[Review] The Purchase Price (Wellman 1932)
Wellman seems to work in extremes. He either makes a broad, difficult piece of social criticism (Heroes For Sale). Or he makes something that does little to challenge the audience. The Purchase Price is, unfortunately, the latter of the two.
It does have some moments. The pre-code circumstances encourage some rough violence at times and do allow for a more complicated relationship between Stanwyck and Brent. Brent is one ideal counterpart for Stanwyck’s iron will. She always seemed too smart and shrewd to be a real sexpot, but Brent can bend through that and get some genuine feeling out of her. Something by which some much better actors are defeated.
Wellman isn’t particularly adept at photographing Stanwyck, although the pictures of her against the expansive farming landscape are Fordian. When not worrying about photographing ladies, the pictures are very clear and beautiful for 1932. The restoration also deserves credit for the wonderful preservation of imagery.
The Purchase Price says little and does so with nice pictures. It’s always a joy to watch young Stanwyck, especially in her Pre-Code years. You might not learn anything, but you will see one version of love come to life.