A Girl Must Live

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A Girl Must Live
A Girl Must Live (1939 film).jpg
Directed by Carol Reed
Written by Frank Launder
Austen Melford
Michael Pertwee
Based onnovel by Emery Bonett
Produced by Edward Black
Starring Margaret Lockwood
Renée Houston
Lilli Palmer
Hugh Sinclair
Music by Louis Levy
Charles Williams (uncredited)
Distributed by 20th Century Fox
Release date
29 April 1939 (1939-04-29)
Running time
92 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom

A Girl Must Live is a 1939 British romantic comedy film directed by Carol Reed that stars Margaret Lockwood, Renee Houston, Lilli Palmer, Hugh Sinclair, and Naunton Wayne. Based on a 1936 novel by Emery Bonett with the same title, the plot features three chorus line girls competing for the affection of a wealthy bachelor.



Running away from her finishing school in Switzerland, Leslie James (a false name taken from a musical star of the past) finds a room in a London boarding house. There she learns from two other lodgers, Gloria and Clytie, that there will be an audition for a new musical that day, at which all three win places in the chorus line. Gloria meanwhile, tipped off by her conman cousin Hugo who plans to make plenty of money out of the deal, has caught the eye of the bachelor Earl of Pangborough. Her roommate Clytie, also keen on what profit she can extract, tries to detach him at the first night party but instead of these brash blonde showgirls he prefers the quiet brunette Leslie.

He invites the whole cast to spend the weekend at his country mansion, just so that he can get closer to Leslie. Despite spirited competition from Gloria and Clytie, manipulation from Hugo, and hostility from the Earl's aunt, she keeps his interest. Terrified however that she will be exposed as a runaway schoolgirl using a false name, she flees the house in the middle of the night. Abandoning his guests, the Earl gives chase and his pursuit ends with the two marrying.


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 Lilli Palmer were the original stars. [3] [4] [5] Eventually Margaret Lockwood and Renee Houston were announced as stars. [6]


It was one of a series of movies Carol Reed made starring Margaret Lockwood when she was a "resident ingenue". [7]

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  1. "NEW NOVELS: Rural Norway a Century Ago" The Scotsman [Edinburgh, Scotland] 31 May 1937: 13
  2. "NEW NOVELS". The Age . No. 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 . Vol. 54, no. 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 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 4 Feb 1938: 17.
  7. Vagg, Stephen (29 January 2020). "Why Stars Stop Being Stars: Margaret Lockwood". Filmink.