6.7/10
438
24 user 7 critic

An American Tragedy (1931)

Approved | | Crime, Drama, Romance | 22 August 1931 (USA)
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)

Writers:

(novel), (screenplay)
Reviews

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Cast

Complete credited cast:
...
...
...
Sondra Finchley
...
District Attorney Orville Mason
Frederick Burton ...
Samuel Griffiths
...
Mrs. Samuel Griffiths
Wallace Middleton ...
Gilbert Griffiths
Emmett Corrigan ...
Belknap
...
Jephson (as Charles B. Middleton)
...
Mrs. Asa Griffiths
...
Titus Alden (as Albert Hart)
Fanny Midgley ...
Mrs. Titus Alden
...
Judge
Russ Powell ...
Coroner Fred Heit (as Russell Powell)
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Storyline

Having just reached adulthood, Clyde Griffiths has always lamented his lot in life, he the only son of poor missionaries. He has gotten a peripheral view of society life, to which he aspires, in his work as a bellhop at an upscale hotel. If being truthful to himself, he would admit that he lacks moral strength, he often taking the easiest but perhaps not the most ethical path to protect himself. Forced to move from place to place out of circumstance, he ends up in Lycurgus, New York working at the Samuel Griffiths Collar and Shirt factory, Samuel Griffiths his paternal uncle. Not knowing his uncle or his family, Clyde only wants a chance to get ahead, not expecting anything else from his wealthy relations. After an apprenticeship, Clyde ends up as the foreman in the stamping department. Despite a company rule forbidding foremen to fraternize with staff, especially those working in the same department, Clyde begins an affair, a clandestine one out of necessity, with Roberta Alden, who ... Written by Huggo

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

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

Genres:

Crime | Drama | Romance

Certificate:

Approved | See all certifications »
Edit

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

The movie was banned in England, South Africa and Italy because of reference to abortion. Other states required allusions to abortion to be deleted before release. See more »

Connections

Version of Um Lugar ao Sol (1959) See more »

Soundtracks

Nearer My God to Thee
(1856) (uncredited)
Music by Lowell Mason
Played on an organ at the mission
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 part of the wealthy girl: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.

Nb:both movies pass over in silence book one and don't feature the hotel,Hortense ,the pregnant sister ,and the terrible car accident which costs a little girl her life.


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