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23 user 8 critic

An American Tragedy (1931)

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:

Josef von Sternberg (as Josef Von Sternberg)

Writers:

Theodore Dreiser (novel), Samuel Hoffenstein (screenplay)
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Cast

Complete credited cast:
Phillips Holmes ... Clyde Griffiths
Sylvia Sidney ... Roberta Alden
Frances Dee ... Sondra Finchley
Irving Pichel ... District Attorney Orville Mason
Frederick Burton ... Samuel Griffiths
Claire McDowell ... Mrs. Samuel Griffiths
Wallace Middleton Wallace Middleton ... Gilbert Griffiths
Emmett Corrigan Emmett Corrigan ... Belknap
Charles Middleton ... Jephson (as Charles B. Middleton)
Lucille La Verne ... Mrs. Asa Griffiths
Al Hart ... Titus Alden (as Albert Hart)
Fanny Midgley Fanny Midgley ... Mrs. Titus Alden
Arnold Korff ... Judge
Russ Powell 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:

Impetous youth...loving grandly...branded by passion...scorning advice...TOO WEAK TO FACE THE CONSEQUENCES! (Print Ad-The Philadelphia Inquirer,((Philadelphia, Penna.)) 4 September 1931) See more »

Genres:

Crime | Drama | Romance

Certificate:

Approved | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

22 August 1931 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Eine amerikanische Tragödie See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Paramount Pictures See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Noiseless Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.20 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

A play, also based on the novel as is this film, opened on Broadway at the Longacre Theatre, 220 W. 48th St., on October 11, 1926 and ran for 216 performances until April, 1927. A revival was put on at the Waldorf Theatre, 116 W. 50th St., beginning February 20, 1931 and ran for 137 performances until June, 1931. See more »

Connections

Version of A Place in the Sun (1951) 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

 
Excellent Phillips Holmes
25 June 2007 | by drednmSee all my reviews

This seems much closer to the facts of Theodore Dreiser's great novel than the soapy 50s version, good in its own way, with Montgomery Clift.

Even with florid Josef von Sternberg directing, the film follows the basic plot of the novel although there seem to be a few holes. Still, the courtroom scene is electric and makes this all worth it. I also like the casting of Phillips Holmes as Clyde. Holmes is able to capture the bizarre passions and inability to really care that embody Clyde. His subtle performance in the courtroom scenes, as he slowly breaks down and loses any sense of truth under the barrage of lawyers, is quite excellent. His voice goes higher and thinner as he becomes just a frightened boy answering the stupid questions posed by the sadistic and ambitious lawyers.

Sylvia Sidney is quite good as the tragic Roberta, and Frances Dee captures the haughty attitudes of the wealthy of that era. Charles Middleton and Irving Pichel play the lawyers. And Lucille LaVerne plays Clyde's mother.

This was a big hit in its day and helped establish Holmes and Sidney as stars. Holmes had a relatively short starring career and died in WW II but he made several memorable films with Nancy Carroll.


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