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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:

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

One of the very few feature films to be dubbed in Swedish. The audience, however, did not take to Swedish voices in an American film and preferred the subtitled version. Since then, subtitling has been the general practice in Sweden, with the exception of animated films and children's films (even then, an option of seeing the original version is usually available). See more »

Connections

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

Soundtracks

Some of These Days
(1910) (uncredited)
Music and Lyrics by Shelton Brooks
Variations played over opening credits
Sung by boys and girls at the lake
See more »

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User Reviews

 
A darker tale than the 1951 remake
12 March 2008 | by overseer-3See all my reviews

I finally got to see Theodore Dreiser's An American Tragedy (1931), with Phillips Holmes playing the young sociopath-murderer that Monty Clift played in the later A Place In the Sun (1951). This picture was directed by Josef von Sternberg.

The print a friend loaned me was a real chore on the eyes, I am glad I didn't pay for this! I don't like her generally, but I must admit Sylvia Sidney did a good job as the thoughtless girl "Bert", which Shelley Winters more annoyingly played in the remake. Sylvia's part was much bigger and more sympathetic than the girl Phillips' character Clyde falls in love with later, here played by Frances Dee and in the remake by Elizabeth Taylor. In A Place in the Sun Elizabeth Taylor's part was very much expanded, but in this earlier version we're not even sure Clyde cares more about her than her money.

Phillips played his part so emotionlessly that it was almost like he was in a trance. I kept thinking of the infamous Scott Peterson and his emotionlessness through his trial for murdering his pregnant wife. I think that was a deliberate choice on Phillips' part to play the role this way, but there were many times when he seemed very wooden to me and I wanted to see more passion or life or something! Overall I do think he was truer to the role though than Monty Clift's interpretation.

I don't recall a mother character in A Place In The Sun, but here Clyde's mother is played well by Lucille La Verne, a popular character actress of the 30's. She runs a mission and spends more time saving souls than looking after her only boy, with the result that he grows up without a firm rudder to cling to when times get hard. So in that respect this earlier film version gives the audience more of a background into Clyde's childhood and environment which made him the sociopath he turned out to be. You know the character is in for it right at the beginning of the film, when he's indirectly involved with a hit and run accident of a child, and runs away rather than give details to the police.

If you can see it, do so. I hope you obtain a better print than I did though! I wish TCM would play this film, maybe back to back one evening with the 1951 remake, so folks can compare versions.


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