Many passengers on the Shanghai Express are more concerned that the notorious Shanghai Lil is on board than the fact that a civil war is going on that may make the trip take more than three... See full summary »
Josef von Sternberg
Anna May Wong
Nan, a racketeer's daughter, is in love with The Kid, a shooting gallery showman. Despite Nan's prodding, The Kid has no ambitions about joining the rackets and making enough money to ... See full summary »
Film told in flashbacks of an older man's obsession for a woman who can belong to no-one but can frustrate everyone. The backdrop is SternbergÍs surreal and fantastic Carnaval in Spain. In ... See full summary »
Josef von Sternberg
Edward Everett Horton
A young woman, Poppy, out for excitement in Shanghai, enters a gambling house owned by "Mother" Gin Sling, a dragon-lady who worked herself up from poverty to buy the casino. Sir Guy ... See full summary »
Young Princess Sophia of Germany is taken to Russia to marry the half-wit Grand Duke Peter, son of the Empress. The domineering Empress hopes to improve the royal blood line. Sophia doesn't... See full summary »
A criminal known as Thunderbolt is imprisoned and facing execution. Into the next cell is placed Bob Morgan, an innocent man who has been framed and who is in love with Thunderbolt's girl, ... See full summary »
Theodore Dreiser's novel was based on the actual 1906 murder case of Chester Gillette, convicted of drowning his girlfriend Grace Brown in Big Moose Lake in upstate New York. Gillette was executed in the electric chair on 30 March 1908. See more »
I finally got to see Theodore Dreiser's An American Tragedy (1931), with Phillips Holmes playing the young sociopath-murderer that Monty Clift played in the later A Place In the Sun (1951). This picture was directed by Josef von Sternberg.
The print a friend loaned me was a real chore on the eyes, I am glad I didn't pay for this! I don't like her generally, but I must admit Sylvia Sidney did a good job as the thoughtless girl "Bert", which Shelley Winters more annoyingly played in the remake. Sylvia's part was much bigger and more sympathetic than the girl Phillips' character Clyde falls in love with later, here played by Frances Dee and in the remake by Elizabeth Taylor. In A Place in the Sun Elizabeth Taylor's part was very much expanded, but in this earlier version we're not even sure Clyde cares more about her than her money.
Phillips played his part so emotionlessly that it was almost like he was in a trance. I kept thinking of the infamous Scott Peterson and his emotionlessness through his trial for murdering his pregnant wife. I think that was a deliberate choice on Phillips' part to play the role this way, but there were many times when he seemed very wooden to me and I wanted to see more passion or life or something! Overall I do think he was truer to the role though than Monty Clift's interpretation.
I don't recall a mother character in A Place In The Sun, but here Clyde's mother is played well by Lucille La Verne, a popular character actress of the 30's. She runs a mission and spends more time saving souls than looking after her only boy, with the result that he grows up without a firm rudder to cling to when times get hard. So in that respect this earlier film version gives the audience more of a background into Clyde's childhood and environment which made him the sociopath he turned out to be. You know the character is in for it right at the beginning of the film, when he's indirectly involved with a hit and run accident of a child, and runs away rather than give details to the police.
If you can see it, do so. I hope you obtain a better print than I did though! I wish TCM would play this film, maybe back to back one evening with the 1951 remake, so folks can compare versions.
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