Ladies They Talk About

Ladies They Talk About

Theatrical release poster by Alberto Vargas
Directed by
Produced by Raymond Griffith (uncredited)
Screenplay by
Based on Women in Prison (play) by
Dorothy Mackaye
Carlton Miles
Music by Cliff Hess (uncredited)
Cinematography John F. Seitz
Edited by Basil Wrangell
Distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures
Release dates
  • February 4, 1933 (1933-02-04) (US)
Running time
69 minutes
Country United States
Language English

Ladies They Talk About is a 1933 Pre-Code American crime drama directed by Howard Bretherton and William Keighley, and starring Barbara Stanwyck, Preston Foster, and Lyle Talbot. Based on the play Women in Prison by Dorothy Mackaye and Carlton Miles, the film is about an attractive woman who is a member of a bank-robbery gang.


Nan Taylor (Barbara Stanwyck) is a member of a gang of bank robbers, posing as an regular customer to distract the security guard while her accomplices take the money. Her cover is blown by a policeman who had arrested her before, and she is arrested. Reform-minded radio star David Slade (Preston Foster) falls in love with her and gets her released as a favor from District Attorney Simpson (Robert McWade). However, when she confesses that she is guilty, Simpson has her imprisoned.

At San Quentin State Prison, Nan meets fellow inmates Linda (Lillian Roth), "Sister Susie" (Dorothy Burgess) and Aunt Maggie (Maude Eburne), as well as prison matron Noonan (Ruth Donnelly). Slade continues to send Nan letters, but she refuses his entreaties. Meanwhile, Linda has a fancy for Slade, and resents Nan for spurring him. Her bank accomplice, Lefty (Harold Huber) visits her, and tells her that Don is now imprisoned in the men's section on the other side of the wall. Lefty tells her to make a map of the women's section as well as a copy of the matron's key so that the men can escape via the women's section of the prison. However, Nan believes Slade told the prison officials about the escape plot and Don is shot dead as he gets to Nan's cell to break her out. Nan is given another year, and is not allowed visitors, but vows to seek revenge on Slade.

When she is released, Nan goes to a revival group meeting hosted by Slade. He is glad to see her, and she is escorted to a back room where he professes his love for her. She scoffs and accuses him of turning in her bank robber accomplices. She shoots him but misses, hitting him in the arm. Sister Susie sees this from outside via a keyhole, but Slade denies that he has been shot, and Slade and Nan announce their intention to marry.



Unlike many other films of the women in prison genre, Taylor's fellow inmates are genuine criminals, rather than innocents in prison by mistake.[1]


The New York Times said "When a reformer and a dashing female bank bandit fall in love, their home life may be somewhat as illustrated in the lingering finale of 'Ladies They Talk About,' [...] After a torrid argument in which Nan, the gun-girl, accuses her beloved of frustrating a jail-break in which two of her pals were killed, she loses her temper, draws a gun from her handbag and shoots him. 'I didn't mean to do that,' Nan remarks a moment later as David Slade falls to the floor with a bullet in his shoulder. 'Why, that's all right, Nan,' responds her husband-to-be. 'It's nothing.'" [...] "It is in the prison scenes that the film provides some interesting drama. 'Ladies They Talk About' is effective when it is describing the behavior of the prisoners, the variety of their misdemeanors, their positions in the social whirl outside, their ingenuity in giving an intimate domestic touch to the prison, and their frequently picturesque way of exhibiting pride, jealousy, vanity and other untrammeled feminine emotions."[2]


The film was remade in 1942 under the title Lady Gangster, starring Faye Emerson.


  1. Basinger, Jeanine (1995). A Woman's View: How Hollywood Spoke to Women, 1930-1960. Middleton, Connecticut: Wesleyan University Press. p. 385. ISBN 0-8195-6291-2.
  2. "Ladies They Talk About (1933) - A Woman Bandit.", New York Times, February 25, 1933.

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