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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
This is the second film version of the short story, "Rain". The first in 1928 was called "Miss Sadie Thompson" as the story and title were on the "forbidden list to be filmed. It starred Gloria Swanson and Lionel Barrymore and brought Swanson the first of her three Oscar nominations. The third was also called "Miss Sadie Thompson" and starred Rita Hayworth. See more »
Camera's shadow falls across the backs of the missionaries as they sit around the table in the general store. See more »
Amazing portrayal of a real woman before "the code" took over Hollywood
Despite some hammy acting, especially by a fledgling Joan Crawford, I easily give this movie a 9/10 rating.
"The Code" refers (in case you don't know) to the morality code put into place in mid-1934 which clamped down very hard on what could be portrayed in the movies. After the code, women that were off-color in any way, shape, or form had to be punished, redeemed through atonement/repentance, or killed off.
However, in "Rain", Joan Crawford plays Sadie Thompson, a prostitute working on a South Pacific (?) island whom all the service-men seem to adore. They treat her like a friend, a comrade, not a lowly piece of scum or mere sexual object. This, in and of itself, was refreshing to see. And it was from 1932 no less!
A group of missionaries are waylaid on Sadie's island due to a torrential rain storm. The head missionary takes an instant dislike to Sadie's character (I believe he is threatened by her free-loving and live-loving spirit), and has the governor of the island extradite her back to the United States, to be prosecuted for some crime that the film does not clearly delineate.
There is also a soldier who loves Sadie and who wants to marry her. He knows she's a prostitute. He's had her and so have most if not all of his buddies, but he loves the person she is and wants to spend the rest of his life with her. He is taken to the brig for a week for some petty offense, and during this week the head missionary convinces (brainwashes) Sadie into believing she is a filthy, sinful creature who must pay for her sins. The soldier cannot believe the transformation in Sadie when he gets out of the brig. The interesting thing to me is that as the "reformed" Sadie, Joan Crawford is MUCH more beautiful (less makeup, more subdued clothing, softer-focus lighting) than as the lurid Sadie, yet the soldier sees she is much LESS than she was before. He sees the INSIDE of Sadie, and sees she is a mere shell of her former self. He tries to persuade her to go away with him, rather than return to the U.S. to "pay for her sins" as the missionary has convinced her she must.
I want to avoid spoilers, so I'll just say that events then take place that make Sadie realize she is just fine as she is, and that the missionary was a hypocrite of a human being.
It blows me away that the message of this 72-year-old film is more daring than most messages we get from modern-day films. We are still stuck in a post-code madonna/whore view of women that was clearly not in place in the early 30s.
Despite the not-best acting in the world, this movie is a must-see for its amazing story and portrayal of a real woman!
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