Gwen Rawlings (Jean Kent) is a teenage girl with a rough life. Her father is abusive, and she loses her job at a pawn shop after her boss catches her borrowing a brooch to wear to a dance.
Completely down on her luck, Gwen packs up her things and moves into a boarding house so she can get away from her father, but she still must find work somewhere.
Jimmy, a man she meets at the boarding house, helps her get a job at the hat-check station of a nightclub.
Things seem to be looking up for Gwen at first. She’s got a new job, a roof over her head, and a few friends. But those friends turn out to be a terrible influence on her, leading her to a life of violence and crime even less favorable than the life she had with her parents.
David MacDonald directs 1948’s Good-Time Girl, a British drama based on the novel Night Darkens the Street by Arthur Le Bern. Starring alongside Jean Kent are Dennis Price and Herbert Lom.
As you may have guessed from the synopsis, Good-Time Girl is a cautionary tale of a life gone terribly wrong. The film actually begins not with Gwen, but with a conversation between juvenile court worker Miss Thorpe (Flora Robson) and a young girl named Lyla (a baby-faced Diana Dors) who has found herself in trouble. Miss Thorpe recounts Gwen’s story in order to persuade Lyla not to continue on a downward spiral. We see Lyla and Miss Thorpe at the beginning and end of the film only, with the rest of the running time dedicated to a flashback of Gwen’s life.
With the way the film opens and closes, I must give it credit for being quite self-aware. In choosing to introduce Gwen’s story through a conversation between a respectable authority figure and a young girl on the edge of trouble, there is no question where the story is going or whether Gwen is being used as a “what not to do” example. We know right away that bad things are going to happen for Gwen in the flashback, and of course the whole film carries an “It could happen to YOU!” vibe, giving the audience the same lecture that Lyla is receiving.
Unfortunately, I didn’t find myself terribly moved by this film’s message, nor did I find myself convinced of Good-Time Girl‘s merit. Everything about it is average, from the performances to the cinematography to the incredibly predictable script.
I don’t mind a formulaic film every now and then as long as there’s at least a little something that sets it apart, but here there is nothing that works to elevate the film from its typicality.
Jean Kent does give a solid performance in the role of Gwen. It’s the best performance of the film, but it isn’t enough to save the whole picture.
The film also moves pretty slowly. Gwen’s story has the potential for tension and gripping drama, but that potential is ignored in favor of a standard tale of a down-on-her-luck lady getting sucked into a life of crime.
Good-Time Girl is nothing more than a decent watch, and with a running time of 81 minutes, “decent” isn’t always enough to hold the viewer’s attention. There are better juvenile delinquency dramas around, both of the serious and of the corny type. The score: 2/5