Baby Face

Part 4 in a Series on The Movies, Politics and Predictive Programming


By Not Sure

2 July 2023


            The year is 1933, the Great Depression has been raging in the United States since the Wall Street Crash of 1929; the impact felt around the world.  Let’s recap a few highlights of this year.  In January, construction began on the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco.  The Lone Ranger debuts on radio.  In February, Italian immigrant Giuseppe Zangara attempted to assassinate Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) but instead fatally wounded Chicago mayor Anton J. Cermak.  Newsweek magazine is published for the first time and Prohibition is ended.  In March, the original film version of King Kong was released.  A love story between ape and woman.  Hmmm.  Herbert Hoover finished his term as president in March.  Roosevelt took office on March 4 and on March 5, he declared a “bank holiday,” closing all banks and freezing all financial transactions.

            On March 9, Congress began its first one hundred days of enacting New Deal legislation.  On March 12, Roosevelt sent out a Tweet.  Oh, sorry!  He had his first “Fireside Chat.”  On the 15th, the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose from 53.84 to 62.10.  According to Wikipedia, that day's gain of 15.34%, remains to today, the largest 1-day percentage gain for the index.

            In April, the Civilian Conservation Corp was established, which was a government work relief program that ran until 1942; keeping unemployed men working on conservation and development of natural resources on rural land owned by federal, state, and local governments.  Getting ready for World War II?  On April 5, FDR declared a national emergency and with Executive Order 6102 made it illegal for American citizens to own gold.  Relax!  On April 7, the sale of some beer was allowed.  On April 19, the U.S. officially went off the gold standard.

            In May, the Agricultural Adjustment Act was passed to boost prices by reducing surpluses.  This meant that farmers were paid not to farm.  They were also paid to destroy crops and livestock, burn corn fields and slaughter piglets.  We are told that much of the surplus went to unemployed families and relief channels for needy people, but much of it simply went up in smoke.

            On June 6, the first drive-in theatre opened in Camden, New Jersey.  In July, Major General Smedley Butler became involved in the Business Plot, when he told Congress that a group of businessmen were planning a military coup to overthrow FDR and had selected him to be installed as dictator.  The businessmen involved all denied the allegations and the media ridiculed the testimony, but a final report to Congress confirmed some of Butler’s testimony.  He remained critical of the imperialists’ warmongering, though as a military careerist he had been involved in much of it.  He went on to write War is a Racket and became a popular speaker at church and pacifist gatherings throughout the 1930s.

            In the spring of 1933, there was a limited release of a film entitled Baby Face, starring Barbara Stanwyck as Lily Powers, marketed with the phrase, “She had it and she made it pay.”  The drama was shocking for its day in its frank discussion of sex, depicting a young woman who was pimped by her father from the age of fourteen and encouraged by a Nietzsche-quoting “kindly” older man named Cragg, whose bible was Will to Power.  After Lily’s father is killed when his speakeasy still explodes, she visits Cragg, and they discuss what is to become of her.  She had been out looking for work and was offered a job as a stripper.  This is part of the dialogue in that scene.


Cragg:  What's going to become of you?  It's up to you to decide.  If you stay in this town, you are lost. 


Lily Powers:  Where would I go, Paris?  I've got four bucks.


Cragg:  That's what makes me mad at you.  You are a coward.  You let life defeat you.  You don't fight back. 


Lily:  What chance has a woman got?


Cragg:  More chance than men.  A woman, young, beautiful like you, can get anything she wants in the world. Because you have power over men.  But you must use men, not let them use you.  You must be a master, not a slave.  Look here - Nietzsche says, "All life, no matter how we idealize it, is nothing more nor less than exploitation."  That's what I'm telling you.  Exploit yourself.  Go to some big city where you will find opportunities!  Use men!  Be strong!  Defiant!  Use men to get the things you want!


            The Hays Office of the Motion Picture Association of America had the film pulled and there was a back and forth between their office and the Hollywood producers over various violations of the Production Code.  The main compromises were that Lily could not be seen to triumph in the end.  She must lose all and return to her hometown and pursue a modest life to show the audience that her sexual vices were not rewarded.  Her status as a kept woman must be portrayed more discreetly and a scene near the beginning of the film where she seduced a railroad worker had to be cut altogether.  Cragg’s enthusiasm for Nietzsche had to go and be replaced with him seeming to be more of the “moral” voice of the story.  Here is the replacement dialogue that was dubbed in for the scene above.


Cragg:  A woman, young, beautiful like you, can get anything she wants in the world. But there is a right way and a wrong way. Remember, the price of the wrong way is too great. Go to some big city where you will find opportunities! Don't let people mislead you. You must be a master, not a slave. Be clean, be strong, defiant, and you will be a success.


In July, the film was widely released with those changes.  But Hollywood and Washington had engaged in a bit of theatre of their own, because the main elements that were sure to embed in the mind of the viewer remained.  Edward Bernays had already run his successful ad campaign in 1929, Torches of Freedom, “Women! Light another torch of freedom! Fight another sex taboo!”  In Baby Face, Lily smoked.  She trash-talked, she slept her way to the top and got the things she wanted by using her sexual power over men.  “The top” was the CEOs office at Gotham Trust in New York City.  She traveled there with her black friend Chico, a young woman who worked with her at her father’s speakeasy.  Just off the train, they look lustfully at the fancy outfits of the New Yorkers, and the fine restaurants they pass.  Chico pointed out a young lady in a fur coat getting into a big chauffeur driven car.  She said, “That mink is expensive.  Look at that automobile.”  Lily replied, “What I want to find out is how did she get 'em?”

The movie is full of sexual innuendo and looks which speak a thousand words.  She walked into the lobby and then to the personnel department.  She sized up the young man at the desk and immediately started flirting.  He took the bait.  “Have you had any experience?”  he asked.  “Plenty,” Lily replied, and we all know she doesn’t mean secretarial experience.

The Gotham Trust is a skyscraper.  The camera shows us her first office on the second floor in an exterior shot of that floor.  As the story progresses, she seduces ever more powerful executives.  The initial exterior shot of the building gives us the sense of just how tall this skyscraper is, and each tilting shot that accompanies her promotion returns to the exterior and then zooms into the floor where she now works so we can follow her rise.  Midway through that ascent she is fired, embroiled in a love triangle between a young executive and his future father-in-law, who is now “keeping” Lily in style.  The triangle ends when the young executive shoots the older man and then turns the gun on himself.

But that’s not the end.  The young banker, the playboy heir, who is now CEO sends her off to the Paris branch rather than cave to her demands for money.  But of course, when he travels there, he too succumbs to her charms.  He marries her, then disaster strikes, and she must choose between the money and the man.  She chose the money, but tragedy occurred she ended up with the man, now broke.  But he comes from a wealthy, banking bloodline.  Somehow, we know he’ll land on his feet.  He tells her that he knows how many men she has been with, but he loves her anyway.  In the ambulance, she cries and tells him that she loves him too.  The censors are happy.  The chastised couple will return to a life of love and moral decency.

The takeaway for the young woman in the darkened theatre is not going to be a cautionary tale that crime doesn’t pay.  She will see all that she can acquire by using her looks, using her body.  But the woman in the audience has learned some lessons.  “Don’t be stupid.  Don’t get caught.”  She will sleep with the boss, and she will wear fur coats and big diamonds and live in a fancy home.  She won’t lose because she will be smarter than Lily.  Nietzsche isn’t necessary, as it turns out.  It’s enough to hear, “A woman, young, beautiful like you, can get anything she wants in the world…”

By 1953, the grit has been cleaned up and Betty Grable, Marilyn Monroe and Lauren Bacall show us How to Marry a Millionaire.  In 1962, Doris Day works her boss over for That Touch of Mink.  It’s a formula now.




Redux 116 is from Alan Watt’s talk on Republic Broadcasting Network on May 21, 2010.  Here is the poem:


Ode to Julian Huxley, UNESCO and Kinsey,
Their Army of Perverts and Cover Flimsy:

"Easy Does It, Incremental in Time,
I'll Program the World, the People Mine,
From Conveyor-Belt Kindergarten to Academy,
We'll Wipe Out All Morals (Ooh! What Tragedy),
Each Generation in Turn Carefully Updated,
Unaware of the Future Toward which they're Fated,
Old Culture and Mores was Defense Mechanism
To Stop Megalomaniacs Building World Prison,
I Pushed the Envelope, First, Naughty Peeks,
Starting with Children, Candies and Sweets,
'course I've Actors and Teachers, I Give them Tools
Creating Sex-Obsessed Children, Liking my Rules,
Then their Offspring, Dark, Fair or Blonde,
Can Wallow in Sex, Yet Unable to Bond,
Experts will Rule, Psycho-linguist Distortion,
To Muddy the Water 'tween Life and Abortion,
Then Kill the Unfit, Oh what a Trick,
Depersonalize Aged as 'Geriatric',
With Culture Destroyed, Who'll Stand Up to Me?
I'm Good at Chaos, Look 'round and See,
I've Agents Inside All the Institutions,
Our 'Experts' Come Up with All Solutions,
With No Morals or Bonding on Which to Stand,
They'll Stand for Nothing and I'll Rule the Land"
© Alan Watt May 21, 2010



            We visited 1933.  Let’s go back in time to World War I.  Hollywood was early days and the real propaganda for the war was waged with posters and press releases to newspapers.  President Woodrow Wilson hired political publicist George Creel to head up the Committee on Public Information.  Working with Creel at the CPI was Edward Bernays.  “Destroy this mad brute!” screamed a poster, “ENLIST.”  And what young man wouldn’t run off to enlist when the poster featured a nasty ape, wide-eyed, sharp teeth exposed, a topless blonde woman in one bloody arm, a blood-covered club in the other?


            Last week, my brother gave me a book from his collection entitled Mr. Baruch.  Published in 1957, this authorized biography of Bernard Baruch has been interesting reading.  I’m barely a quarter of the way through it, but I thought I’d share a few things.  Woodrow Wilson liked Bernard Baruch, who described himself as a Wall Street speculator.  In the biography, it is this close relationship between Wilson and Baruch which is emphasized, but Mandel House didn’t seem to have any antipathy towards Baruch. 

Wilson wanted Baruch on his new Advisory Commission to the Council of National Defense, a virtual War Cabinet.  As a speculator, Baruch needed to know the insides of industry, the raw materials needed to run those industries, the men who headed the corporations.  In this virtual War Cabinet, “Raw materials were logically left to Baruch…he felt it was ‘the key to everything.’  In choosing raw materials, he had taken another step toward becoming chairman of the War Industries Board.  He told David Lawrence, ‘If you understand the raw materials, you understand the politics of the world.’  Baruch knew from his own dark memories of Reconstruction that wars were won not by armies alone but by the economic resources of the people.”

It was Baruch who suggested that they put women in the factories to deal with the labor shortages.  When someone on the Commission countered that might be difficult on men returning from the front lines, Baruch said that would sort out.  But legislation went into effect that institutionalized women in the workplace.   We think of Rosie the Riveter and World War II as the beginning of these sweeping cultural changes, but the “Great War” was the laboratory of every conceivable societal upheaval.

Another interesting internal fight in the Commission was the discussion of “continence.”  This was the word that was at one time used to describe self-restraint or abstinence from sexual intercourse.  Samuel Gompers was furious with Dr. Martin.  “What have you been doing?  Sold out to the so-called ‘social hygienists and prohibition fanatics…When have our fighting men been preached to on the value of continence…Real men will be men.”  It was ultimately decided that alcohol and prostitutes would be controlled rather than prohibited.  What this means is that during World War I, the U.S. government assigned to itself the job of pimp and bartender.

Mr. Baruch was written by a woman, Margaret Coit, who employs a chatty, friendly style of writing to bring warmth to her subject.  There’s plenty of “aren’t we naughty” places in the book.  No matter what Baruch and his friends got up to, it was all good fun, play, or necessary adventures for education.  From the perspective of post-WWII 1950s, and writing for an educated, worldly-wise audience, Coit pointed out those quaint, old-fashioned things that well-bred people had discarded.

“Yet it was because of Baruch…that silhouettes were slimmed and doughboys overseas were tantalized by skirts lifted above shapely ankles.  The rustle of silk was heard no more, for gone were the length and sweep of material and the traditional ‘weighting’.”   By raising the hemline above the ankle and streamlining the fit of skirts, a lot of material could be saved.

Coit was in her early twenties during World War II.  She had seen Betty Grable’s Million Dollar Legs plastered everywhere, along with all the other wartime pinup girls.  Yes, “in olden days, a glimpse of stocking was looked on as something shocking.”  “Now heaven knows, anything goes.”

We are told that the bikini swimsuit was introduced in 1946 because of material rationing.  It was given the name as a nod to the nuclear testing done on Bikini Atoll in the Marshall Islands between 1946 and 1958, as it was clear that a fashion such as this would cause explosions.

In 1960, the novelty song “Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polkadot Bikini” was released and the first of the Beach Party movies came out in 1963.  Muscle Beach Party, Bikini Beach, Pajama Party, Beach Blanket Bingo, How to Stuff a Wild Bikini, etc.

As Carroll Quigley said, you can get more done in five years of war than in fifty years of peace.




In this talk, Alan reminded us that Quigley wrote in the 1960s that the U.S. political system had been “owned” for at least sixty years at that time.  Alan said, They had a grand design.  They’ve followed it through until people don’t even get up in arms when they hear about pedophilia anymore.  It doesn’t really bother them.  Why?  Because they are contaminated themselves.  They are sitting and watching stuff on television and mainstream television, entertainment and movies that literally is bringing them down further into degradation and they are enjoying it… actually enjoying it.  That’s how contamination works.”

            When we allow one set of rules for “our betters” and another for ourselves, moral relativity has begun.  “They” can make money by any means and spend it as they wish, because we admire them.  We admire their cunning and their audacity.  We secretly desire to live by their rules.


            Baby Face was written by Gene Markey and Kathryn Scola, who wrote several pre-Code films that pushed the envelope and shocked audiences.  It was said though, that the idea to make Lily Powers someone who had been pimped by her father came from the actress Barbara Stanwyck.  She probably recognized that audiences might turn on her if her character didn’t have a plausible reason for being so hard and calculating.  In any event, the audience of 1933 loved the movie and when the unedited version was “discovered” in 2004, audiences loved that too.  Lily Powers was bold.  She got what she wanted.  The story foreshadowed the happy ending in Pretty Woman, the 1990 movie with Julia Roberts and Richard Gere.  “Free-spirited” prostitute lands wealthy corporate raider and they live happily ever after.  Contamination.


            This copy of Mr. Baruch was given to someone as a gift on April 4, 1960.  It is inscribed to someone named “Nebo” from an undecipherable giver.  The inscription reads “With hopes it will bring an idea to corral some extra shekels, to allow more time for fishing.”  He bought the authorized version of his-story, hook, line and sinker.  This Wall Street speculator who took control of a nation’s resources is positioned in this biography as someone who only had his country’s interests in mind, but Price McKinney of McKinney Steel later admitted, “We are all making more money out of this war than the average human being ought to.”  But it’s the 1950s, and the readers admired this noble statesman.  Contamination.


© Not Sure

Additional Reading/Viewing:

How the US Government Used Propaganda to Sell Americans on World War I