The Purchase Price ★★★½

Stanwyck’s star power and Wellman’s versatility turn this slapdash pre-Code programmer into more than the sum of its parts. In it, Stanwyck plays a lounge singer who decides to get out of the city and pledge herself to an unknown Midwestern farmer after her two-timing ways catch up to her. The early scenes are gleefully immoral, depicting the clash between country and city sensibilities. “Has yours got plumbin’?” one of the crass betrothed women asks about another’s future spouse as she swallows a banana. This segues into an absolutely savage assault on the provincial North Dakota folks that greet our dame in her new home, favorably recalling Wellman’s rough satire Nothing Sacred. Before long, of course, the film grows more dramatic, emphasizing commonality over difference, but throughout there’s a harsh, transactional attitude toward relationships that ensures some edge even during the sappiest scenes.

62/100