, because he and his wife Alyce are childless, arranges to adopt Mickey himself. At Letty's urging, Mickey tries to run away from the Trevor estate, and he takes some of Alyce's expensive toilet articles for Letty, but a guard at the entrance catches him. Instead of reprimanding Mickey, Malcolm and Alyce tell him that everything they own is his and make him promise never to run away again. Upset that her son is being won over by the Trevors, Letty tries to take him back, but she is caught and then invited to stay with the Trevors for a few days. Her unscrupulous lawyer schemes to have her seduce Malcolm and record his professions of desire with a hidden apparatus. Although Malcolm at first angrily rebuffs her, calling her a "bad" woman, he finally succumbs and makes love with her one evening. The next day, he tells Letty that he has confessed their affair to his wife and, professing that he loves Letty, offers to divorce Alyce. Letty tries to take Mickey away, but he runs from her to Alyce, who, as Mickey swims in the pool, warns Letty that almost any woman can get almost any man Letty's way, but that it won't last. Alyce then rescues Mickey from drowning. Afterward, as Letty thanks her, Alyce says that what Malcolm wants from Letty is a son, which she, Alyce, cannot give him, and what she is going through now is not too much to bear so that Malcolm will be happy. Moved by Alyce's love for her husband, Letty, who now also loves Malcolm, tells Mickey that she realizes she has been wrong about life and leaves after a tearful goodbye. Hiding her true feelings, she tells Malcolm that yes, she is a bad woman, and that she likes it that way. She then visits Fuzzy, the kindly bookseller who took her in when she was pregnant with Mickey, and asks for her old job back. When she sees Mickey's cradle, which Fuzzy now uses to hold books, Letty cries.
Ann J. Nichols
V. L. Mcfadden
Le Roy Robbins
Joseph M. Schenck
W. J. Scully
Howard C. Wilson
Maurice E. Wright
Darryl F. Zanuck
Born to Be Bad (1934)
Released just six weeks before the MPAA began enforcing the Production Code, Born to Be Bad (1934) is one of Young's raciest films. In his book Complicated Women: Sex and Power in Pre-Code Hollywood, Mick LaSalle calls Born to Be Bad "Young's most down and dirty role...The character was an unwed mother who worked essentially as a call girl for a department store. She got money and free clothes for pleasing the male buyers who came to town." Young later recalled that the role of Letty had been written for Jean Harlow, and that she was afraid she wouldn't be able to pull it off: "This was a woman who just had to walk into a room and men would drop dead." Young needn't have worried. She plays it tough, sexy and unsentimental, making no effort to soften the hard edges of a woman who uses sex to get what she needs for herself and her son. That includes seducing a married man, played by a heavily made-up Cary Grant, in an early role, who delivers the film's campiest line: "You're bad, bad, bad, bad. You're just a beautiful bad girl!"
As much as Born to Be Bad got away with, there were indications of the crackdown that was to come. The film was twice rejected by Production Code officials and sent back for changes before it was finally approved. According to an article in Daily Variety, additional footage had to be shot, but "no way was found to clean up the sex-hexed story without eliminating the blue scenes." Producer Darryl Zanuck protested that pressure to enforce the Production Code was leading the Hayes Office to reject things that would have been acceptable in the past. After Zanuck agreed to further cuts, including several scenes of Letty in her underwear, Born to Be Bad was given a certificate of approval. It's unclear whether that approval was rescinded once strict enforcement of the Code enforcement began.
Born to Be Bad's notoriety was not helped by the film's poor reviews. Variety panned it: "Loretta Young looks better than ever, but the story gave her too much of a handicap to do anything but look well. Her performance might be called satisfactory under the circumstances, but the same doesn't apply to Cary Grant. He gives a colorless, meaningless performance." Mordaunt Hall of the New York Times heaped scorn on the screenplay by actor Ralph Graves. "If this opus is any criterion of Mr. Graves's literary skill, he is scarcely to be congratulated on having temporarily abandoned his acting. It is a hopelessly unintelligent hodgepodge, wherein Loretta Young and Cary Grant have the misfortune to be cast in the leading roles."
Seen today, however, Born to Be Bad holds a lurid fascination. It's a snapshot of a transitional period in American cinema, just before censorship ended a period of frank eroticism in American film. It's an eye-opening look at early performances by two icons, when Loretta Young was sexy and Cary Grant wasn't. And it offers a rare, fearless, no-holds-barred performance by Young that's a vivid contrast to the elegant grande dames she later played.
Producer: Darryl F. Zanuck
Director: Lowell Sherman
Screenplay: Ralph Graves (story and screenplay); Harrison Jacobs (continuity)
Cinematography: Barney McGill
Art Direction: Richard Day, Joseph Wright
Music: Alfred Newman (uncredited)
Film Editing: Maurice E. Wright
Cast: Loretta Young (Letty Strong), Cary Grant (Malcolm Trevor), Jackie Kelk (Mickey Strong), Marion Burns (Mrs. Alyce Trevor), Henry Travers (Fuzzy), Paul Harvey (Attoney Brian), Russell Hopton (Steve Karns), Harry Green (Adolph - Letty's Lawyer).
by Margarita Landazuri
Born to Be Bad (1934)
According to information in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library, this film was rejected by the Hays Office twice before it was finally approved. According to information in the Twentieth Century-Fox Produced Scripts Collection at the UCLA Theater Arts Library, in the original story for the film, dated June 14, 1933, the character "Letty Strong" is called a "customer's girl...a 'clothes horse' who makes her deal with wholesalers to take out and entertain the customer who comes to New York for an out of the way buying trip. She is a 'whoopee' partner. She gets her clothes together with a nominal stipend from wholesalers for each client that she entertains and she makes as much as she can on the side by 'pleasing' the customer." After the film was shot and rejected by the Hays Office, retakes were made, according to a Daily Variety news item, to comply with requests by the Hays Office. Daily Variety noted that additional footage had been shot to get around making major cuts, but "no way was found to clean up the sex-hexed story without eliminating the blue scenes." According to a Daily Variety news item, the retakes were not directed by Lowell Sherman, the original director, who by then was directing another film at Universal. A Hollywood Reporter news item stated that Sidney Lanfield directed one day of added scenes on November 10, 1933 because Sherman was on vacation at the time. It is not known who directed the retakes scenes shot in 1934. When the remade version, in which "Letty's" occupation is only hinted at, was submitted to the Hays Office in April 1934, it was rejected again, "because of its general low moral tone." Darryl Zanuck, 20th Century Pictures' vice-president in charge of production, complained about the judgment in correspondence to Joseph Breen, director of the newly formed PCA. Zanuck charged that the rejection was unfair, and listed a number of recent films, including George White's Scandals, Convention City, Bedside, The Big Shakedown, Search for Beauty and Love, Honor and Oh, Baby!, which, in his opinion, contained "disgraceful smut and slime and vulgar lines." Zanuck contended that the recent pressure on the Hays Office for a stricter interpretation and enforcement of the Production Code May have been the reason for the rejection. He wrote to Breen, "We realize that recently you have been pressed by the M.P.T.O.A. [Motion Picture Theatre Owners of America] delegates and the Catholic Church for clean pictures and that, perhaps, you have received stringent orders to reject many things that you would not even contemplate rejecting in the past. However, we of 20th Century feel that we are hardly the company to be made an example of." Breen responded, saying that the Hays Office "had no thought of trying to 'make an example' of your company" and after admitting "we are not infallible. It May be that our judgment is all haywire," suggested that Zanuck submit their decision to a ruling by the MPPDA Board. Zanuck instead accepted a number of cuts suggested by Breen and other PCA officials. In correspondence with Zanuck, Breen recommended "that you cut as much as possible the shots of Letty in her underwear." He specified that a "shot of Letty seated on the floor, with the upper part of her body covered with a dressing gown, and the crotch of her legs pointed four-square into the face of her child seated on the floor beside her, is very offensive to all four members of this staff" and recommended that Zanuck cut as much as possible shots of Letty and her son wrestling on the floor, which exposed "her legs almost from the hips." After these cuts were made, the PCA gave the film a certificate of approval, and Breen, in a correspondence with MPPDA President Will H. Hays commented, "We achieved the deletion of a good deal of objectionable material, and the replacement of one important key scene in the early part of the story which did a great deal to make acceptable the heroine's peculiar psychology." Although the film was released in May 1934, in February 1935, the film was on a list Breen submitted to Hays of films whose release should be halted. No information has been located to determined if, in fact, this film's release was halted in 1935.
Zanuck stated in a letter in the MPAA/PCA Collection that M-G-M read the script for this film before it was produced and wanted to buy it as a starring vehicle for Joan Crawford. According to Hollywood Reporter news items, director Lowell Sherman was originally scheduled to also play a role in the film; Mickey Rooney tested for the child role, which Hollywood Reporter stated, would have been for him a "crack at the big time"; and Russ Brown was originally scheduled to play the role of "Steve Karns." According to a Daily Variety news item, the studio planned to use Dickie Moore for the retakes, because, they said, Jackie Kelk's physical appearance wasn't right for the part. Kelk, ultimately, was kept in the film. Andrew Tombes is listed in a cast sheet in the Produced Scripts Collection as playing the part of "Max Lieber." In the print viewed, a date is set up for "Letty" with an out-of-town buyer named "Max," but their scenes together are not in the print. It is possible that Tombes's part was cut from the final film. According to modern sources, this was 20th Century Pictures' only financial failure.