Plot: Joan (Barbara Stanwyck) is an unlucky in love nightclub singer and while she thought her latest love interest was going be her last, she finds herself once again alone and left behind. This opens a door for one of her more obsessive exes to re-enter the picture, but she is determined not to repeat that mistake. She needs an escape and finds her chance in an unusual turn of events, after her maid reveals that she is soon to be wed. As it turns out, the maid has never met her beau and in mail correspondence, sent him pictures of Joan, to reel him in. Joan sees an opportunity, gives the maid some cash, and takes her place in the arranged relationship, soon on her way to a rural wheat farm away from her old life. But can a wild plan like this actually work and what about the farmer who awaits the arrival of his bride-to-be?
Entertainment Value: This is more or less a vehicle for Barbara Stanwyck, but she is fantastic here and her presence alone makes The Purchase Price worth a look. The story is a little on the odd side and offers little depth, but it lets Stanwyck light up the screen and I appreciated some of the more rough & tumble elements. Stanwyck’s Joan is a fish out of water in her new rural locale, surrounded by hayseeds and lunkheads, including her less than sophisticated new husband. Not a flattering image of the farming world, but it sets up Joan as the sharpest mind in town and that is important, as she navigates the various social obstacles. This is a romance of sorts at heart, but the chemistry between Stanwyck and George Brent is less than effective, even awkward and cold at times, so don’t expect an inferno of lust here. There’s some scandalous touches and it is fun to watch Stanwyck pull the strings of the mostly backward locals, but aside from her presence, there’s not a lot to recommend here.
As I said, the main draw here is Barbara Stanwyck and she is a lot of fun to watch, so even just for her performance alone, The Purchase Price is worth a look. That is, if you’re a fan of Stanwyck, as this is a role that seems custom built for her skill set and she runs with the Joan character. She is a natural in this kind of hard edge, driven role and as the men fall over themselves to get to her, she of course has a plan of her own and knows how to steer them all to her benefit. I also think she brings some great passion to the role, but as I also said before, that passion isn’t matched by her costars. So the romance angle fizzles out, despite her charismatic performance. George Brent plays it rough and tumble, which works well in most scenes, but he just can’t conjure up the chemistry with Stanwyck. The movie works hard to make that couple work and Stanwyck does her part, but it just doesn’t happen. The cast overall is fine, if a little forgettable, but Stanwyck is luminous and shines in her role. In the end, The Purchase Price is going to be of most interest to Stanwyck fans, but I feel like she is so in tune with the role, she is reason enough to give it a chance.