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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
Camera's shadow falls across the backs of the missionaries as they sit around the table in the general store. See more »
Friend, you'll behold here the last remnants of an earthly paradise. That's my quarrel with reformers. They won't let it alone.
Dr. Robert MacPhail:
Yes, I can readily see how a reformer might feel a little out-of-place here. Sort of like a schoolmarm waking up in a harem.
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Unlike most people, I like both this movie and Crawford's performance, though the sudden and complete change to and from her religion-inspired catatonic state is a bit too rash and unconvincing (not due only to her acting: the film is so constructed). Huston plays a very sinister character. His brainwash on Sadie Thompson is appalling, and the scene when she succumbs while he recites the Lord's Prayer is most disturbing. Milestone's dynamic camera work is indeed overdone, but it is clear that it was a somewhat naïve attempt to counteract the tendency to sluggishness of the early talkies (compare with 'Anna Christie' with Garbo, for instance). The director gives the rain an important role as a powerful surrounding element of nature, almost trying to treat it as a living character, much like what Sjostrom did in 'The Wind'(1929); it doesn't entirely come through, but it was a worthy effort. The quick editing on Crawford's entrance (repeated in the end) is also impressive.
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