Party Girl is a straight melodrama of gangster days in [early 1930s] Chicago, played straight. There is no effort to understand the phenomenon or to relate it to the times.
Robert Taylor plays a crippled lawyer, mouthpiece for gangster boss Lee J. Cobb. Taylor uses his disability to play on the sympathies of juries to get the mobster underlings, such as John Ireland, free of murder and mayhem charges he knows they are guilty of. He begins to be disturbed about his way of life when he meets Cyd Charisse, a dancer at a nightclub who picks up a little money occasionally at parties. Taylor sees he cannot censure Charisse for making money out of the mobs when he is doing the same thing himself. Taylor’s breaking point comes when he is called on by Cobb to defend a psychopath mobster (Corey Allen).
The screenplay, based on a story by Leo Katcher, is intelligent and convincing, and Nicholas Ray’s direction is good within the limits of the action.
Taylor carries considerable conviction as the attorney, suave and virile. Charisse’s character has little background to supply her with any acting exercise, but she is interesting and, in two fine dance numbers, exciting. Lee J. Cobb contributes another of his somewhat flamboyant characterizations.