Monica (Kay Francis) is a successful gynecologist about to open her own clinic, to be designed by Anna (Verree Teasdale), her architect friend. But she is desperate to have a baby and gravely disappointed to learn that a specialist cannot help. Her husband, John (Warren William), leaves for Europe having just decided to end a secret affair with their mutual friend, Mary (Jean Muir), an accomplished pilot. John does not know that Mary is pregnant.

Without revealing the name of her child's father, Mary appeals to Monica. At first, without ever mentioning the word, she asks for an abortion, which Monica firmly rejects, telling her that having a fatherless baby will be "lovely!" After a failed attempt at aborting herself through a deliberate riding accident, Mary accepts seclusion in a private clinic. Complications arise.

Just as Monica decides that she must perform a (never-to-be-explained) procedure to deliver the child, she overhears Mary calling for John and suddenly understands the situation. Like "a machine," she responds to Anna's slap and command that she fulfill her professional duties--yet she is cold to Mary and refuses to see the baby. She makes plans to go to Europe to prepare for her new clinic. But Mary leaves her baby on Monica's doorstep and flies her plane out over the Atlantic never to be seen again. With John's approval, Monica cancels her trip to adopt the infant; however, she does not tell her husband to whom the child was born.


A riveting account of 1930s professional women. The best friend, Anna, is an ironic but sensible (and very single) architect who acts as a counsellor and confidante, allowing the plot to proceed. John is a cardboard character whose right to be pleased, pampered, and protected is never questioned. Medical students are amused by the vague allusions to nonspecific but very effective scientific procedures and by the great number of cigarettes smoked by medical experts. They are also impressed by the "great outfits" and classy decor of the sets: Monica wears a ruffled, gingham frock for canoeing and an evening gown for packing her bags.

Dated though some aspects of this film may be, the issues of working women, extramarital sex, single parenting, suicide, and marital dishonesty are treated with astonishing frankness. These women are elegant, worldly, privileged, and rich, but each has a fatal flaw in her failure to love, marry, please a spouse, or have babies--as other women do. In a sense, these sorrows are like celestial visitations for the sin of daring to enter and succeed in a man's world. As a result, the film eloquently bears witness to the 1930s cultural ambivalence about women in careers.


Based on Polish play by Marja Morozowicz Szczepkowska.

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