Sunday, February 22, 2009

Sadie Thompson (1928)

Sadie Thompson
Director: Raoul Walsh
USA 1928
97 min

Sadie Thompson is a film adaption of W. Somerset Maugham's short story Miss Thompson (later renamed Rain) from 1921.
The story takes place on the island Pago Pago, where the "fallen" woman Sadie Thompson (Gloria Swanson, of course) arrives in hope to start her life anew. However, on the island there is also a reactionary missionary named Mr. Davidson (Lionel Barrymore) who won't leave her past alone.

An argument between Mr. Davidson and Sadie Thompson.

Davidson causes Sadie Thompson a lot of inconvenience, especially since she finds interest Sergeant Tim O'Hara (charmingly played by director Raoul Walsh, in his last appearance in front of the camera). After Sadie's refusal of Davidson's salvation, he consults the governor of Pago Pago of deporting her back to San Francisco.

When scene after scene with intesive arguments and wild emotions have passed, the viewer starts to wonder - Why is Sadie so afraid of going back to San Francisco? Is O'Hara really the nice guy? And does Mr. Davidson have other intentions than Sadie's salvation?

Scene: Miss Sadie Thompson arrives at Pago Pago, and soon catches the eyes of the men there.

Another clip from the film is uploaded in my previous post about Gloria Swanson here.

A lovely scene and a beautiful screenshot of Sadie Thomson and Tim O'Hara.

This infamous film Gloria Swanson produced in 1928 with herself in the title role, challenging the Hays Code by portraying a former prostitute in a sympathetic light, not to mention the doubtful intentions of the missionary Barrymore plays so intensively.
The story behind the production is very interesting - it was not easy for Gloria Swanson to get the rights to film this story since the short story was blacklisted. Read more about it here.

Lionel Barrymore as the missionary who won't mind his own business.

Gloria Swanson is not only one of the greatest actresses throughout history - she is simply a fascinating and admirable. This film could as well have been a one-way ticket to a crushed film career for her- but intstead it became "her Gold Rush" as she had hoped for and deserved.

Unfortunately this film has been forgotten more and more nowadays. But I'm happy that I got to see this restored version, where the last eight-minute reel (lost when the nitrate decayed in storage) has been put together with stills from the original shoot. The last scene is so intensive and... shocking, that I just sat with my mouth open for the last five minutes.
See it, if you can get over a copy!

Mixed emotions when caught in the trap.

(Yes! I can take screenshots now!)


[Writing in a notebook]
Sadie Thompson: Smile, Bozo, smile, for no matter how tough it is today it's bound to be worse tomorrow.

Sergeant Tim O'Hara: Where do you hail from Sadie?
Sadie Thompson: San Francisco.
Sergeant Tim O'Hara: That's funny - - my best pal married a girl from San Francisco.
Sadie Thompson: What part of San Francisco?
Sergeant Tim O'Hara: Where they hang out the red lanterns.
Sadie Thompson: [thoughtfully] Are they happy?
Sergeant Tim O'Hara: Sure! 'Sfunny but them that kicks the highest often settles down the hardest.

[Screaming at Mr. Davidson]
Sadie Thompson: Who gave you the right to pass judgement on me? You psalm-singing louse! You'd tear out you own mother's heart, if she didn't agree with you, and call it saving her soul!

Sadie Thompson: [to Mr. Davidson] You've got the power to hang me but I've got the power to tell you - HANG ME AND BE DAMNED!
Mr. Davidson: [to his wife, wiping his forhead] That girl is possessed with devils!

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