In my endless pursuit to find and watch as many Pre-Code films as I can, I came across Lilly Turner. I am not sure if I would have recorded it if George Brent had not been the male lead. I am very happy I recorded Lilly Turner was a very good Pre-Code.
Lilly Turner (Ruth Chatterton) is marrying a man her mother does not approve of. Her mother does not approve because Lilly and Rex have only known each other for a short time. Rex is an actor. Lilly thought they were going to New York City after they were married. Instead Rex breaks it to Lilly that they have to travel around the country for a while so he can get a job. He gets a job in a traveling circus and Lilly becomes his assistant. After a while on the road Rex constantly cheats on Lilly.
Lilly tells Rex that she has to back out of the show because she is going to have a baby. One day Rex sneaks back into the apartment and packs his clothes. The police come by and tell Lilly that Rex is under arrest for bigamy he had been married years ago. He and Lilly are not really married. After this her friend David married her for the baby. Unfortunately the baby dies. Lilly is not as upset as she should be because she thinks of the life the poor baby girl would have had.
She and Dave go out on the road again. The boss asks her to go out with him for the night. She tries to resist at first but gives in when she sees David passed out on the floor drunk. The following day Lilly decides she and David are quitting. They get a job with a Dr. McGill selling phony medicine. Both the “doctor” and the strongman Fritz try to get with Lilly. She fights them off with toughness and sarcasm. The show moves on to another town. In the town in the audience is a guy named Bill Chandler (George Brent). When Lilly comes out on the stage Bob winks at her and she winks back. Fritz is not feeling very well. David goes to get a real doctor. McGill fires David for what he did but Lilly says if he goes she goes. Lilly walks out the backdoor and sees Bob there waiting for her.
Fritz is declared insane and he has to be sent to an asylum. No one was to tell Fritz this information but David in a drunken stupor tells the poor man this information and he freaks out. He knocks David to the floor. Lilly in a panic calls Bob in to come help. Bob picks up Fritz around his shoulders without a problem. Dr. McGill hires Bob as the new strongman. On the road to another town the truck that Bob and Lilly are in gets stuck in the mud during a bad storm. She tells him that she and David are married and that he did it to do a nice thing their marriage means nothing.
Meanwhile in the asylum Fritz keeps calling out for Lilly. Apparently he has been violent. The doctor tells security if he gets violent to put him in a straight jacket. Fritz sees there is a window in his room, he breaks the bars on the window and escapes.
In a diner in a small town one night Lilly is confronted by a man who knew her. She lies about knowing the man. Bob is get mad over what he sees and leaves the show. He does not return to the show for weeks. When he does come back eventually he helps Lilly off the stage and kisses her. He tells her that nothing she did in the past matters to him.
Bob tells Lilly he has gotten a job to work on a dam in an inner city. He wants her to come with him. She tells him she cannot go because she has to look out for David she still feels she owes. Bob tells Lilly she owes David nothing now she has paid him back.
Frtiz shows up back in town. David is the first one to see him but no one believes him because he is always drunk. Fritz comes into the room. He is mad at David, he thinks he took Lilly away from him. Bob tries to fight Fritz for a bit but gets knocked to the ground. Fritz finds David and pushes him out a window. David’s back is fractured there is no way that Lilly can leave him now. At this Bob cancels his reservation to go down to New Mexico because he cannot bear to be without Lilly.
The ending such crap. I was so upset with the ending the film and story were going so well. I guess the ending is good to a point because I was expecting and hoping David would have died and then Bob and Lilly could have lived happily ever after together in Mexico City.
Ruth Chatterton was perfect as Lilly Turner. She was tough without going overboard. The way Chatterton carried herself as the character is so real. I admired Lilly Turner from beginning to end she was such a good character. George Brent was very good. I liked seeing him showing a little muscle with his wife beater on. I like seeing Brent as the supporting male character to these staring female actresses in the 1930s. He was a good actor that looked and acted well with any leading lady he was opposite.
Lilly Turner was a very good Pre-Code. I liked the story. I liked how this woman kept getting beaten down but she stayed up with the help of toughness and sarcasm. Unfortunately Lilly Turner is not available on DVD or Youtube. If TCM airs the film again definitely give it a watch.