The Gorgeous Hussy purports to be based on the life of Margaret "Peggy" O'Neill, the controversial wife of early 19th-century politician John Eaton, who served as cabinet minister during the Andrew Jackson presidency. Snubbed by the Washington elite because of her questionable background as a tavernkeeper's daughter, "Pothouse Peg" is championed by her longtime friend Jackson, who chooses to ignore the gossip-mongers and the scandal-provokers of the era. He even stands by Peggy's side when one of her admirers (Melvyn Douglas) is ignominiously killed by his enemies. Some historians believe that the "gorgeous hussy" and Jackson were themselves lovers, but this is never hinted at in the film, which is described in a foreword as "fiction founded upon historical fact." Joan Crawford wears an exhausting succession of gorgeous gowns as Peggy Eaton, but she can't do much to enliven her sketchily written role; one is aware that she brings disgrace to everyone she meets, but one is hard-pressed to understand why. Much better within the framework is Lionel Barrymore as Jackson, Beulah Bondi as "Old Hickory"'s pipe-smoking wife, Rachel, and Sidney Toler (two years away from Charlie Chan) as Daniel Webster. James Stewart is also in the film as one "Rowdy" Dow, a role he later chose to forget.
by Hal Erickson synopsis