The Purchase Price
|The Purchase Price|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||William Wellman|
|Screenplay by||Robert Lord|
|Story by||Arthur Stringer|
|Music by||Leo F. Forbstein|
|Editing by||William Holmes|
|Distributed by||Warner Bros.|
|Running time||68 minutes|
The Purchase Price is a 1932 Pre-Code American film, which was directed by William Wellman and starring Barbara Stanwyck, George Brent, and Lyle Talbot. Adapted from the novel by Arthur Stringer, with a screenplay by Robert Lord, the film is about an attractive nightclub singer who leaves her criminal boyfriend and travels to Canada and becomes the mail-order bride of a humble farmer.
Joan Gordon (Barbara Stanwyck) is a torch singer, performing on Broadway since age 15, who runs away from her high profile gangster boyfriend Eddie Fields (Lyle Talbot), in order to marry Don Leslie (Hardie Albright), an upstanding citizen who can provide Joan with a secure future. However, Don's father has checked-up on Joan's past, and finds out about her relationship with Eddie. When Don dumps her, she decides to run away from town, rather than returning to Eddie. In Montreal, she changes her name and resumes performing. Later, one of Eddie's men recognizes her, and informs his boss. Aware she cannot stay in Montreal forever, Joan trades places with her hotel's maid (Leila Bennett), who had used her picture when corresponding with a struggling North Dakota farmer in the height of the Great Depression. Offering the bride a large sum of money in exchange for the farmer's address, Joan becomes a mail-order bride to the farmer, Jim Gilson (George Brent).
Their relationship has a rocky start, when at the first night, a put off Joan rejects Jim's attempts to make love with her and suggests that they sleep apart. The next morning, she tries to apologize for her behavior, but Jim is not interested. Joan, who over the while falls in love with him, tries to win his affections, although Jim remains unmoved. Meanwhile, he is informed that he will lose his land if he does not make profit anytime soon. Even though he is certain that he has developed great wheat seed that can save him from a downfall, he has to convince fellow farmer Bull McDowell (David Landau), who has offered to buy his land in exchange for Joan's company. Despite never having showed affection for Joan, he is unhappy with another man thriving her attention, and starts a fight with him.
Sometime later, Joan drives out to an old woman who is giving birth. By this time, Joan has already broken with her city-girl image and slowly progressed into a farmer's wife. She helps the old woman and her adolescent daughter Sarah (Anne Shirley), and then races through a snow storm to return to her husband. There, she is informed by Jim that he has taken in a man who was injured during the storm. She finds out that the man is no other than Eddie. She initially pretends not to know him, but Eddie quickly tries to take her with him. Realizing his wife's past is a big lie, Jim concludes that she is worthless and suggests she go with Eddie. Joan refuses to leave him and even asks Eddie for a loan to save Jim's land.
Through the loan, Jim is allowed to pay of his debts until after the harvest. Joan continues to stand at his side, but Jim is unable to forgive her. Meanwhile, Bull has set the farm on fire, and Joan and Jim finally reconcile after Joan sustains injuries due to the fire. Together, they put out the fire, after which Jim admits he does love her.
- Barbara Stanwyck as Joan Gordon
- George Brent as Jim Gilson
- Lyle Talbot as Eddie Fields
- Hardie Albright as Don Leslie
- David Landau as Bull McDowell
- Murray Kinnell as Spike Forgan
- Anne Shirley as Sarah Tipton
During the fight scene between Talbot and Brent, Wellman approached each actor privately with the instruction: "let him have it." The actors worked the fight out between themselves beforehand. However, when Talbot flew back against a wall (as planned), his head struck a nail. "It just bled like mad. They had to take me over to the infirmary and sew me up." Stanwyck's rendition of "Take Me Away" marked the first time she sang onscreen.
The New York Times wrote that "many of its individual scenes are undeniably good, but the effect is of fifteen scenarists collaborating on a story without consulting each other. It seemed a bit hard on the cast." NYT also called it "totally incomprehensible" and "one of the weirdest scenarios within the memory of man." 
Variety thought Stanwyck and Brent were "both 100% miscast", while the Kansas City Star stated that "the picture has more entertainment value than the plot has logic." The reviewer added, "Miss Stanwyck continues to exercise her uncanny ability to make the most phony heroines seem like human beings." 
Time reviewed the film as follows: "The picture hews close to the line of probability ... [R]are until recently has been the cinema heroine who preferred the stupid poor man to the bright city fellow. The viewpoint of The Purchase Price is simple and masculine. It advertises the virtue of hard work and loyalty."
The Purchase Price was released on VHS under MGM's Forbidden Hollywood 1990s label. In addition to four other Wellman Pre-Code films, it was released to DVD as part of Turner Classic Movies's 2009 Forbidden Hollywood, Vol. 3 collection in 2009.
- TCM Spotlight on Forbidden Hollywood
- Cinema: The New Pictures: July 25, 1932, Time
- Turner Classic Movies profile
- The Purchase Price at the Internet Movie Database
- The Purchase Price at the TCM Movie Database
- The Purchase Price at allmovie