Cast & Crew
Dick Ives, a wealthy New Yorker, and Anne Vincent, a beautiful and liberated young woman, are lovers. Despite Dick's eagerness to marry Anne, she refuses, afraid to lose the romance in their relationship. When they learn from their friend Georgie Evans and from Dick's father that they have become the subject of scandal, the couple succumbs to social pressure and marries. Their wedding is threatened by one of Anne's ex-lovers, Price Baines, who begs her to reconsider, but Anne refuses to leave Dick. Price tells Anne that he will be waiting when she tires of marriage. After a year of marriage, Dick and Anne are taking each other for granted, and Dick starts seeing another woman, Margie True, who has always been in love with him. Anne learns about his affair when she goes to a nightclub with friends Georgie and Helen Dukie Childes and sees Dick with Margie. Later, he lies to Anne about it, and deeply hurt by his actions, she leaves him and takes her own apartment. Dick and Anne continue to see each other, but when he finds Price at Anne's apartment one day, he begs her to come home with him. When Anne refuses, Dick tells her that from now on he will live his life with complete freedom. Dick plans to go abroad with Margie, but at the last minute he returns to Anne, and they resolve never to separate.
Louis De Angelis
Glen De Vol
Russel S. Hoff
Ralph W. Maddux
Darryl F. Zanuck
Movies have always been censored, from its earliest days in the 1890s where each city had its own censor to act as guardian of public morals, to today's Motion Picture Association of America's (MPAA) film ratings. In 1930, Will H. Hays, the former Postmaster General during the Harding administration, was now acting as head of the forerunner to the MPAA. That year he released what would be known as "The Production Code": a list of what could and could not be seen on screen. Specifically, the Code decreed that: "The sanctity of marriage and the home had to be upheld. Pictures shall not infer that low forms of sex relationships are the accepted or common thing. Adultery and illicit sex, although recognized as sometimes necessary to the plot, could not be explicit or justified and were not supposed to be presented as an attractive option." The Production Code wasn't made mandatory until July 1934. Had it been so in 1931, Illicit would never have been made.
Shot at Warner Brothers in late 1930, Illicit was twenty-four year old Barbara Stanwyck's first starring role. Based on an unproduced play by Edith Fitzgerald and Robert Riskin, it's the story of a woman who is sleeping with her boyfriend and doesn't want to get married because she thinks it will ruin the relationship. After being pressured by his family, the couple get married and their relationship takes a nosedive. Today a film about a woman who doesn't want to get married wouldn't raise an eyebrow, but it was shocking stuff for 1931. Some local censor boards banned the film or any mention of its title.
James Rennie, a stage actor who is probably best remembered as actress Dorothy Gish's husband, plays Stanwyck's boyfriend/husband. Price Baines, the 'other man' in Stanwyck's life, was originally to be played by former matinee idol Lew Cody (himself best remembered as husband to another silent movie star, actress Mabel Normand), but Cody became seriously ill before production began and was replaced by the up-and-coming Ricardo Cortez.
Mordaunt Hall, in his New York Times review of the film, wrote, "In this story, an intelligent adaptation of a play by Edith Fitzgerald and Robert Riskin, the real conqueror is not marriage, but love. Although the happenings in this production are not particularly dramatic or original, the tale is well worked out and whether Richard and Anne are frowning or cheerful, their doings are always interesting. Here and there the episodes strain one's powers of credulity, but as they are part and parcel of the plot one has to accept them. Barbara Stanwyck gives a most effective performance as Anne. James Rennie measures up to what is desired of him in the role of Richard. The inimitable Charles Butterworth, whose comedy is always so welcome, gives an emphatically amusing portrayal of the intemperate Georgie. Ricardo Cortez does quite well in the minor role of Price Baines and Natalie Moorhead lends her flaxen beauty to the part of Margie."
Producer: Darryl F. Zanuck
Director: Archie Mayo
Screenplay: Edith Fitzgerald (play), Robert Riskin (play), Harvey Thew
Cinematography: Robert Kurrle
Film Editing: William Holmes
Music: Harold Arlen, Archie Gottler, George W. Meyer, Sidney D. Mitchell
Cast: Barbara Stanwyck (Anne Vincent Ives), James Rennie (Richard Ives), Ricardo Cortez (Price Baines), Natalie Moorhead (Marjorie True), Charles Butterworth (George Evans), Joan Blondell (Helen Childers).
by Lorraine LoBianco
The Internet Movie Database
All Movie Guide
The play was copyrighted 1 July 1930, but had no New York City Broadway production.
Variety notes that New York censors required cuts and suggests that they May have eliminated subtle touches in the film's story. The file on the film in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library notes that the New York censors objected to the film's title. The files indicate that several states and countries requested cuts in dialogue which makes it clear that Anne and Dick have been intimate with one another, as well as references to a friend's adulterous marriage. Some censors requested that less suggestive angles be used in certain scenes. In a letter to Warner Bros. executive Darryl Zanuck, Jason S. Joy, Director of the Studio Relations Office of the AMPP, suggests that the drinking scenes be cut as they did not seem necessary for the development of the characters. According to Variety, Barbara Stanwyck was borrowed from Columbia for $7,000 a week. According to studio records, Neil Hamilton was intitially signed as "Dick", Lucille Ward as "Susan", and Lew Cody as "Price". Modern sources add Hazel Howell to the cast. Edith Fitzgerald and Robert Riskin's play was used as the basis for Warner Bros. 1933 film Ex-Lady.