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Faithless (1932) was supposed to be the film that made a star out of Tallulah Bankhead. After making five unsuccessful movies with Paramount, the studio loaned her out to MGM which attempted to refashion her image for the public. They softened her appearance, dressed her in stylish clothes by Adrienne, and gave her a debonair leading man - Robert Montgomery. They also capitalized on her flamboyant on-stage and off-screen personality by casting her as an uninhibited socialite who lived as she pleased, regardless of the consequences.
But a funny thing happened on the way to the screen. Faithless became a victim of the emerging reform movement in Hollywood. The story -a spoiled heiress loses her fortune and, through a series of financial setbacks, is forced to prostitute herself for her husband - was originally intended as a tart social comedy that poked fun at the idle rich. After the Hays Office demanded script changes, Faithless became a moralistic melodrama in which our carefree heroine was made to pay for her crimes against noble American values. A last-minute happy ending was also imposed on the film which justified all the physical and spiritual degradation that Carol had endured with an unintentionally subversive twist denouement.
Despite positive reviews for her work in Faithless, Bankhead wasn't interested in a contract with MGM or a Hollywood career. Louis B. Mayer wouldn't meet her salary demands anyway and realized she was a public relations nightmare due to her offscreen promiscuity. Indeed, Bankhead could be unpredictable, hilarious and uncensored in press interviews like the time she said to a reporter regarding the Code, "I have followed Mr. Hay's advice and have taken up a completely sexless, nun-like, legs-crossed existence." Simply put, Bankhead refused to play the Hollywood game, called it quits and returned to the stage. She wouldn't appear in another film for eleven years - a cameo in Hollywood Canteen (1943). However, you can still get a glimpse of the wit and feistiness Bankhead was famous for in the early scenes of Faithless.
Director: Harry Beaumont
Screenplay: Carey Wilson (based on the story "Tinfoil" by Mildred Cram)
Cinematography: Oliver T. Marsh
Editor: Hugh Wynn
Cast: Tallulah Bankhead (Carol Morgan), Robert Montgomery (Bill Wade), Hugh Herbert (Mr. Blainey), Maurice Murphy (Anthony Wade), Louise Closser Hale (Landlady).
by Jeff Stafford