powered by AFI
Like many other movies of the pre-Code era, the Loretta Young vehicle She Had to Say Yes (1933) is sexually frank in spinning its tale, this one about a Depression-era department store office that employs "customer girls" to dally with out-of-town buyers. When the clients tire of the worldly chorus-girl types used by the store, salesman/supervisor Regis Toomey comes up with the bright idea of using the more innocent young women in the secretarial pool to "sell" the product. Young is one of these, and even though she is romantically involved with Toomey, she agrees to entertain Lyle Talbot as a womanizing, heavy-drinking buyer who begins a relentless pursuit of her.
One of the movie's jaw-dropping moments, before a traditional happy ending, involves Talbot's near-rape of an unconscious Young. In her book A Woman's View, film historian Jeanine Basinger, called She Had to Say Yes "a smarmy, mean little Depression movie" that "puts the capper on showing how women are used by men." A promotional teaser for the movie put it a little more discreetly: "We apologize to the men for the many frank revelations made by this picture, but we just had to show it as it was filmed. The true story of the working girl."
The 20-year-old Young's blend of innocence and sexual allure made her perfect casting for her role. This was the hard-working actress's eighth of nine pictures released in 1933, and her final one under a contract with Warner Bros. that began in 1929. It was her second film with Talbot (the first was The Life of Jimmy Dolan, also released in 1933), and there were rumors of a brief romance during filming.
Dance director Busby Berkeley made his directorial debut here, sharing the credit with veteran editor/director George Amy. Berkeley would say later that he "learned a lot from George about the technical business of cutting and editing, which helped me greatly in building my own technique." Berkeley also had kind words for his star: "Loretta, with those marvelous big gray eyes of hers, was a charming girl to work with. She had...a ladylike quality that is rather uncommon among actresses."
Character actress Winnie Lightner, in the role of Young's pal Maizee, has some of the movie's best lines. At one point she informs an overeager suitor that "I'm from the Virgin Islands." And she warns a fellow "customer girl": "Look out. A bonus isn't the only thing you can get from an out-of-town buyer!"
Directors: George Amy, Busby Berkeley
Screenplay: Rian James, Don Mullaly, based on the story "Customer's Girl" by John Francis Larkin
Cinematography: Arthur L. Todd
Editing: George Amy
Art Direction: Esdras Hartley
Cast: Loretta Young (Florence 'Flo' Denny), Winnie Lightner (Maizee), Lyle Talbot (Daniel 'Danny' Drew), Regis Toomey (Tommy Nelson), Hugh Herbert (Luther Haines), Ferdinand Gottschalk (Sol Glass).
BW-66m. Closed Captioning.
by Roger Fristoe