The Strange Love of Molly Louvain (1932)

In the opening scene of The Strange Love of Molly Louvain, the title character (Ann Dvorak) is crying because she is pregnant. Her rich boyfriend promises to marry her, but he quickly deserts her by leaving town.  There is, however, a nice guy who would be happy to marry her.  This is Jimmy (Richard Cromwell), a clean-cut medical student who is working his way through school as a bellhop. Jimmy loves Molly, but she rejects him. She is attracted to a gangster, Nicky (Leslie Fenton) and runs off with him instead, getting involved in a few of his crimes, and handing her daughter over to an orphanage. When she runs into Jimmy a few years later, he still loves her and wants to marry her and be a father to her daughter. At first she agrees to marry him, but she actually desires Scotty (Lee Tracy), a hardboiled reporter who promises only that he will show her a good time for a while and then dump her. She likes the idea. In fact, this makes her realize why her own mother abandoned her when she was a child, because when a woman really wants a man, nothing else matters, not even her own child. Jimmy walks in while they are kissing, and she tells him she has decided to run off with Scotty instead.

In the last reel, Scotty has a change of heart, promises to help her fight the charges against her for her involvement with Nicky, and then marry her. That a movie should feature a fallen woman who would reject the love of a good man like Jimmy (twice) and knowingly choose men who are scoundrels instead is amazing enough. That she should end up living happily ever after by doing so is a story that could exist only in the pre-Code universe. Or in real life.

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