Baby Face is a good example of the kind of spitfire lead female characters that appeared in the cinema of pre-code Hollywood. Lily Powers (Barbara Stanwyck) works as a barmaid in her father's factory-town saloon where she learns to deal with the unwanted advances of male customers.
When her father dies, she moves to New York City with her maid, Chico (Theresa Harris), to become a ruthless gold digger. First she meets office boy Jimmy McCoy (a young John Wayne in an uncharacteristically clean-cut role) who helps her get a job at the Gotham Trust Company.
From there, she seduces and discards various men (George Brent, Donald Cook, Henry Kolker) as she sleeps her way to the top of the company. Jealously between the men causes a murder scene, so Lily takes her furs and jewels and moves to Paris with Chico.
The production code censors tacked on an ending that featured Lily giving away her money and returning to her home town with Brent.