I get a special feeling when I see the early Warner Bros. opening credits with stars posed in character — chewin' gum, givin' a copper the hairy eyeball, lightin' a cheroot — and those are just the girls. It's a good feeling, make no mistake, and all the better when the picture involves women's prison.
That's where we find Barbara Stanwyck about 20 minutes into Ladies They Talk About, a great tale of two kids from the same hometown, one the deacon's daughter (Stanwyck), now a gun moll, and the other a populist running for district attorney, who was the son of the town drunk (Preston Foster). Nan Taylor is arrested for helping some of her thuggier friends (such as Lyle Talbot) rob a bank and is sent to prison, thanks to her hometown acquaintance, David Slade (Foster). In a weak moment (it was the smallest of moments) she had confessed her involvement in the robbery to Slade — just when he was about to get her released — so he wound up turning her in and testifying against her.
Slade loves Nan, but wants her to reform in prison. She does not quite feel the same way. In the slammer, though, she makes fast friends with Linda (Lillian Roth) who shows her the ropes; who to avoid and who's on the level. Nan settles in fine, but soon learns that the two goons who pulled the bank job have been arrested on a different charge and are now serving 20 years in the men's ward on the other side of the wall. She agrees, like an ass, to help the men escape in an absurd plan that could do nothing but fail, which it does. Nan is caught and gets an extra year added to her sentence. For pretty good reason, she blames the extra time on Slade.
When Nan gets out, she seeks revenge. That's where you'll have to pick it up.
It's classic pre-Code Warner Bros. excellence. Highly recommended.