review for Thirteen Women on AllMovie

Thirteen Women (1932)
by Hans J. Wollstein review

Of interest mainly because of the spectacular real-life death of one of the title characters, Thirteen Women remains a sometimes confusing and certainly very lurid revenge melodrama. Already commented upon in its day, the film actually only depicts ten women, one of whom, British actress Peg Entwistle, leapt to her death from the famous Hollywoodland sign when RKO failed to pick up her option. The film itself opens well but quickly deteriorates into pure hokum with Myrna Loy once again wasted as a seething "Oriental" (this time half-Javanese, half-Hindu, no less), a role prudently rejected by the studio's first choice, stage star Zita Johann. The women of the title range from the staid Irene Dunne, who survives Miss Loy's homicidal spree, to the hysterical Julie Haydon, a fine actress who deserved better from Hollywood, to the purely decorative Mary Duncan and Kay Johnson, both waning former stars given short shrift by the screenwriters this time around. Producer David O. Selznick knew a clunker when he saw one and delayed the release of the film in order to capitalize on the almost guaranteed success of Dunne's Back Street (1932), a great tearjerker that didn't disappoint. Instead, Thirteen Women became merely a minor cause célèbre due to Miss Entwistle's tragic but imaginative sortie.