Faithless (1932): Pre-Code Romantic Melodrama, Starring Tallulah Bankhead and Robert Montgomery

Faithless is a pre-Code romantic drama, starring Tallulah Bankhead and Robert Montgomery, based on Mildred Cram’s novel Tinfoil.

After five unsuccessful films at Paramount, the studio loaned her to MGM to co-star in Faithless. Hoping to refine her appearance, MGM dressed Bankhead in glamorous gowns by Adrian and gave her a new stylish Garbo-type hairdo.

Spoiled New York socialite Carol Morgan breaks off engagement with Bill Wade (Montgomery) over refusal to live on his modest salary, showing contempt for his work as ad executive.

A sexual encounter seems to resolve their differences until Carol refuses Bill’s offer for a wedding at city hall. The impasse ends with Bill leaving her at her opulent home.

When Carol’s lawyer and financial manager inform that she has lost everything, she reconciles with Bill only to learn that he has lost his job.

Disgusted by Carol’s pampered personality and lifestyle, Bill’s younger brother Tony calls her “useless good-for-nothing,” denouncing her as a “courtesan” and predicting “She’ll end up in the street.”

Carol now lives off wealthy social climbers, and then becomes the mistress of Peter Blainey (Hugh Herbert), whose wife tries to evict her as a disgraced house guest.

Bill traces Carol to an elegant apartment, paid for by Blainey, where he finds her with a rich but brutish benefactor.  Carol then ends her relationship with Blainey and leaves the apartment, telling him that if she cannot win Bill’s forgiveness, she hopes to “square it with myself.”

Virtually penniless, and unable to find a job, Carol becomes desperate for food to the point of selling her shoes to the landlady. She is near collapse from hunger and exhaustion when Bill finds her again and asks her to marry him, telling her that the past is done. Bill tells her that he is now a truck driver, but the company folds, leaving him jobless again; nevertheless, the couple finally marry.

As newlyweds they continue to struggle through hard times until Bill is offered a driving job as a strikebreaker. Strikers, however, threaten him when he arrives for work and later ram his truck with another vehicle as he tries to begin work.

With Bill severely injured in the wreck, Carol is forced into prostitution to pay his medical bills and their living expenses. She accidentally solicits Tony on the street, much to his disgust and Carol’s humiliation. A policeman arrests her, but takes pity on her and helps her get a job as a waitress.

Tony informs Bill that his prediction about Carol’s prostitution is true only to learn that Carol has become his sister-in-law. Carol then comes in and tells Bill that she had intended to confess, adding that she would do it all again given their circumstances.

In the end, Bill forgives Carol and thanks her for saving his life.

The Variety critic represented many others when claiming that Bankhead’s talents were wasted and that the storyline was far too heavy-handed and depressing for audiences who seeking escapism entertainment from their own economic woes.

After Faithless, and the poor reception of all the films she made in 1932, Bankhead went back to the Broadway stage and did not make any film until 1944, when Hitchcock cast her as the lead in Lifeboat.

Tallulah Bankhead as Carol Morgan
Robert Montgomery as William “Bill” Wade
Hugh Herbert as Peter M. Blainey
Maurice Murphy as Anthony “Tony” Wade
Louise Closser Hale as First Landlady
Anna Appel as Mrs Mandel, Second Landlady
Lawrence Grant as Mr Ledyard
Henry Kolker as Mr Carter

Release date: October 15, 1932

Running time: 74 minutes