Faithless (1932): Beaumont’s 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.

Grade: C+ (** out of *****)

Poster - Faithless 01.jpg

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. The impasse ends with Bill leaving her.

When Carol’s lawyer and financial manager informs that she has no money, she reconciles with Bill only to learn that he had 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 evicts her as disgraced house guest.

Virtually penniless, and unable to find a job, Carol becomes desperate for food to the point of selling her shoes. She is near collapse from hunger and exhaustion when Bill asks her to marry him, forgiving and forgetting the past. When the company folds, leaving Bill jobless again, but the couple finally marry.

As newlyweds, they continue to struggle through hard times until Bill is offered a driving job as strikebreaker. Strikers, however, threaten him, 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 about Carol’s prostitution, only to learn that Carol has become his sister-in-law. Carol then comes in and confesses, but in the end, Bill forgives her, grateful she had saved his life.

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 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 in the lead role 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

Directed by Harry Beaumont
Written by Carey Wilson, based on Tinfoil by Mildred Cram
Cinematography Oliver T. Marsh
Edited by Hugh Wynn
Production company: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Distributed by Loew’s Inc.
Release date October 15, 1932
Running time 74 minutes.