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Valiant Is the Word for Carrie is a 1936 drama film directed by Wesley Ruggles and starring Gladys George, Arline Judge and John Howard. George was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress in 1936.[1] The film was adapted by Claude Binyon from the novel of the same name by Barry Benefield.

Valiant Is the Word for Carrie
title card at the beginning of the film
Directed byWesley Ruggles
Produced byWesley Ruggles
Written byClaude Binyon (screenplay)
Barry Benefield (novel)
StarringGladys George
Arline Judge
John Howard
Music byFrederick Hollander
CinematographyLeo Tover
Edited byOtho Lovering
Distributed byParamount Pictures
Release date
  • October 2, 1936 (1936-10-02)
Running time
110 minutes
CountryUnited States



Carrie Snyder (Gladys George) is a prostitute, who is forced out of the fictional southern town of Crebillon, after forming a friendship with a young boy named Paul (Jackie Moran), whose dying mother (Janet Young) is unable to protest against her son visiting such a woman. After Carrie has left town Paul runs away from his abusive father (John Wray), and meets a girl named Lady (Charlene Wyatt) who has run away from a burning trainwreck, not wanting to go back to the people she was with. Carrie comes back for Paul and ends up taking Paul and Lady to New York with her. Carrie gets an apartment and starts a successful chain of laundry stores. Eventually they become very rich and Lady (Arline Judge) grows very attracted to Paul (John Howard). However Paul feels obligated to take care of a young woman named Lili (Isabel Jewell) whose brother's death he caused (the brother had been pushing Paul to try to get on the train, but when Paul pushed back, the train door closed with the brother on the outside with his coat stuck in the train door, causing him to get dragged along with the train and his legs to be run over). Lilli pretends to love Paul because he is rich, which Carrie is able to see, but which Paul does not. She devises a plan to make Lilli leave, if she will bribe some people to help get Lilli's true love out of jail, she will leave Paul. They go to break the man out of jail, but they are caught. Lilli is shot dead and Carrie gets sent to jail. An old lawyer friend (Harry Carey) vows to fight for her freedom, but Carrie decides to plead guilty, because she doesn't want Lady to know about her past (her life as a prostitute would be dragged out in court if her case went to trial) and also because she fears that this damage to her reputation would also be bad for the reputation of the children. The lawyer ends by remarking to Paul's employer (Dudley Digges) that, "valiant is the word for Carrie".


Literary antecedentsEdit

The film was preceded by two literary versions by Barry Benefield - a short story and later a novel based on it.

Short storyEdit

Benefield's original short story, titled "With Banners Blowing", was published in the Woman's Home Companion, and later appeared in two collections under the title "Carrie Snyder".

The original story focused entirely on events in the (fictional) town of Crebillion, Louisiana. Carrie Snyder is 31 years old, lives in a cottage at the edge of town and maintains herself as a prostitute, having a circle of regular customers. She has plenty of free time to cultivate her beloved flower garden, and is content with this life. However, though rather fond of such customers such as US Marshall Phil Yonne, who treat her "like gentlemen", she never felt love for anybody - until the seven-year-old Paul comes in to ask for a drink of water.

Carrie becomes instantly and deeply attached to the clever, sensitive, warm-hearted boy who comes again and again on secret visits, deposits with her his box of "treasures" which his father tried to confiscate and lets her take care of wounded creatures which he found - a tomcat and an owl. The African-American taxi driver Lon is Carrie and Paul's friend and confidant, keeping their secret. (Strangely for modern sensibilities, the word "nigger" is repeatedly used for this highly positive and sympathetic character, clearly without any hint of pejorative intent.)

Deeply jealous of Paul's mother, who can have him every day, Carrie is aware that this friendship would not last, and that the town's established society would cut it off once discovered. And so indeed it does come to pass, and even worse than Carrie feared. Hearing that Paul was severely beaten by his father, and witnessing him being chased and cruelly teased and hazed by a gang of other boys, Carrie realises that for Paul's sake she must leave the town, let her beloved garden deteriorate, and never come back. The original story ends poignantly with Carrie going into a self-imposed exile, with the clear implication that she would never see Paul again.


Barry Benefield later took up the story and made a revised version of it the first chapter of what became the 1936 novel Valiant Is the Word for Carrie.

Bar minor differences, the film's plot, as described above, followed the novel's plot up to the moment of the attempted jail break. From that point on, however, novel and film drastically diverge. In the original novel, the jailbreak succeeded without a hitch, and Lili and her lover were able to escape to Canada and start a new life there. Carrie returned unscathed to New York, her part in the jail break completely unknown. Later on, Lady divorced the Baltimore millionaire Mat Burdon whom she married to spite Paul; Lady and Paul then married and lived happily ever after; and at the end of the novel Carrie, who managed to pull her laundry business through the slump of 1929, is prepared to play loving foster grandmother to their first child.

However, the germ of the film's ending - with the jail break going wrong and Carrie being arrested and facing trial - is present in the novel as a conversation about "what might have been" and "how things might have gone wrong".


Frank S. Nugent of The New York Times called the film "more moral and uplifting than Pollyanna" and "irresistibly attractive". He criticized the running time for being almost two hours long. He concluded that "The misfortune is that "valiant" is only one of the "words for "Carrie"; another would be "disproportionate." The picture takes too long, although doing it well, to introduce a little which is not well done at all."[2]

Cultural referencesEdit

In 1938, the Three Stooges made a short called Violent Is the Word for Curly, a takeoff on the name of this then-popular film.[3]


  1. ^ "Valiant Is the Word For Carrie - Awards". The New York Times. Retrieved February 23, 2010.
  2. ^ Nugent, Frank S. (October 8, 1936). "Valiant Is the Word For Carrie (1936). Gladys George Returns to the Screen in 'Valiant Is the Word for Carrie,' at the Paramount". The New York Times. Retrieved February 23, 2010.
  3. ^ Solomon, Jon (2002). The Complete Three Stooges: The Official Filmography and Three Stooges Companion, p. 133; Comedy III Productions, Inc. ISBN 0-9711868-0-4

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