The great Carole Lombard’s career ended too soon, but she left some magical and incomparable performances for us to see. She played characters with the perfect combination of awareness, beauty and trustworthiness in the turbulent depression and gangster era of the 1930’s and 1940’s. As the highest paid actress of her time, she certainly merited a trip to the movies.
Most famous for such classics as “Twentieth Century (1934),” “My Man Godfrey (1936)” and “To Be or Not to Be (1942),” Lombard first started acting in silent films beginning in 1921. She made a wonderful film in 1932 called “Virtue,” which features Lombard with Pat O’Brien and Ward Bond. Lombard plays Mae, a reformed prostitute who loves a naive but dedicated taxi driver (O’Brien as Jimmy Doyle). When he discovers Mae’s past, the story follows Mae’s quest for redemption — but her continuing relationship with her former working colleagues strains her marriage to the breaking point.
The police accuse Mae of murder when a prostitute (Shirley Grey) turns up dead after Mae visits her, which spurs Jimmy into action. He resolves to find the killer, but it may be too late to save Mae or the marriage. Lombard’s Mae is tough in her street persona, but sweet and generous as Jimmy’s wife. Lombard is always riveting in her roles, and she looks great in her costumes. It helps that this Columbia Pictures production survives with excellent photography by Joseph Walker, and clear and well-modulated sound.