Ten Cents a Dance (1931)

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Pre Code Hollywood Season: FD Cinematheque

Ten Cents a Dance (1931)

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Directors: Lionel Barrymore, Edward Buzzell

Cast: Barbara Stanwyck, Ricardo Cortez, Monroe Owsley, Sally Blane, Blanche Friderici, Phyllis Crane, Olive Tell, Victor Potel, Al Hill, Jack Byron

75 min

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Ten Cents a Dance is a 1931 American pre-Code romance-drama film directed by Lionel Barrymore and starring Barbara Stanwyck as a married taxi dancer who falls in love with one of her customers. The film was inspired by the popular song of the same name, which is sung over the title sequence.[1]


A beautiful streetwise taxi dancer named Barbara O’Neill (Barbara Stanwyck) works at a New York City dance hall called Palais de Dance. One of the dance hall’s wealthy patrons, Bradley Carlton (Ricardo Cortez), comes to the hall and gives Barbara $100.

Concerned about her unemployed friend and neighbor Eddie Miller (Monroe Owsley), Barbara asks Bradley to give him a job, and he agrees. That night they have dinner together.

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When Barbara gets home, Eddie is in the process of packing his bags; he can no longer afford to pay his rent. Barbara gives him the $100 she received from Bradley and tells him about his new job. Later, Eddie and Barbara meet in the park and realize that they are in love.

The next night at the dance hall, Barbara receives a gift of a new dress, but is disappointed when she sees that it was sent by Bradley. Eddie arrives at the dance hall and asks Barbara to marry him. Barbara accepts his proposal and soon quits her job.

Five months later, Eddie meets an old friend Ralph Sheridan and his sister Nancy, and does not reveal that he is now married. They play cards together and Eddie loses $240, something he does not tell his wife.

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He claims to be at a convention, but in fact he meets a woman named Nancy. Later, Eddie returns to find the rent and utilities past due because he has spent his pay gambling. Meanwhile, Barbara returns to work at the dance hall, where she sees Bradley occasionally.

Later, Barbara returns home and discovers Eddie packing his bags. Admitting that he stole $5,000 from Bradley’s office safe, he tells her that he lost that money playing the stock market. Barbara is able to talk him into staying, and she visits Bradley and asks him for a $5,000 loan. Bradley agrees because he is in love with her.

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The next morning, Barbara presents the money to Eddie who accepts it immediately. When Eddie returns from work, he and Barbara engage in a jealous fight. Soon after, she packs her belongings and returns to the dance hall, where she is met by Bradley who has two tickets for the Ile de France, where Barbara can obtain a divorce and marry him.

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(Cast list as per AFI‘s database[2])

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  1. Jump up^ Hall, Mordaunt (March 7, 1931). “The $10,000 Kiss. Strange Temperaments. In a Dance Hall. Screen Notes.”The New York Times. Retrieved February 13, 2014.
  2. Jump up^ “Ten Cents a Dance: Detail View”. American Film Institute. Retrieved December 15, 2014.

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