A House Is Not a Home (1964) Poster

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A sad, even poignant look at the world of prostitution.
jimimac24 June 2005
This is not a great movie, but it is not a bad movie either. It looks more like a movie made in 1944 than one made in 1964. The fact that it is in black and white probably adds to that feeling.

Shelly Winters does a good job with the script she has to work with. It has some cute scenes and some omissible ones Good costumes, and workable scenery. If you are looking for an accurate portrayal of Polly Adler or even a good story based on the book, this movie comes up lacking. But like a lot of not great movies, it is very watchable.

Lots of great actors appear in cameo roles in this movie, making it a good movie to say, "I never knew he/she made a movie like this."

I saw this movie in the theater and it has taken me 40 years to see it again. While I liked it better the first time, it provides a good trip down memory lane and one I am very glad to have in my collection.
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Polly Want A Sponsor
bkoganbing12 August 2007
The problem I found with A House Is Not A Home is that it was made at the worst time possible. Ten to fifteen years earlier the cast would have been better suited for their roles. Ten to fifteen years later and the Code would have been gone and a more honest film might have emerged.

Shelley Winters a tad younger would have been perfect casting in the part of New York City's famous bordello madam. Still she does the best she can with the part. Folks like Robert Taylor, Cesar Romero, and Broderick Crawford are too old for the roles they played and show it. Romero plays Lucky Luciano who was in his late thirties when Thomas E. Dewey sent him to prison not in his fifties as Romero is, distinguished as he always looked.

According to The Films of Robert Taylor, he was not happy with his work here, but took the role because he had a young family to support. And a more brutally honest film was something he'd never have consented to appear in anyway.

Some young actresses who played Polly's girls gave some over the top performances. Understandable they didn't have careers of any substantial length.

A House Is Not a Home will not be remembered by Robert Taylor's fans as one of his great films and it was a bad bump in the road in the career of Shelley Winters.
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Call her madam
moonspinner5519 September 2015
Shelley Winters plays Polly Adler, real-life New York City cathouse proprietress in the 1930s who fell inadvertently into the sex-for-sale business after seeking help from a big-time bootlegger following a rape and an eviction. Although adapted from Adler's (ghostwritten) autobiography, this entertainingly tawdry movie plays more like an adult version of TV's "Playhouse 90" rather than a salacious expose. Dotted with 'shocking' words ("I'm a WHORE!"), and saddled with a bland production design so generic it's often difficult to get a reading on the characters, it isn't any wonder the only aspect of the film to survive the years is its title tune, written by Hal David and Burt Bacharach. Winters is fine in the latter portion of the plot (and does well with a teary telephone scene in the final reel), but she's hopeless when depicting the more demure Polly in her early years. Raquel Welch makes one of her first movie appearances as one of Polly's girls (she's usually found hovering on the edges of group shots), while Cesar Romero plays gangster "Lucky" Luciano as if he were running for office. ** from ****
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A cleaned-up "House" is nothing to write home about
melvelvit-128 April 2010
I could have sworn I saw the name Joseph E. Levine in the opening credits but it's not listed in his IMDb CV which is strange since I was reminded throughout of Joe's sanitized, highly fictionalized biopix, HARLOW and THE CARPETBAGGERS, filmed like an episode of TV's THE UNTOUCHABLES. Based on the best-selling memoirs of the Roaring Twenties' most notorious madam, Polly Adler, A HOUSE IS NOT A HOME was a hoot and a half thanks to too-old-for-the-role Shelley Winters' silly bag of thespic tricks. Make that schticks. As a teen-aged Polish immigrant working in a sweatshop, a kerchiefed Shelley acts like Lucy Ricardo in the chocolate factory and when she meets gangster Robert Taylor (looking haggard and embarrassed) and is too shy to speak, she comes off as more than mildly retarded. Young Polly on her dates looks like the guys are out with their mother and there's one particular scene in a parked car that reminded me of Kim Stanley's embarrassing teen turn in THE GODDESS which, ironically, was a role Shelley would have been perfect for. As pretty (?) Polly rises from naive noodnik to NYC's most influential madam thanks to Bob's sponsorship, the underworld meet the elite while political deals are struck in a brothel that looks more like a parlor call from the parish priest than a house of pleasure. Here's a contemporary review:

"Something was missing in this picture and to be blunt about it, the missing ingredient is sex! There is hardly a suggestion of it. It may or may not discourage impressionable young girls from a life of sin, but it certainly is enough to keep anyone away from the movie!"

Outside of the anecdotal (which couldn't be told), there wasn't much of a story so the movie becomes one long cautionary tale on the perils of prostitution which must have pleased the soon-to-be-out-of-a-job censors no end. Polly's girls reap only drug addiction and suicide while Shelly wrings her hands trying to help and the subtle-as-a-sledgehammer message is a woman who goes that route forfeits any right to love and happiness. The ladies looked lovely, however, and although Edith Head's gowns paid no attention to period detail, I caught a quick glimpse of Raquel Welch filling out one of them but I couldn't spot Edy Williams except in a photograph during the opening credits. It's directed by Russell Rouse, the auteur responsible for the 1966 laugh riot, "The Oscar", and has a Burt Bacharach title tune I forgot as soon as it was over. Helping to lend a TV air to it all were "special guest stars" (love them) like Broderick Crawford and Cesar Romero (as Lucky Luciano) paying lip service to near non-existent plot development but whenever my tastes are accused of being too lowbrow, I usually point with pride to the Academy Award-winning Shelley Winters. Why?? Shelley's down there with the best of them and although she's very good at things like blowzy, I now find her range rather limited -and that's OK. "Com'on Polly, do Theda Bara!" Indeed.
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Tramps Running a Whore House
jazzybill4 January 2003
I thought the movie was all right I voted an 8 for the movie. I saw it for the first time last year. I am just happy I have this movie in my collection of old classic movies. It is always a treasure to add old classic movies to your collection.
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Looking to purchase a house is not a home
dote718522 December 2007
It's been well over 40 years for me as well since i have last seen this movie, but i remember it well. I have been trying desperately to locate this movie. Reel to reel, beta or VHS. Can someone out there please contact me at my e-mail address regarding the purchase of this movie. It means a lot to me. What I remembered most was Shelley Winters strong performance as always and raw "grittyness" of the film. If anyone can point me in the right direction of where i can purchase this film i would greatly appreciate it. Since Embassy pictures is no longer, it has been hard to track down the ownership of the libraries who may currently have this movie. Again, anyone out there, HELP!
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"I'm a whore!!! Whore!!!!"
MartinHafer25 December 2016
"A House is Not a Home" is a piece of pure 1960s trash. However, it's set apart from other such pictures because, inexplicably, decent mainstream actors appear in the movie. How they got Robert Taylor, Shelly Winters, Caesar Romero and Broderick Crawford to appear in this film is beyond me!

When the film begins, Polly (Shelly Winters) is a poor, struggling nice girl in 1930s Chicago. However, when she is raped, she is tossed out of her house and is forced to find a place to live. Frank (Taylor) offers to share an apartment with her. However, over time she slowly begins to help Frank by throwing parties for him and his bootlegger associates...and soon these become more regular and Polly finds herself a madame! She likes the work and doesn't need to sleep with anyone. Not surprisingly, complications arise and the glamorous life of a madame isn't all it's cracked up to be.

Through the course of the film, it alternates between drama, melodrama, sleazy exploitation movie as well as a comedy...and the way the film changes so rapidly is unconvincing and weird. Sadly, some of the funniest scenes are supposed to be poignant--such as the smack- addicted prostitute as well as the New Years celebration. Interspersed throughout the film is some incredibly preachy narration by Polly....again, meant to be poignant but eliciting laughter instead! Awkward and uncomfortable to say the least...as well as about as subtle as a board upside the viewer's head!! It's loud, over-the- top and utterly ridiculous trash...much like you'd see in "Valley of the Dolls". How this film isn't more infamous, I have no idea...but it's really bad and you have to see it to believe it! Entertaining garbage and nothing more.
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Madam Polly Adler
rozette12 April 2017
Shelley Winter's portrays a madam named Polly Adler. She portrays the part of a lonely madam in during the roaring twenties of vice and corruption. She wanted love after being raped, this always eludes her into an unhappy ending. Such is life you want bells and whistles don't watch this movie?!
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A House is not a film
brefane26 September 2016
Despite its source, A House Is Not a Home, based on the life of notorious madam Polly Adler, is devoid of insight, conflict or character. Russell Rouse who directed the camp classic The Oscar is defeated by the script and low budget. The film lacks pace and atmosphere and plays like a TV drama limited to a few sets with hardly any exterior shots. Polly's girls and their clients are the usual assortment of junkies, cops, politicians and gangsters. The film's theme song by Burt Bacharach and Hal David remains a standard while the film itself is strictly sub standard. It's Raquel Welch's film debut, but she, like Edy Williams, is most visible in the stills that accompany the titles. The unsinkable Winters appeared in a variety of films during the 60s including Lolita, Alfie, A Patch of Blue, Wild in the Streets, The Mad Room, The Balcony and The Chapman Report, and though she is unconvincing as young Polly, she gives this lackluster film some energy.
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