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"Born to be Bad"

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Cast: Loretta Young (Letty Strong), Cary Grant (Malcolm Trevor), Jackie Kelk (Mickey Strong), Henry Travers (Fuzzy), Russell Hopton (Steve Karns), Andrew Tombes (Max L'eber), Howard Lang (Doctor Dropsy), Harry Green (Adolph), Marion Burns (Alice Trevor)

- by ZoŽ Shaw
Letty is engaged in the rapid accumulation of money, and has a wayward son. Fuzzy had taken her in to show her the error of her ways, but it hadn't worked. The boy is hurt by Malcom's truck and the mother attempts to obtain damages. Instead her son is taken away from her and Malcolm and his wife (Alice) look after him. Malcolm has an affair with Letty, induced by her, which she attempts to use against him to get her son back. It doesn't work, so she leaves and goes to work for Fuzzy.

- by Debbie Dunlap
And wasn't it just a shock to see Loretta Young be such a naughty young thing!? 
Mal: "You're a bad, bad girl, Letty. A beautiful bad girl."

Loretta plays Letty, a young woman who ended up pregnant, unmarried and on the streets at fifteen. Bitter and determined that her child will not grow up to be taken advantage of, Letty teaches her child, Mickey, to lie, steal, cheat and anything else he'll need to be street smart. We meet Letty when Mickey is 7-1/2. Mal (Cary Grant) enters the picture when his truck and Mickey, who is hanging on to the back of a delivery truck and being pulled along the streets on his roller skates, collide. Mickey is not injured badly, but when Letty discovers that Mal is rich, she concocts a scheme to take Mal to the cleaners. When her plot is uncovered, Letty is also discovered for the unfit parent that she is, and Mickey is taken away from her. Mal and his wife Alice, unable to have children of their own, take Mickey in and give him a father's love, a true mother's love, and a home he can call his own. Even though Letty has access to Mickey whenever she wants, she is jealous of Mickey's growing attachment to these two good people and she still sees Mal as a ticket to riches. Letty seduces Mal, records the seduction and then plans to blackmail Mal. Upsetting her plans is the fact that Mal immediately tells his wife, and Alice's acceptance of the relationship. Letty learns a painful lesson in selfless love and finally sees that what is best for Mickey is more important than her own plans.

VARIETY Film Review - June 5, 1934
- by "Bige"
- submitted by Barry Martin
This story is so bad in completed picture form, it's hard to see how it was thought to contain enough merit to warrant production in the first place.  From the director, Lowell Sherman, to one of the co-stars, Loretta Young, and including the producers, a lot of first rate effort went into the making; but all wasted.

Unnatural mother love, delinquent juvenile behavior and strange adult thinking are the elements that serve both to make and ruin the plot.  It is trash writing and the dialog added to it is hardly better.

A 15-year-old unwed mother has a baby boy, and she brings him up in such a way that, in her opinion, he will be fortified against the grief she has gone through.  The boy under her guidance becomes a sneak-thief, and a rowdy.  The mother countenances all his antics, meanwhile going about her own shady activities.  

The rich man enters the picture.  He's the kind of a rich man who owns a stupendous dairy business and drives a truck himself now and then 'just to keep in touch with all departments of my business.'  While truck driving one day he runs over the kid.  The kid's mother tries to frame a big settlement, but is exposed in court.  Anyway, the rich man adopts the boy.  Then the mother goes on the make for the rich man, gets him in spite of his very nice but too generous and unreal wife - but at the finish the mother-on-the-make realizes her mistake, repents, and scrams.

Loretta Young looks better than ever, but the story gave her too much of a handicap to do anything but look well.  Her performance might be called satisfactory under the circumstances, but the same doesn't apply to Cary Grant.  He gives a colorless, meaningless performance.  Jackie Kelk, seemingly about seven or eight years old, must be a clever kid to be able to become so dislikeable before the picture is five minutes old, as he does here.  Balance of cast, as well as the production and Lowell Sherman's deft but wasted directing, all much too good for the script.  

NEW YORK TIMES Film Review - May 30, 1934
- by Mordaunt Hall
- submitted by Barry Martin
Ralph Graves, who has given several fairly interesting performances in motion pictures, is responsible for the narrative of "Born to be Bad," the new occupant of the Rivoli screen. If this opus is any criterion of Mr. Grave's literary skill, he is scarcely to be congratulated on having temporarily abandoned his acting. It is a hopelessly unintelligent hodgepodge, wherein Loretta Young and Cary Grant have the misfortune to be cast in the leading roles.

The story concerns Letty Strong (Miss Young), a callous, unwed mother, whose enfant terrible, Mickey, is adopted by Malcolm Trevor, a wealthy married business man. As Mickey is a slangy, unattractive boy, who is given to roller skating in the house, and, when it serves his purpose, stealing anything that looks valuable, it does seem strange that Mr. and Mrs. Trevor should take an interest in the youngster. But Letty, whose vocabulary reflects her hardened personality, is good-looking, which fact has a great deal to do with this inept bundle of hysteria and implausibility.  

- by Kathy Fox
BORN TO BE BAD is Cary Grant's 15th film, his only one with Fox/United Artists and his first of two starring with Loretta Young, the other being THE BISHOP'S WIFE released 13 years later in 1947.  When I first watched this film, I was not very much impressed with it, but several months later, I happened to pop the cassette into my VCR and really concentrated on it.  Loretta Young is very stunning in her role as Lettie.  She plays a single mother trying to raise a troubled child.  The two of them are con-artists and they try to dupe Malcolm Trevor, a wealthy businessman, out of money when her son, Mickey, is accidentally hit by a truck driven by Trevor (Grant) who happens to be the president of the company.  The courts take the child away from Lettie, and Trevor, having no children of his own, adopts the child.  Of course, Lettie plays Trevor for all it's worth, even maneuvering herself into Malcolm's home, where he falls for her, wanting to abandon his own wife who could not provide him with a child.  Lettie grows up when she realizes that Malcolm's wife is willing to give her husband up to her because she could not give him a child.  In the end, Lettie walks out and leaves her son with Trevor and his wife.  I found this story very poignant because Lettie wants her son, but is "born to be bad" and realizes Mickey will have a much better life if he stays with the wealthy Trevor family.  I believe in this movie, made in 1934, that shades of Cary start to emerge and that is most fascinating to watch.  This is the shortest movie Cary ever made in that it is 61 minutes long. 

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