A wonderful pre-code film called “Bed of Roses” came out in 1933, and it concerns a prostitute named Lorry Evans, played by Constance Bennett, who lands in New Orleans after serving prison time. There, she steals money from a cotton barge owner named Dan, played by Joel McCrea, and finds a rich “benefactor” played by John Halliday, who plays Steven. Despite her new wealthy lifestyle, she pays back Dan and falls in love with him.
The film, directed by Gregory La Cava, also features Pert Kelton as Minnie, a fellow prostitute with a knack for punchy dialogue. Kelton later went on to play the first Alice in TV’s “The Honeymooners,” so it’s nice to see a much younger version (25 years old) of her witty self. Of course, Constance Bennett can also deliver the witticisms, so the pair teamed up nicely. Two years earlier, Bennett performed in a movie with a very similar plot called “The Easiest Way (1931),” where she loves Robert Montgomery and accepts favors from Adolph Menjou.
In both films, Bennett really wants to reform, but it’s hard to tell the one she loves the truth about her past. Joel McCrea’s Dan seems likely to accept her anyway, since he harbors romantic notions about life on the Mississippi and eating catfish. The plot of Bed of Roses takes great pains to show Lorry’s sincerity in going straight. Still, given that the film starts off with Lorry in prison, it’s a stretch that she would come so far in such a short time.