Bad Girl. 1931. USA. Directed by Frank Borzage. Screenplay by Edwin J. Burke, based on the 1928 novel by Viña Delmar and the 1930 play by Delmar and Brian Marlowe. With Sally Eilers, Jame Dunn, Minna Gombell. 35mm. 90 min.
Sally Eilers was Mack Sennett’s last discovery, snagging the lead in The Good-Bye Kiss in 1928. That same year she was named a Baby Star by the Western Associated Motion Picture Advertisers, a publicist trade group known as WAMPAS. Like her contemporary and friend Carole Lombard, Eilers was known for a ripe vocabulary and love of a good time; she eventually racked up four marriages, as well as a DUI arrest in the 1960s. Unlike Lombard, though, Eilers’s days as a leading lady ended soon after her Fox heyday, which lasted from about 1930 to 1934 and included Rowland Brown’s gangster picture Quick Millions (1931) with Spencer Tracy, and Raoul Walsh’s bawdy Sailor’s Luck (1933). Bad Girl, directed by Frank Borzage with all of his humanism and sensitivity, is without question Eilers’s pinnacle. She won rave reviews for her natural, warmhearted performance as the shopgirl who impulsively marries a radio-store clerk, played by James Dunn in his screen debut.