The title, chosen as a boxoffice catch-penny, is misleading; but no matter, for here is a picture that without clamor, without pretension, attains what "The Crowd" and "Street Scone" sought begging. Humbly and with humor it tells in simple language its story of the tenements, of a wise-guy radio clerk (James Dunn) and the girl (Sally Ellers) who loves him. Knit closely by the interest created in these characters, and sustained throughout by succeeding moments of tension, "Bad Girl" possesses the signal merit of concentration found wanting in the Vidor productions.
Perhaps there is less of artistry, but whatever with modesty has been attempted has with deftness been accomplished. There is never a straining after effect. There are no steep camera angles, no fog-shrouded skylines, no philosophical implications. And yet by means of a shifting background of figures, director Borzage has surrounded his isolated principals, absorbed in their own affairs, with the reality of city life. Up and down the tenement stairs pass these people -- a drunk, piloting himself upward with splendid balance, and a street-walker hurrying to receive a caller, while below a gray-faced little woman phones to her sister of the death of their mother. The focus of interest is clearly upon these characters as human beings and not as the protagonists in some vast cosmic mystery.
The dialogue is even as skillful as the direction. Pungent with quips and wise-cracks, it snaps from player to player, yet is ever pointed and revealing. This reviewer, not having read the story from which the picture is taken, cannot form a comparison between them, but if Vina Delmar's novel is equal to the film, the dialogue is mighty good entertainment.
The story itself is flimsy enough. A young radio repairman, supposedly immune to women and planning for the day he will possess his own shop, meets the girl, a mannequin, on a pleasure boat. They are soon infatuated with each other. Later she finds she is to become a mother, but the father, not realizing her condition, has sacrificed his hopes of owning his store and has sunk his last cent in a new apartment.
When he learns of their predictment and his wife's fears, he pleads with a famous surgeon to assist them. While the girl is giving birth to their child, the boy is earning the hospital expenses by hiring himself out as a set-up in a prize-fight. The baby is a boy and an heir to the check given by the doctor. Of course it is a weak plot, but the production simply proves what entertaining results can be accomplished through capable directing and clever dialogue.