For residents on the idyllic South Seas island of Pago Pago, life is simple until a boat arrives carrying two couples, the Davidsons (who are missionaries), the MacPhails and a prostitute named Sadie Thompson. Davidson is more than just a religious zealot; he's a mad man. When the boat, which was en route to another port, is temporarily stranded on the island due to a possible Cholera outbreak on-board, Sadie spends her time "partying" with the American soldiers stationed on the island. Her behavior, however, is more than the Davidsons can stand and soon Mr. Davidson confronts Sadie about her evil ways and offers salvation. When Sadie rebels and the attempted redemption does not go as planned, Davidson arranges to have her sent back to San Francisco, where she fled some years ago due to mysterious personal issues. Davidson soon becomes unhinged and thus begins a series of surprising events which culminate in disaster. Written by
In this awkward early talkie, a beautiful, young Joan Crawford leaps off the screen with a vivid and charismatic performance that anticipates her later award-winning career.
Try to see this on as big a viewing screen as you can, as the film is often quite dark, and Crawford is so beautiful in it you'll want a good look. I loved it!
In this second screen version of W. Somerset Maugham's morality tale, "Rain", Joan Crawford gives a performance that knocks the rest of the cast off the screen.
First made as a silent with Gloria Swanson, the stageplay "Miss Sadie Thompson" had been a controversial broadway hit, and young Joan Crawford fought hard to get the coveted role of Sadie. She shed her drawing room manners and designer gowns, researching the part by visiting the red-light district of San Diego to see what the street-walkers of the day looked and sounded like. Her appearance in the film was considered offensive for it's realism, and the film stiffed at the box office. Sadly, it's financial failure relegated Crawford to years of popular but light-weight "respectable" roles, before her Oscar-calibre performances of the 1940's and 50's.
But for audiences of today, the film is worth reconsidering. The other performers are wooden and stilted but Crawford's performance, embarrassingly natural in 1932, leaps off the screen. The topic matter that was so controversial, even offensive, in the early 1930's is not a hard sell to modern audiences: that bible-thumpers aren't always the good guys, and "sinners" aren't always so bad.
Further, the feminist aspect of the film is clearer today. As Sadie makes her way around the Pacific, a fun-loving free-spirit often one step ahead of the law, it's the fact that she's a female that draws the ire of the puritanical fire-and-brimstone missionaries: a young man would have gotten away with it.
And for us post-Woodstock viewers this touching story strikes a familiar chord: of the harmless, light-hearted kid who hurts no-one but whose very existence is offensive to the powers that be.
And it must fairly be said that when she was a young (I think she's about 25 when she made this) she is a strikingly beautiful babe, heavy make-up or not.
If you've ever written Crawford off as "man-ish" or "bitchy" because of roles she did later in her life, check out this movie and take a look at the sexy, vivacious girl who was once described by F. Scott Fitzgerald as "the personification of the American flapper"!
I found the film fascinating (that's why I went on to look up all the above information).
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