US / 61 minutes / bw / Tower Dir: Christy Cabanne Pr: Sig Neufeld Scr: Barry Barringer, F. Hugh Herbert Story: Sam Mintz Cine: Harry Forbes Cast: Marian Marsh, Kenneth Thomson, Joan Marsh, Bert Roach, Lita Chevret, Allan Vincent, Richard Tucker, Arthur Hoyt, Florence Roberts, Charlotte Merriam, Bryant Washburn Jr.
Terry Cummings (Marian Marsh), working at the cigar counter in the Cortez Hotel lobby, has been living in the Big City—New York, in this instance—for long enough to know that men, young and old, rich and poor, want Just One Thing. She’s tried to inculcate the same wariness in her kid sister Betty (Joan Marsh), who’s recently arrived from the country to live with her, but to no avail: Betty has fallen hook, line and proverbial for garage mechanic Roy Andrews (Washburn).
Terry’s right about most of the men she meets: as soon as they set eyes on her they develop extra hands. She uses them for the gifts they give her—groceries, nights out—then fobs them off easily when they try to go further. She’s invented a sick old grandmother with whom she supposedly lives as a means of quenching the passions of those who suggest going back to her place.
Alan Preston (Kenneth Thomson) sees the two Cummings sisters, Terry (Marian Marsh) and Betty (Joan Marsh), side by side for the first time.
One night Terry arrives home with playboy Alan Preston (Thomson) and they run into Betty. Preston positively drools over Betty, who has the aura of being an order of magnitude more virginal than Doris Day. Somewhat carelessly, Terry leaves the two alone together, so it’s left up to their party-girl neighbor Gwen Moore (Chevret) to introduce them, which she does before heading upstairs to her own apartment:
Gwen: “So long, Alan—and don’t forget. This is Be Kind to Dumb Animals Week.”
Terry takes Betty for a day behind the cigar counter to give her an idea of what wolves men are. Sure enough, the passes fly thick and fast, even though Betty has a tendency to think the guys are just being friendly. One such is rich but forever sozzled playboy Joby Johnson (Roach), who adores Terry in a sort of spaniel-puppy fashion.
Betty on Joby: “He seems harmless, and very good-natured.”
Terry: “You can’t tell what would happen if he ever sobered up.”
Bert Roach as Joby.
But another newcomer to the social whirl of the Hotel Cortez lobby is Edgar Barrett (Vincent), who’s arrived to work for his uncle, Charlie Lawton (Tucker). As a dare from a couple of the local louches, Terry agrees to go out on a date with him. As the evening progresses, the flint-hearted Terry realizes she’s fast developing a soft spot for him—not that she’d ever admit it, of course.
Edgar (Allan Vincent) is immediately smitten by Terry.
So far what we’ve been watching is a fairly standard pre-Code romantic comedy, but soon far darker elements are introduced.
Among the neighbors of the Cummings sisters is Helen Delk (Merriam), whose husband Tom hits her when he’s drunk, which is much of the time. Terry and Gwen in their different ways try to help Helen, but there’s not much they can do. When you see Terry and Helen on screen together, you realize one of the reasons why Terry is so cynical about marriage, and about men in general: Helen is who she could be in a few years’ time, should she make a false step.
Helen (Charlotte Merriam, right), a future version of Terry (Marian Marsh)?
One of the marriages that Terry’s cynical about is the one that Betty wants to have with her Roy; they’re both just kids, she rules, far too young to be thinking about marriage. Which means that, the night neighbor Gwen’s raucous party runs out of lemon and Gwen comes to the Cummings apartment to borrow some, finding Betty there alone, Betty’s more than ripe to join the merriment. Soon thereafter, Gwen discovers the party’s running out of something a lot more important than lemon:
Gwen: “Oh, I forgot. My bootlegger’s in jail.”
Gwen (Lita Chevret) enjoys her champagne.
So, in desperation, the party migrates to well heeled playboy Preston’s place. Using champagne as a sort of 1930s equivalent of rohypnol, Preston pours enough of it down Betty’s throat that she’s on the verge of passing out. Once he’s persuaded a pair of other party guests to pop her into his bed—just to “sleep it off”—he declares that the party’s over and throws everyone out. His intention is clear: he’s going to rape the girl. Luckily he’s hardly started to remove his clothes when Gwen appears to face him down.
Edgar, hoodwinked by Terry’s tale of the sick grandmother, embezzles $1000 from his uncle’s enterprise, and that’s the crime that starts pulling all the strands of the plot together . . .
Lawton (Richard Tucker) lays down the law to his nephew.
The movie’s title is a bit of a misnomer, in that the two sisters appear to be orphans: Daring Granddaughters might have been a title with less appeal to cinemagoers. Incidentally, although the sick grandma may have been a fiction created by Terry, they do indeed have a grandmother, Ginger Hemingway (Roberts), who near the end of the movie turns up on Joby’s arm and every bit as smashed as he is.
Terry (Marian Marsh) pretends to be a gold-digger.
Lita Chevret, who plays Gwen here, was one of those immensely promising studio starlets who, through sheer bad luck, never made it. For noir lovers, her best known role—and it was some distance down the cast list—was as Margy in The PAY-OFF (1930).
Despite their shared surname and the fact that they play sisters in this movie—and have a slight facial resemblance—the two Marshes were in fact unrelated: Joan was born Dorothy D. Rosher in California, Marian was born Violet Ethelred Krauth in the West Indies, daughter of a German father and a French/British mother. Marian’s big break came when she was cast opposite John Barrymore as Trilby in Svengali (1931) dir Archie Mayo. In Daring Daughters, even though the character she’s portraying is supposed to be so hardbitten, she exudes a genuine sweetness: Terry seems the kind of girl-next-door you wish you lived next door to, the friend you’d like to have. This was apparently a genuine reflection of the person she was. After quitting acting in the early 1940s to concentrate on being a wife and mother, she made a couple of minor appearances in the late 1950s and then, on the collapse of her first marriage, worked for conservationist causes almost until the end of her life.
Marian Marsh as Terry.