A House Is Not a Home (1964)

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Story follows the life of Polly Adler, who grew to become one of New York's most successful bordello madams of the 1920s.


"A House Is Not a Home" is a 1964 drama film, directed by Russell Rouse. Adjusted from the autobiography of notorious madam Polly Adler, the film offers a brilliant portrayal of her life. The primary actress, Shelley Winters, provided a brilliant efficiency as Polly Adler, surrounded by a range of intriguing characters. Other star entertainers include Robert Taylor, Cesar Romero, and Kay Medford.

"A House Is Not a Home" illustrates the life of Polly Adler, a lady who rose to infamy as one of New York City's most popular madams during the Prohibition age. Born into a bad immigrant household, Polly, through hardships and suffering, initially begins operate in the garment market. However, her world modifications when she becomes associated with a love with a gangster who forces her into a life of prostitution.

She later turns into the city's most effective madam, operating a brothel for many years that hosted political leaders, judges, and cops amongst its clientele. Polly becomes an enigmatic figure, weaving her method through social and criminal worlds alike, never quite fitting into either and always in threat of losing everything she's constructed.

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Polly Adler, played by Shelley Winters, is depicted as a strong, resourceful female who manages to develop her own empire throughout a time when women's functions were largely limited. Her character displays a blend of grit, wit, and resourcefulness, combined with a deep-seated yearning for a more decent life.

Robert Taylor identifies the gangster Frank Costigan with great depth, encapsulating the vicious and manipulative nature of his persona, which considerably affects Polly's life transformation.

The film explores the dark corners of social inequality, sexism, and corruption, providing engaging commentary on how society typically requires vulnerable people into morally questionable livelihoods. In spite of Polly Adler's not successful attempts to break away and lead a reputable life, she continuously finds herself stuck in her life of handling a brothel due to social constraints.

"A House Is Not a Home" received mixed reviews upon its release. While some praised the performances of Shelley Winters and Robert Taylor, others discovered the movie too explicit for its time. The movie presented a dark however practical representation of Polly Adler's tumultuous life story, bringing the seedy truths of brothel life onto the silver screen. Critics likewise valued the film's exploration of 1920s New York, giving audiences an insight into the era's complex socio-political situations.

All in all, "A House Is Not a Home" is regarded as a memorable drama that realistically depicts the gritty and harsh underside of the Roaring Twenties in New York. The well-drawn characters, integrated with the exceptional representation of the period's societal norms, use an engaging perspective on the life of Polly Adler. Regardless of her controversial kind of work, her story is a shining example of survival, resilience, and rebellion.

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