Ten Cents a Dance
Cast & Crew
Barbara O'Neill is the prettiest and most popular woman at the "Palais de Dance," a dance hall in New York City. Bradley Carlton, a wealthy patron, visits Barbara, and for no reason gives her $100. When Barbara then asks Bradley for a favor, he agrees to give her friend and neighbor, Eddie Miller, a job and they have dinner. When Barbara arrives home, she sees Eddie packing because he cannot afford to pay his rent. Barbara gives him the $100 and tells him about the job she has arranged. Later, Eddie and Barbara meet in the park and realize that they are in love. Back at the dance hall, Barbara receives a new dress, but is disappointed to find out that it is from Bradley. Then Eddie arrives and asks Barbara to marry him. Barbara agrees and quits her job. After five months of marriage, Eddie meets Ralph Sheridan, an old friend, and his sister Nancy, and does not tell them that he is now married. They play a game of cards that leaves Eddie $240 in debt, but, because he and Barbara are poor, he keeps the debt secret from her. Meanwhile, Barbara has returned to work at the dance hall, where she occasionally sees Bradley. While Eddie claims to be at a convention, he meets Nancy. Eddie returns to find the rent and utilities past due because he has spent his pay gambling. Later, Barbara finds Eddie packing and he admits that he stole $5,000 from Bradley's office safe, then lost it playing the stock market. Barbara talks him into staying and goes to Bradley to ask for a $5,000 loan. Bradley gives her the money because he loves her, even after she explains why she needs it. The next morning, Barbara presents the money to Eddie, who greedily accepts it, knowing where it came from. When Eddie comes home from work, he throws a fit of jealousy, and Barbara packs her things and returns to the dance hall. Then Bradley arrives with two tickets for the Ile de France , so that Barbara may obtain a divorce and marry him.
Abe Lyman And His Band
Ten Cents a Dance
Ten Cents a Dance was the second picture of the deal (the first, Illicit , was made on loan out to Warner Bros.) and cast Stanwyck as Barbara O'Neill, a streetwise taxi dancer who has become bored with her work at a tawdry nightclub even though she is the most popular girl on the floor. She is pursued by a wealthy tycoon, Bradley Carlton (Ricardo Cortez), who wants to shower her with expensive gifts but she keeps him at arm's length with her virtue intact. Instead, her heart belongs to Eddie Miller (Monroe Owsley), a boarder in her rooming house who has fallen on hard times. We can tell from the get-go that Barbara's affections are misplaced and that Eddie is a no-good bum but that doesn't stop Barbara from marrying the jerk and suffering the consequences. Eddie can't find work but forbids Barbara to return to taxi dancing so she uses her influence to find him office work at Bradley Carlton's company. Soon bad investments made on the advice of "friends" and gambling debts drive Eddie to embezzle money from Carlton and when confronted tries to blackmail the executive on accusations of infidelity with his wife. Meanwhile, Barbara has left Eddie and returned to work at the dancehall but her days as a working girl are numbered and the film has a predictably happy fadeout.
For a movie made during the Pre-Code era, Ten Cents a Dance is not as racy as some of its contemporaries such as 1933's Baby Face (which also starred Stanwyck), but it is fairly obvious that the dancehall is little better than a brothel, attracting sex-hungry men and underage employees. The first half of the film is lively and reflects the restless energy of its urban settings with Stanwyck, chewing gum, and delivering plenty of cynical wisecracks. For such a shrewd, experienced operator, Barbara's inability to see through the untrustworthy Eddie is the major flaw of the film but even if the second half collapses under the weight of too many melodramatic clichés, some of the dialogue remains snappy and smart.
The tone is set in the opening sequence when two sailors wander into the dancehall and wander over to Stanwyck and her female companion, asking, "What's a guy gotta do to dance with you girls?" to which Barbara responds without missing a beat, "All you need is a ticket and some courage." Later, when Carlton, pays a return visit to the club and questions her choice of employment, asking "What are you doing? Writing a book?", she dismisses the question with "Listen, I'm here because my brains are in my feet."
The domestic squabbles between Barbara and Eddie carry more of a punch since they reflect the desperation of the Depression era. After their electricity is cut off, Eddie remarks bitterly, "Maybe it's better we don't have any lights around here. It hides all the ugly things." In another scene, he enters the room and sniffs the air disagreeably, "What is that?" "Corned beef and cabbage," Barbara replies merrily as he dashes her happy mood with the response, "Smell of cheap cooking." One of the best exchanges occurs toward the end when Barbara asks Carlton for a $5,000 loan that she promises to pay back. "At ten cents a dance? That's 10,000 dances!" he exclaims incredulously.
Ten Cents a Dance is unique in that it is one of a handful of films directed by Lionel Barrymore who was going through a career slump at the time in regards to film acting. Harry Cohn felt Barrymore's strength was directing (he had been nominated for a Best Director Oscar® for Madame X in 1930) and assigned him to Ten Cents a Dance. Under his direction, Stanwyck experienced some difficulties during filming, such as fracturing her pelvis and being partially paralyzed for several hours. After a two day hospital stay, she returned to work, displaying her usual no-nonsense professional work ethic.
Unfortunately, Barrymore also experienced some health issues during the film due to his inflammatory rheumatism. According to the biography, The Barrymores: The Royal Family in Hollywood by James Kotsilibas-Davis, "Heavy medication dulled his pain and his direction. "You'd start a scene and took around and find he'd fallen asleep," leading man Ricardo Cortez states. "He tried his best," recalls Barbara Stanwyck, "As a performer, you just had to try harder." At the Hollywood preview, somebody transposed the reels and the picture was run off backward. Rumors circulated that Barrymore had lost his wits. Eventually, hung together correctly, Ten Cents a Dance became a personal success for Columbia's new star."
"The experience discouraged me," Lionel confessed, and he once more considered the inevitable alternative: the "family curse," he called it, acting."
Barrymore would go on to work on one more film as director - Guilty Hands  - but would be replaced by W.S. Van Dyke and receive no screen credit. Luckily, his film career as a character actor took off the same year when he was nominated and won the Best Supporting Actor Oscar® for A Free Soul.
Producers: Harry Cohn, Frank Fouce
Director: Lionel Barrymore
Screenplay: Jo Swerling; Dorothy Howell (continuity)
Cinematography: Ernest Haller, Gilbert Warrenton
Art Direction: Edward C. Jewell
Film Editing: Arthur Huffsmith
Cast: Barbara Stanwyck (Barbara O'Neill), Ricardo Cortez (Bradley Carlton), Monroe Owsley (Eddie Miller), Sally Blane (Molly), Blanche Friderici (Mrs. Blanchard), Phyllis Crane (Eunice), Olive Tell (Mrs. Carlton), Victor Potel (Smith, a sailor), Al Hill (Jones, a sailor), Jack Byron (Leo).
by Jeff Stafford
The Barrymores: The Royal Family in Hollywood by James Kotsilibas-Davis (Crown Publishers)
The House of Barrymore by Margot Peters (Alfred A. Knopf)
The Barrymores by Hollis Alpert (Dial Press)
Stanwyck by Axel Madsen (HarperCollins)
Ten Cents a Dance
The title of the film was taken from a Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart song introduced by Ruth Etting in the 1930 musical play Simple Simon, written by Ed Wynn and Guy Bolton. Although reviews indicated that the song was from The Ziegfeld Follies, Simple Simon was a play that was produced by Florenz Ziegfeld. Working titles for the film were Roseland and Anybody's Girl. David Newell's character is listed as "Ralph Clark" in reviews, however, he is called "Ralph Sheridan" in the film. While the onscreen credits read "Music by Abe Lyman and His Band," they were performers not composers. Although this was the last film for which Lionel Barrymore received a directing credit, the Motion Picture Herald review for the film Guilty Hands notes that he co-directed that film. Barrymore continued to act until shortly before his death in 1954. Carne de cabaret, a Spanish-language version of Ten Cents a Dance, was also released in 1931.
Released in United States 1931
Released in United States November 2001
Released in United States November 2001 (Shown at AFI Fest 2001: The American Film Institute Los Angeles International Film Festival (Preservation - Archival) November 1-11, 2001.)
Released in United States 1931