There are a few Pre-code films that really pushed the envelope with either plot or characters, like "Men in White" or "Penthouse", but because of one thing or another are hardly seen or talked about today. "Virtue" is definitely one of them - Carole Lombard is a prostitute (you are left with no doubt about that, believe me) who meets a taxi driver (Pat O'Brien). They marry and on their wedding night he founds out about her past. After the initial shock, he decides to stay. And this only the first half an hour, and later of course he wonders if his wife is not back to her old ways. On top of this, there is great dialogue, particularly in the beginning, and a veiled reference to an abortion ("nervous breakdown") made by one of Lombard's former colleagues.
Lombard is quite good throughout and Mayo Methot as her friend steals the show with her final scene. (On a point of trivia, she was to be the third Mrs Bogart). The first half is well done and well written. But the film has one flaw that was too much for me. The second half's plot line seems to be glued to rather than built from the beginning. In particular, the scene that starts it is so bad that I was in no doubt about what was really happening - something that the audience is told a few minutes later. To be honest, I almost gave up on the film at that moment. It was lazy writing and bad acting. It's a pity, as I think if someone had put a bit more effort into solving both problems, the film would be as talked about as some of Stanwyck's more notorious films.
EDIT: Having seen this again in May 2014, I think I was too harsh on the film. There's a smoother transition between the two halves and Pat O'Brien gives here one of his best performances.