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Louise Beavers in Paid (1930)

by Karen Beavers

n the Pre-Code melodrama, Paid (1930) Joan Crawford stars as a shopgirl, Mary, who goes to prison for a theft she did not commit. This early sequence shows her introduction to prison life. Initial shots emphasize Mary’s loss of control over her body: she is pushed and pulled and has her hair chopped off. A quick succession of close up shots shows Mary recoiling as she endures a communal shower with a group of fellow incarcerated women. She seems repulsed at the sight of bare legs being scrubbed by fragmented arms and hands.

Character actress, Louise Beavers, appears briefly as one of the imprisoned women. She is the only non - white woman represented. Beavers' unnamed character giggles as she nicely tells Crawford’s Mary to get over herself. The camera’s close up on her black legs next to Joan Crawfords’ white legs echoes that sentiment; the incarcerated women are equally subject to the indignities of prison.

Beavers wide smile, big eyed expressions, and lilting line delivery lightened the mood of even the most maudlin melodramas. Her close physical proximity to the some of the biggest white stars throughout her career, is particularly striking here because of the emphasis on corporeality.

Joan Crawford and Louise Beavers in Paid (1930)

Character actress Louise Beavers appears briefly as an incarcerated woman in the Pre-Code Paid (1930)

from Paid (1930)
Creator: Sam Wood
Distributor: Warner Home Video
Posted by Karen Beavers