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1 review, 2 user ratings

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Purchase Price, The
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by Cochise

"A fascinating look back to the morals and language of a bygone era."
3 stars

This movie was made in the 1930's and it is not boring, but totally great. I am now a fan of Barbara Stanwyck.(I only had to see four other movies she starred in to become a dedicated fan.)

Essentially the film is about two people from different cultures bonding together (after many difficulties) in order to deal with a difficult situation. Joan Gordon, a torch singer, has a relationship with small-time crook Eddie Fields. She gets tired of him and, in order to change her life, becomes the mail-order bride of a farmer.

WARNING - In order to review this film and discuss its meaning, I have to reveal the ending. So . . . if you don't want to know what happens in the end, please don't read this until after you have seen the film.

This film is worth watching because it presents a view of a time far different time from now, and because it is simply a very entertaining story.

After seeing so many films made in the period 1950 - 2002, I found “The Purchase Price” a surprising gem as it gives one an idea of how much the culture of the 1930’s differs from today, particularly in the way men and women related to each other.

One interesting difference between the 1930’s and now as shown in the film was the type of expressions used. One expression the particularly stood out was the term "swell." (When the racketeer character used the term "swell" it made him sound like a nerd.)

The difference in the value of money was also interesting. For example, Barbara Stynwyck's cleaning lady needed only $100 and she could go off and find a husband.

Many movies made in the 1930's are well done because they depended on being a good story. Plot is all important because there was no CGI, surround sound, widescreen format, etc. However, in spite of a good plot, "The Purchase Price" still has weaknesses that should not be there and cannot be excused by the age or style of the film.

The female lead, Joan Gordon (played by Barbara Stanwyck) is a strong independent woman. I felt a woman as independent and strong as she was portrayed in the beginning of the film would not really have become a mail order bride. (However, you could argue that she was trapped by her historical circumstance, and that her getting married was necessary to drive the plot.)

Joan's small time hood boyfriend Eddie Fields (played by Lyle Talbot) was not really shown as a bad guy. He wanted Joan but he was not obsessed with her. He accepted her leaving him, tried to get her back ,and, in the end accepted her marriage, and was even willing to help her when she and her husband were going to lose the farm. He obviously respected her. His character was believable.

Jim Gilson, Joan's husband (played by George Brent) had an ego problem. He was the jealous type and had an unreasonable suspicion and fear that she would be wrongly influenced by Eddie. Jim was a hot-head, and would jump to conclusions and blow his top without waiting to see what was really happening. (This is obvious when he misunderstands Eddie helping Joan and starts to punch him out.)

One weakness in the film was the use of stereotypes for some of the minor characters. One glaring example of this was the stereotype of the rich man ready to take advantage of a defenceless woman (he offers to pay off the farm on which he owns the mortgage if she will come and work for him - the implied sub-text here is that she will give him sexual favors. Another familiar stereotype in the film was the cold banker.

The major weakness of the plot was that it was poorly developed with loose ends. The first loose end is when Jim impulsively attacks Eddie and Jim suffers no consequences for doing so. The second obvious loose end was the fire in the wheat crop. We see the arsonist run off, and, even though we know who it is, that part of the plot just ends there. Finally the last loose end was the ending. We see the Joan and Jim fighting the fire and their crop is ruined. I thought the film will now deal with the way in which the couple would handle the crisis. However, they just hug and the words "The End" come up. This was a big fizzle. I guess we are supposed to figure out that everything worked out in the end, but I was very frustrated.

The strong points in the film are its value as a look into the past and its reasonably entertaining plot. However there is one big weak point, and that is a loose and fizzling plot.

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originally posted: 05/16/02 22:26:14
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User Comments

4/09/18 Suzanne Stanwyck saved this film. 3 stars
3/24/09 brian It takes awhile to find its heart, but builds to a satisfying conclusion. 4 stars
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