5.8/10
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Madame X (1929)

Passed | | Drama | 17 August 1929 (USA)
A young lawyer unknowingly defends his mother who abandoned him when he was three.

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(from the play by), (dialogue)
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Nominated for 2 Oscars. See more awards »
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Cast

Complete credited cast:
...
...
Jacqueline
Raymond Hackett ...
Raymond
Holmes Herbert ...
Noel
Eugenie Besserer ...
Rose
John P. Edington ...
Doctor
Mitchell Lewis ...
Colonel Hanby
Ullrich Haupt ...
Laroque (as Ullric Haupt)
...
Merivel
Richard Carle ...
Perissard
Carroll Nye ...
Darrell
Claude King ...
Valmorin (as Claud King)
Chappell Dossett ...
Judge
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Storyline

Young Raymond Floriot, following in his father Louis Floriot's professional footsteps, he now France's attorney general, has just passed the bar exam. Raymond's first case, appointed to him by the courts, is a murder case. His pitiful and poor Jane Doe client, who refers to herself only as Madame X, admits to killing the scoundrel of a man named Laroque, but won't disclose why or in turn defend herself in court. Raymond knows nothing of her past, which includes once being a woman of class, married to man of prestige. But that marriage ended because he treated her without love, which resulted in her leaving him for another man, who in turn passed away shortly thereafter. Her first marriage produced a son, who her husband refused to let her see. Her son never knew she was alive, he being told by his father that she died. The consequence of his action left Madame X on a downward path where she never found love. Now, in turn, she hopes her silence will protect the one that she really ... Written by Huggo

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

Ruth Chatterton is truly superb. She reveals a histrionic ability which is extraordinary. Lionel Barrymore's direction is masterly. See more »

Genres:

Drama

Certificate:

Passed | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

17 August 1929 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Absinthe  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

 »
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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

(Western Electric System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.20 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Retitled "Absinthe", in order to avoid confusion with the 1937 version, this film was first telecast in San Francisco 5 June 1958 on KGO-TV (Channel 7). See more »

Connections

Version of Madame X (1966) See more »

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User Reviews

 
partly atrocious and partly brilliant
21 February 2009 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

This first talking film version of the venerable Madame X takes a full one-third of its running time to get started as a proper movie. The first 30 minutes suffer horribly from atrocious miking, unbelievably stilted acting and frozen camera placement that was all too common in the early talkie era. It's as if the actors were on morphine laced with acid and performing under water. The one scene that takes place outdoors in a public park is crudely recorded and more jarring than revelatory in its effect.

When the locale finally shifts to southeast Asia the juicy part of the story begins with the star Ruth Chatterton on the first leg of her debauched round-the-world journey to oblivion as the wayward official's spouse whose life is ruined by an extramarital tryst. Chatterton's performance careens from laughably, abysmally dated posturings at the beginning to incandescent hyper-realism as she portrays the dissolution and ravages of absinthe addiction and self loathing. It is a brave and even startling tour de force, especially for its time. And the extreme contrast between the awful and the sublime is itself a phenomenon worth observing for its own sake. It speaks to the transition in acting styles that was taking place in the 1920s, a time of deep cultural change. Usually a movie from this era will contain different styles of acting coming from different actors - but here the differences are all within Chatterton herself.

The rest of the cast simply falls by the wayside, although in the early minutes it is Lewis Stone who registers more strongly, due to his deeper and more mike- friendly voice. Raymond Hackett as Madame X's clueless son is suitably earnest and sympathetic in his bravado courtroom climax scene. Ullrich Haupt is effective as the con man who befriends the heroine in South America, but Burgess Meredith's rendition of the same character in the 1966 version was more chillingly repulsive.

Toward the end Chatterton's performance begins to slip back into treacly mode (not helped by the overwrought dialogue), but for about 45 minutes she delivers one of the most entertaining acting jobs of 1929.


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