Born to Be Bad (1934)

Born to Be Bad (1934): 4/5

Let’s be honest, we all know what attracted me to this movie. Two words: CARY. GRANT. I’ll watch anything he’s in.

His leading lady is Loretta Young, who portrays a young, unmarried mother named Letty Strong. Letty relies on her looks and wit to provide for her son, dating and dining with a number of sugar daddies.

Cary stars as Malcom Trevor, a married and very rich man.

In the beginning of the film, Malcom and Letty don’t know each other (actually, quite a large chunk of the film, considering that it’s only about an hour long in total), but a twist occurs that intersects the lives of the characters.

Cary is fantastic as usual. His character here is not like the handsome, charming men he is usually known for. He is still handsome and charming, but his character takes a turn from ultra-nice do-gooder to a flawed, adulterous man.

Loretta’s character, on the other hand, is completely bad to the bone. Her transformation is, in a way, opposite to Malcom’s. She gains a few morals by the end of the film.

This is certainly worth a watch, if for no other reason that to see a well-executed early performance from Cary, before he gained full-on leading man status. The supporting cast is not very strong, aside from Marion Burns (who portrays Malcom’s wife), so the performances of Cary and Loretta really carry the film (no pun intended).

Overall, the film is very interesting. It raises moral issues and holds the message that beauty does not always correlate with goodness. Loretta Young is glamorous and pretty, but throughout most of the film, the viewer hates her for how she acts.

The characters go through transformations that show both the light and dark within their personalities — an element that became much less common as the production code was implemented and the lines between “good” and “bad” were clearly drawn.

5 thoughts on “Born to Be Bad (1934)

  1. I too love Cary Grant. After watching the Oscars you realize that they just don’t make ’em like they used to!!
    I still have not seen “The Artist”. It never came to any theaters near me :(
    Did you see it?


    1. I saw it, and loved it enough to see it two more times in the theater! I’ve heard that it won’t be coming out on DVD until May, which totally bums me out because I need it in my collection.

      I’m so elated that a silent film won best picture, and not just a silent film, but a very lovely one! If you’re into silent film and its stars at all, you’ll appreciate a lot of the little references they worked into it, like the use of Mary Pickford’s home as a set. The film’s portrayal of the shift into talkies is phenomenal. But I won’t give too much away!

      You’re right though, they just don’t make ’em like they used to! It’s unfortunate. There are a few people who I like well enough, but the only person I see real potential in is Jessica Chastain.


  2. That’s sound great and I’m sorry to hear it’s not coming out until May. I wonder if they might bring it out in more theaters before that release date. That would be fine with me then I could see it on the big screen!
    I really think that there are many more great television actors than there are movie actors.


    1. I’m really hoping they’ll speed up the DVD release since it won, though. If not, another wide release of it would be fine by me. I’m not sure what the theater situation is like where you are, but it played at the AMC here for a while. I look forward to reading your thoughts on it, once you finally get the chance to see it!

      I’m not into many television shows. I do enjoy Mad Men quite a lot, but most of the television that I watch is classic – Gidget, Happy Days, The Twilight Zone, et cetera. Who do you see potential in on the small screen?


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