9 user 6 critic

The Lady Refuses (1931)

Passed | | Drama, Romance | 8 March 1931 (USA)
Father hires a woman to lure his son away from a gold digger.


George Archainbaud


Robert Milton (by), Guy Bolton (by) | 1 more credit »


Complete credited cast:
Betty Compson ... June
John Darrow ... Russell Courtney
Gilbert Emery ... Sir Gerald Courtney
Margaret Livingston ... Berthine Waller
Ivan Lebedeff ... Nikolai Rabinoff
Edgar Norton ... Dobbs - Sir Gerald's Butler
Daphne Pollard ... Millie - Apartment House Maid
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A wealthy London nobleman hires a pretty but poor young girl to distract his playboy son from marrying a golddigger. Complications ensue when the girl and the father begin to fall for each other, and things get even more complicated when the son declares his love for her, too. Written by frankfob2@yahoo.com

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Drama | Romance


Passed | See all certifications »

Did You Know?


[first lines]
First Bobby: [a dark, foggy street in London. Two bobbies are observing a young woman walking along furtively] New one, isn't she Albert?
Albert, Second Bobby: Must be, or she wouldn't be out on a night like this. No weather for a dog.
First Bobby: Nor for no cat, neither!
See more »


Three Little Words
(1930) (uncredited)
Music by Harry Ruby
Played as dance music at the nightclub
See more »

User Reviews

pre-code schme-code
15 February 2017 | by kekseksaSee all my reviews

The tendency amongst early US talkies to have British settings where actors talked "English" (through anxiety about the comprehensibility of "American") was a great boon for all the English actors hanging around Hollywood but it produced some bizarre results. See also the improbable cockney criminal who leads a young Cagney astray in that wonderful film of the same year, The Public Enemy. Cagney, of course, was the living proof that one did not have to speak "English" or enunciate carefully (like his little mum in the same film) but it was while before the penny dropped with the ever-fearful US studios.

In this film, set in London (and seemingly genuinely filmed there at least in part), an extremely British gentleman has a son who for some inexplicable reason has grown up to be a singularly unpleasant, ungentlemanly, fat-headed American of whom he is inordinately fond for no possible reason that one can imagine. Happening by chance upon a somewhat destitute, worse-for-wear American girl (of whom there were doubtless many walking and working the streets of London at the time), he employs her to wean his odious offspring from a lifestyle that seems more stupid than wicked and which is seemingly lived amongst an entire colony of Americans (plus one villainous Russian) that seems mysteriously to have installed itself in London. The woman (no chicken), to her credit, sensibly and unsurprisingly falls for the charming father rather than the gruesome son...but she would really have been a more suitable bride for the butler. Unfortunately this sensible resolution seems to occur to no one.....

The film is almost as much nonsense as is all the rubbish talked about "pre-code" US films. Censorship existed in the US industry well before the Hays code and Hays had devised his code in the late twenties although it was true that it was only patchily enforced before about 1932 but the difference this made was really very slight. What changed rather more were social attitudes in the US, which became steadily more conservative and which resulted in much greater self-censorship. The whole "Hays" system was in fact a process of self-censorship and was of course always in the service of the industry. So the censorship that held sway between the thirties and the fifties (when it all started to fall apart) was really just a conspiracy between increasingly risk-avoiding studios and an increasingly conservative cinema-going public.

But the application of that system was never anything but patchy and, even forgetting the burgeoning number of B-films and exploitation films that completely bypassed Hays and the mainstream circuit, the difference between "pre-code" and "post-code" that so many people like to see is really very largely in their own imagination. Just think for a moment of "post-code" films like Design for Living or Nothing Sacred or Detour and compare them with this supposedly "pre-code" load of twaddle and you will easily appreciate the point.....

The most celebrated literary example of the good-hearted prostitute v hypocrisy was Somerset Maugham's story Sadie Thompson and this was filmed in 1928 but again in 1932 (as Rain) and again in 1946 with some variation and an all black cast by Spencer Williams (as Dirty Gertie from Harlem U.S.A.). Meanwhile it was turned into a Broadway musical (1944-45), parodied in the perfectly awful 1949 film Love Happy and then films in its turn by Curtis Bernhardt in 1952.

Archainbaud was something of a hack but he was not incompetent. The Silver Horde the previous year, a sort of latter-day Klondike western based on a Rex ("The Spoilers") Beach novel, contains some excellent documentary-style footage of the salmon fisheries/canneries although I suspect this may owe a bit to the 1920 film of the same novel by Frank Lloyd (lost?). The earlier film also contains a much more believable and effective portrait of "that type of girl" (excellently played by Evelyn Brent).

With respect to the gent from Sacramento, I think it must be Stephen Fry's performances that are "enhanced" by a similarity to Gilbert Emery rather than the other way round.

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Release Date:

8 March 1931 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

A Lady for Hire See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

RKO Radio Pictures See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Mono (RCA Photophone System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.20 : 1
See full technical specs »

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