French country girl Madelon falls for artist Larry, who leaves her after she becomes pregnant. She finds help from jewel thief Carlo, but he commits suicide when the police try to arrest him. Madelon is arrested and receives a ten year term in prison for assisting him in his profession. To support her son, who does not know that she's been in prison, she becomes a street walker, allowing him to attend medical school. Written by
Stephan Eichenberg <email@example.com>
Helen Hayes enjoyed an amazing career, particularly on stage, but she made films and even had a TV show, "The Snoop Sisters."
This is very early Hayes starring in "The Sins of Madelon Claudet" from 1931.
Madelon runs off with her boyfriend to Paris. At one point, her boyfriend needs to return to America but says he will be back soon. He never returns due to pressure from his parents.
Madelon is pregnant and gives birth to a baby boy. Her next move is to marry a farmer, a friend of her father's, but he will not allow the baby to come along. So that's that. Hearing from her that she's to be married, an admirer, Count Boretti, has sent her flowers after she turns down his proposal to be his mistress. Now she takes him up on it.
She doesn't tell the Count about her baby, so he lives with a husband and wife not too far away. The Count comes home one night, announces he's rich, and proposes marriage. When Madelon tells him about the baby, he says he already knew and it's fine. A few hours later, he's exposed as a crook. He and Madelon are both arrested, the police believing she had knowledge of where he got his money.
Madelon goes to prison for ten years. By now her child is in a charity school - more like an orphanage, where he's well-treated, and she's told she can't have him until she can prove she can support him. When she meets him, she tells him his mother is dead, and she's a friend.
With no work to be had, Madelon turns to walking the streets to give a doctor friend money for her child.
There are so many of these stories about women turning to prostitution -- it's so sad that women were extremely limited in those days, and not only that, banished if she had an illegitimate child.
I don't believe I have ever seen Robert Young this young - his voice is unmistakable, and he gives a warm performance as Madelon's son. He was not a superstar in films, but on television - well, he more than made up for it with two iconic roles.
Helen Hayes is excellent - coming from the stage, one might expect her to be too theatrical, but she was not at all. A wonderful actress, her career went from 1909 to 1985.
Good movie - as far as pace, this is one of the better really early talkies I've seen. Good direction by Edgar Selwyn, who wrote the play on which this is based.
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