After getting out of jail, prostitute Lorry Evans (Constance Bennett) and her pal Minnie (Pert Kelton) hop on board a steamship headed to New Orleans. They could take this moment to get their lives on the straight and narrow, but they have no intentions of doing that. When they realize they don’t have enough money to get all the way to New Orleans, they find a couple of men on board, get them drunk, and steal their money. When the captain finds out about what they’ve done, he tries to have them arrested, but Lorry jumps overboard.
She gets rescued by Dan (Joel McCrea), the owner of a cotton barge, but she lost her money in the water. Dan and Lorry hit it off right away, but rather than pursue a relationship with Dan, she steals his money and goes to see Stephen Paige (John Halliday) when the ship docks in New Orleans. Stephen is a very wealthy book publisher Lorry had seen on board the steamship and she goes straight to work making herself his new mistress. He sets her up in a swanky new apartment and a stylish new wardrobe, but she hasn’t forgotten Dan and goes back to repay the money she stole from him.
When Dan finds out why she stole the money, he’s very forgiving and would really like to see Lorry again. She starts seeing Dan on the side and they fall very deeply in love with each other. However, he doesn’t know about Lorry’s past. When Dan proposes, she accepts, but a very jealous Stephen finds out about it, he tells her that her past will only hold Dan back. Afraid that he might be right, Lorry decides to make a more respectable life for herself and leaves Stephen and his lavish apartment to take a shabby apartment and a job in a department store. Dan is heartbroken when she doesn’t leave with him as planned and becomes obsessed with finding her again. Eventually, Dan and Lorry are reunited at a Mardi Gras party thanks to a little help from Minnie.
I really liked Bed of Roses. Constance Bennett brought so much sass and vibrancy to Lorrie, I absolutely loved her in it. Not to mention the palpable chemistry she had with Joel McCrea! Pert Kelton proved to be another excellent co-star for Bennett. Kelton had just as much sass as Constance and she got some really great wisecracks in there, too. The writing is razor sharp and has held up very well over time. Even though the movie is only a little over an hour long, it never feels rushed. This is a movie that reminded me why I love pre-codes, not that I ever actually needed reminding.