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An American Tragedy (1931)

Approved  |   |  Romance, Drama  |  22 August 1931 (USA)
6.7
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Ratings: 6.7/10 from 301 users  
Reviews: 17 user | 5 critic

A poor factory worker, employed by a wealthy uncle, falls in love with a beautiful heiress but his happiness and promising future are jeopardized by a previous affair with a coworker he impregnated.

Director:

(as Josef Von Sternberg)
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Title: An American Tragedy (1931)

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Cast

Complete credited cast:
Phillips Holmes ...
...
Frances Dee ...
Sondra Finchley
...
District Attorney Orville Mason
Frederick Burton ...
Samuel Griffiths
...
Mrs. Samuel Griffiths
Wallace Middleton ...
Gilbert Griffiths
Emmett Corrigan ...
Belknap (Clyde's attorney)
...
Mrs. Asa Griffiths
...
Jephson (Clyde's second attorney) (as Charles B. Middleton)
Al Hart ...
Titus Alden (as Albert Hart)
Fanny Midgley ...
Mrs. Titus Alden
Arnold Korff ...
Judge
Russ Powell ...
Coroner Fred Heit (as Russell Powell)
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Storyline

A poor factory worker, employed by a wealthy uncle, falls in love with a beautiful heiress but his happiness and promising future are jeopardized by a previous affair with a coworker he impregnated.

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

Drama that happens around you everyday - when the wild life of impetuous youth burns away age-old barriers!

Genres:

Romance | Drama

Certificate:

Approved | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

22 August 1931 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Eine amerikanische Tragödie  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

 »
Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Noiseless Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.20 : 1
See  »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

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 »

Connections

Version of Hi no ataru basho (1982) See more »

Soundtracks

Some of These Days
(1910) (uncredited)
Music and Lyrics by Shelton Brooks
Variations played over opening credits
Sung by boys and girls at the lake
See more »

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User Reviews

Sylvia Sidney,she came a long way!
5 January 2004 | by See all my reviews

To think that it's the same actress who stole the show in the first version of the Dreiser novel,who shone in Lang,Hitchcock or Wyler works, and...landed in Tim Burton's "Mars attacks" where she played the "deus ex machina grandma who single-handedly saved our dear old planet! It's very interesting to compare her performance with that of the great Shelley Winters in Stevens's remake:they give diametrically opposite renditions:Winters' portrayal is that of a vulgar ,crude ,exasperating and even authoritarian woman,almost a shrew;Sidney's girl is exquisite with small eyes longing for happiness and love,a very delicate style of play.

If you've seen the remake before,you will notice big differences:the first one is the rich girl's part:whereas Elizabeth Taylor 's part was very important in "a place in the sun",here Frances Dee does her very short stint,hardly 10 minutes,then they talk about her as "Miss X ", the invisible woman,which prevents us from comparing her with her more famous successor.Philip Holmes was surpassed by Montgomery Clift who gave more intensity,more ambiguity and finally more credibility to a character who is primarily a coward :there's room at the top ,but he's bound to fall because perhaps of his education.From that point of view,"an American tragedy" is more detailed than "a place in the sun" :the hero's mother plays a prominent part and it's finally in his last scenes with her that Philip Holmes transcends a rather monotonous portrayal.The first accident which he was not responsible for is not included in Stevens' version.

If Sidney is the main asset of the movie,its main flaw is the very long trial ,one third of the running time is given over to it,and the defendant's attorney's and the prosecuting attorney's histrionics are sometimes ponderous and seem to come straight from the silent movies .(Sternberg was an important director before and after 1929,the year of the talkies).It's interesting to notice that between 1930 and 1935,it's his only film which does not feature Marlene Dietrich.

All in all, Stevens'"a place in the sun" is a better constructed movie,a better remake,which has become exceptional nowadays,but at least for Sidney, watch this one.


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