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Cecil B. DeMille
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George B. Seitz
Sadie Thompson arrives in Pago-Pago to start a new life, but when extremist missionary Davidson lashes out against her lifestyle and tries to force her back to San Francisco, she may lose her second chance. Written by
Mike Myers <email@example.com>
Piercing drama on an isle in the tropic South Seas! The star of stars in the picture of pictures! Gloria Swanson, glorious exponent of emotion, in the finest film of her career! "Sadie's" the lady you'll never forget! See more »
Unfortunately, the final reel of "Sadie Thompson" has been partially lost due to the ravages of time on nitrate stock. Because of this, the final portion often uses stills to fill in the blanks. It's a less than desirable way to do the film, but there simply is no other choice unless a final reel is one day discovered and the film is pieced back together. In addition, some other portions of the film are pretty rough, but not so much that it seriously impacts watching the film.
I have already seen this story two other times, though this is the first time I've seen the silent version. While it's obvious that Gloria Swanson plays a prostitute (Sadie Thompson), like other films of the day, it's strongly implied but they never called her that or said exactly what she was--just that she was a woman of 'ill-repute' or was 'undesirable'. But, unless you are really, really young or really, really naive, it's very clear what the film is implying in this adaptation of the W. Somerset Maugham story.
The story begins with Sadie arriving on the island of Pago-Pago. On board the ship are also some moralistic reformers, the Davidsons (Lionel Barrymore and Blanche Friderici). Unfortunately for Sadie, these reformers seem to spend almost every waking moment worrying about Sadie's sex life and work hard to have her thrown off the island. At first, Sadie is contemptuous of them but later when it looks like they are about to become successful, things change very quickly. Where all this ends up you'll need to see for yourself.
I liked the acting of this film--especially Swanson's. It was rather bawdy yet very restrained (except for when it called for lots of emotion near the end)--and it easily could have been over the top. Also, although the film's in rough shape, what you do see is quite good--with a good reproduction of the tropical locale and nice camera-work. All in all, a very high quality film from start to finish. Too bad about the missing footage.
By the way, Sadie's ruggedly handsome love interest, Sgt. O'Hara, is played by the film's director, Raoul Walsh! He actually gave up acting for directing full-time after he lost an eye in an accident--shortly after completing this film.
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