A Girl Must Live

A Girl Must Live is a 1939 British romantic comedy film directed by Carol Reed and starring Margaret Lockwood, with supporting cast Renee Houston, Lilli Palmer, and Hugh Sinclair. Based on the 1936 novel by Emery Bonett with the same title, the plot features a group of chorus line girls who compete for the affection of a distinguished bachelor.

A Girl Must Live
Directed byCarol Reed
Produced byEdward Black
Written byFrank Launder
Austen Melford
Michael Pertwee
Based onnovel by Emery Bonett
StarringMargaret Lockwood
Renée Houston
Lilli Palmer
Hugh Sinclair
Music byLouis Levy
Charles Williams (uncredited)
Distributed by20th Century Fox
Release date
29 April 1939 (1939-04-29)
Running time
92 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom


Leslie James (Margaret Lockwood), a stage name taken by a young woman who runs away from a finishing school, falls in with a carefree group of chorus line girls who fancy themselves for attracting wealthy men. Upon hearing that a royal bachelor, the Earl of Pangborough, will be returning home after years abroad, Gloria Lind (Renée Houston) positions herself on the arm of the bachelor and invites him to a chorus line performance. Clytie Devine (Lilli Palmer), after hearing about the Earl, realizes that Gloria Lind had cheated her out of a chance to meet the wealthy bachelor and a raucous fight occurs between the two women. At the chorus line performance, the Earl meets all the women and, afterward, attends a party with them. That evening, each of the three women take turns attracting the Earl.

Soon after, the entire dance troupe is invited to the castle-like home of the Earl, where he resides with his mother and house staff. At the mansion, the three women hatch their plans for seducing the Earl, much to the displeasure of his mother. Clytie and Gloria, respectively, attempt to seduce the Earl with the help of the chorus line's con-man assistant, who is looking for his own way to capitalize on the situation. Leslie James, after winning the Earl's affection, admits to her manipulative lies and shows that she has, in fact, become emotionally involved. The Earl, in a romantically idealized set of scenes, falls in love with "Ms. James" and they become married.


The film was based on a novel by Emery Bonnett published in 1937.[1][2]

Gaumont British bought the rights and decided to make the film as one of their 12 "A class" features for 1937-38, made with an eye on the US market. Anna Lee and Lili Palmer were the original stars.[3][4][5] Eventually Margaret Lockwood and Renee Houston were announced as stars.[6]



  1. NEW NOVELS: Rural Norway a Century Ago The Scotsman (1921-1950) [Edinburgh, Scotland] 31 May 1937: 13
  2. "NEW NOVELS". The Age (25, 645). Victoria, Australia. 26 June 1937. p. 7. Retrieved 10 October 2017 via National Library of Australia.
  3. "BRITISH FILM PRODUCTION". The West Australian. 54 (16, 213). Western Australia. 17 June 1938. p. 9. Retrieved 10 October 2017 via National Library of Australia.
  4. "GAUMONT BRITISH PLANS 12 RELEASES: Program of Class A Feature Films for U. S. Market Is Outlined for 1937-38 SEVERAL STARS LISTED Jessie Matthews, Anna Neagle and Nova Pilbeam IncludedOther Picture Items News From Hollywood". The New York Times. 10 July 1937. p. 18.
  5. Gaumont British Deals Block-Booking a Lusty Blow By Announcing 12 "Class A" Films for Sale Singly: British Producing Company Stresses Quality Rather Than Quantity in Preferred List; 'Hollywood Premiere' Is Planned for 'The Road Back' Thursday; Another Bulky Reference Work Is Received. The Washington Post (1923-1954) [Washington, D.C] 19 July 1937: 14.
  6. SCREEN CONTRACT. TO GENE REYNOLDS: Metro Casts Youthful Actor in 'Boys Town' and to Star in 'One Young American' SIMONE SIMON IN HOSPITAL RKO Planning to Produce 'The Life of Sam Houston' as a Vehicle for Richard Dix Another Film for Miss Rogers Coast Scripts Rachmaninoff Sails for Tour Rachmaninoff Sails for Tour Skelton at Loew's State of Local Origin Special to THE NEW YORK TIMES.. New York Times (1923-Current file) [New York, N.Y] 4 Feb 1938: 17.
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