One of the more striking melodramas of the '30s, it's loosely based on Thomas E. Dewey's sensational prosecution of Lucky Luciano's New York prostitution rackets, with the profession of the women changed to "nightclub hostess" in conformity with the Hays Code. Scripted by Robert Rossen, the film remains surprisingly forceful in its depiction of the brutal treatment meted out to the women who buck the system in any way, betraying its Warner's provenance in the social conscience that seeps in through the gangster movie conventions. Indeed, in Charles Eckert's influential essay "Anatomy of a Proletarian Film: Warner's Marked Woman," he goes so far as to posit the film's wealthy gangsters as the ideologically acceptable objects of the Depression audience's displaced hatred for the affluent. Rossen has always evinced sympathy for those on the lower rungs of the social ladder, and a keen awareness of their fragility in their dependence upon physical attributes and skills to survive, with the mutilation of Davis paralleling the temporary crippling of Paul Newman's pool shark in The Hustler. The film remains tough-minded about the fate of these women even in its conclusion, and the image of the forgotten "hostesses" walking off into the fog as Humphrey Bogart's D.A. chatters away to the press, resonates hauntingly.
by Michael Costello review