Studios would launch an actor, attempting to build them up in the public’s eye.  It was this type of gamble or put an established  star in a role against type.   MGM tried  with Mady Christians in A WICKED WOMAN (1934), proclaiming her as a “brilliant new star:” only to find it didn’t work.  The picture lost money.  Of course, losing money doesn’t speak to whether a film is poor or the actors aren’t up to snuff.   In fact, A  WICKED WOMAN (1934) is a hard look at  a woman in an abusive relationship and what she does to change.

The picture opens in total dark squalor as a pregnant Naomi Trice (Mady Christians) and  her husband Ed Thrice (Paul Harvey) are trying to make the best of things.  Their children are in rags in one corner of the home and Ed is  fed up with the situation.   Ed stumbles in, demanding all the money they have saved and that their oldest child go with him.  What follows is somewhat brutal for the time, as there is a scuffle, and a lot of shoving that results in  Naomi pulling a pistol.  She pleads with him at the door the  not to come closer and not take the boy while a  thunderstorm rages outside.   Naomi pulls the trigger,  killing her husband in full view of her oldest boy.


The  scene changes to daylight where  Naomi has given birth to her child, only to be questioned as to the whereabouts of her husband who has vanished.   Montage of Naomi working hard in machine shops as the years go by, to creating clothes.  The children have grown and we see Rosanne (Marilyn Harris)  playing with a doll  she has ‘found.’  Naomi, in a  fit of self righteousness, burns the doll in front of her daughter in a  stove. Rosanne is  crying due to the cruelty of the act. It will mold her as she grows up.


Rosanne (played by Jean Parker) becomes the rebellious child when she grows up. Naomi is now a successful dress designer with her own shop;  yet she cannot escape her past.   Charles Bickford comes calling as Naylor, who wants to court and marry Naomi .   She is more concerned about Naylor destroying the discipline of her home.   A WICKED WOMAN (1934) then follows the path of the redemption of Naomi and family.

The courtroom drama is  different in that  Naomi gives an impassioned speech that she was coming back to pay for her crimes.  To let her pay for her husband’s death but to keep her children away as they must not know her past.

Director Charles Brabin keeps the action moving quite fast considering the  scope of  events in this, what could be termed, ‘B’ picture.  The  thunderstorm effects  are  quite striking and the opening  in the depths of poverty are  well handled even if slightly exaggerated in scope.

A WICKED WOMAN (1934)  features some  male and female actors learning their craft as  the B picture was a training ground.   A young Robert Taylor as  Bill Renton: a romantic Lothario role that would serve him well in such pictures as  JOHNNY EAGER  (1941).

Jean Parker, in the  role of the grown Rosanne, would have a long career in film and television.  Sterling Holloway takes a bow as  young Peter  who woos  Yancy (Betty Furness) to a dance.


Charles Lane  appears  as defense Attorney Beardsley toward the film’s  end.  Lane  would have a massive career  in film and television, mostly known as Homer Bedlow on Petticoat Junction and The Beverly Hillbillies  television shows.

Marilyn Harris, who is best known for her role of ‘Little Maria’ or the  ‘Daisy that wouldn’t float’ in James Whale’s  FRANKENSTEIN (1931), is the  younger Rosanne.   Harris would have a short career up to the  forties, mostly in uncredited ‘girl’ roles in spite of a demanding stage mother. Harris was told to keep her weight down by her mother so she was literally starved.  She gleefully accepted hard boiled eggs as  payment for doing what would be  legendary work in FRANKENSTEIN (1931)

A WICKED  WOMAN(1934)  did not result in Mady Christians becoming a star. In fact, she returned to Germany in 1948 where she had previously worked in film since  1917.  Christians  was blacklisted during the McCarthy period.

A WICKED WOMAN (1934) is a solid picture that packs a lot of events into its seventy two minutes.  The  action rolled  pretty  fast as  per pre-code times, and that makes  for   good  viewing.  The picture  is a non varnished look at what a woman has to do when pushed to extremes.  It’s also a chance to see some good people learning their craft.

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