A criminal known as Thunderbolt is imprisoned and facing execution. Into the next cell is placed Bob Moran, an innocent man who has been framed and who is in love with Thunderbolt's girl. ... See full summary »
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 »
A cowardly young man, a bitter young woman and a helpless child live on the docks, spend their days full of ennui watching a dredge dig the same hole day in and day out, chased around by ... See full summary »
Josef von Sternberg
George K. Arthur,
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 »
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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