It is always sad when art, and yes, that term is very subjective, is damaged or incomplete. Such is the case with Warner Brother’s latest WAC release, Thirteen Women. Made by RKO in 1932 it was originally released with a 70 minute plus run time. It was unique in that it starred two fairly new faces on the scene, Myrna Loy and Irene Dunne. Both ladies were on the cusp of stardom, though Loy was perhaps a bit further along.
Sadly, the film was such a disaster on hitting the box office that RKO immediately pulled it and edited it, cutting the run time to a mere 59 minutes, which is what we are left with today, the balance presumably lost. On watching Thirteen Women, I’m at a loss to figure why it suffered so on release, though perhaps the dour horror of the film didn’t play well with Depression era audiences.
The story is pure evil and is rather delightful in its own eerie way. Such a film could not have been made even a few years later once the Hayes code was introduced. Mryna Loy is the vamp, who slyly gets her revenge on her former sorority sisters who threw her out. After consulting with a swami of sorts, Loy has each one killed until the only living one is Irene Dunne.
Cinematography and pacing are quite atmospheric and very well done, but the impact of the missing footage surely is felt to the current versions detriment. Presumably, in the original there were actually thirteen women, though I could find only eleven. Presumably the others were left on the cutting room floor and some would say it was to make more screentime available for Irene Dunne, who’d just had a fairly good outing which RKO surely would have wanted to maximize.
The ending is dramatic but here as well it seems the editors scissors have left their mark. The end comes perhaps all too soon and we’ve barely heard Loy explain her motives before “The End” flashes on the screen.
Overall the end result is strong, but unfulfilled. Loy is wonderful in one of her more exotic roles, though thankfully she would soon move into more mainstream characters. Unbeknownst to me, the score is a wonderful little gem from one Max Steiner. Even more surprising is that it appears in such an early picture, before scores really came into vogue.
Peg Entwistle, who is best known today for killing herself by jumping off the “H” of the Hollywood sign, plays one of the girls. Sadly, she did herself in just two days after this film was released.
This one is rather hard to find, though it does see the light of day (again in only its truncated 59 minute form) on TCM from time to time.
WAC has just released this in a newly remastered edition, which is available as a MOD disc, or also available for rent or purchase download at wbshop.com.
Review copy provided by Warner Bros. Thanks!