Theodore Dreiser sued Paramount for misrepresenting his novel by transforming it into an ordinary murder story. The judge ruled in favor of Paramount; Dreiser's motion to prevent release of the film was denied. See more »
surprisingly powerful adaptation of the Dreiser classic
The first and best film adaptation of Theodore Dreiser's classic novel of pointless crime and arbitrary punishment, the 1931 version of AN American TRAGEDY was directed by Josef Von Sternberg, who had just had great success with THE BLUE ANGEL (and who made a total of eight films with star Marlene Dietrich) and who captures the emptiness and isolation and desperate qualities of the characters well. Phillips Holmes, perhaps best known today for GENERAL SPANKY (the strange Our Gang feature film) is a revelation as the heartless, social-climbing Clyde Griffiths, and the young Sylvia Sidney makes a strong impression as the working girl killed in the "accident" that leads to the long trial sequence at the film's end, which is itself a classic of courtroom melodrama. Clyde is represented in court by Charles Middleton (who later played Emperor Ming in the FLASH GORDON films) as a cynical, grandstanding attorney. AN American TRAGEDY still packs a punch today and has a rawness and power and biting commentary on the class structure of society entirely lacking in A PLACE IN THE SUN, the 1951 film adaptation of the same novel.
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