Beauty for Sale (1933)

Genres - Comedy  |   Sub-Genres - Slice of Life  |   Release Date - Sep 1, 1933 (USA - Unknown)  |   Run Time - 85 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Review by Bruce Eder

Some eight decades after its release, Beauty For Sale is still worth watching for lots of different reasons, beginning with the sincere, affecting performance by Madge Evans. As a young woman forced by life's circumstances to compromise on the morality with which she was raised, she's very convincing as well as being pretty enough for the part without being unrealistically glamorous. The supporting roles, from Una Merkel as Evans' less introspective best friend on down, are also filled out to perfection, with the supporting and bit players all adding something significant to each scene and the movie as a whole. And the requisite MGM house style, which emphasizes elegance, gets projected to the hilt in the beauty parlor settings at the center of the movie. But then there is director Richard Boleslawski's personal style at work, smoothly elegant camera moves and edits quietly dressing up each scene and making the dialogue seem sharper and snappier than it is -- and the dialogue itself, a product of pre-Code Hollywood with amazing frankness about characters' peccadillos, proclivities, and infidelities, is also a treat, if not nearly as ripe and graphic as what one would have gotten from a Warner Bros. film of this era. Boleslawski pulls it all together, in front and behind the camera, like a conductor of a fine symphony orchestra attuned to his every bidding. The movie is a treat, if not quite in the first-rank of romantic melodramas of its time -- and with its beauty parlor setting and female-heavy cast, it also anticipates some of the tone and texture of George Cukor's The Women (1939), with which it would make a good double-feature.