Pre-Code Essentials: Female (1933)

Female 1933 Ruth Chatterton


Alison Drake (Ruth Chatterton) spends her days running a car manufacturer and her nights seducing any man who catches her eye. Although she was a more romantic type in the past, now she’s far too busy dealing with her business to care much for romance. She’s set forth on a path to treat men the same way they treat women.

As impressive as Alison’s life is, she’s starting to get bored and feels like all the men she meets are only interested in her because of her position in life. To shake up her routine, she heads out to an amusement park, where she meets Jim Thorne (George Brent), an engineer for Alison’s company. Alison tries all of her seduction techniques on Jim, but he’s the only man she’s met in a long time to turn her down. But Alison isn’t one to back down from a challenge and continues to pursue Jim, and eventually succeeds. But can she have a happy relationship and run her business at the same time?

My Thoughts

Female isn’t anything Earth-shattering, but Alison Drake is a woman so far ahead of her time that she still feels very modern and edgy over 80 years later. The story holds up pretty well; you could do a re-make of it today and it would still feel relevant. Ruth Chatterton is great in it and is an actress I generally think deserves a little more credit. I’m not a huge fan of the ending, but on the whole, I’m quite fond of the movie, particularly those fabulous art deco sets.

The Definitive Pre-Code Moment

Alison’s shameless seducing of her male co-workers.

Why It’s an Essential Pre-Code

During the pre-code era, female characters had the freedom to be more independent and career minded than they could when production codes were being enforced. Alison Drake is not only a business woman, she spends most of the movie expressing disdain for the ideas of marriage and romance and openly says she’s living her life treating men the way men have treated her. It would be several decades before film/TV characters could live their lives the way Alison Drake did.