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Sunday, March 24, 2013

The Sin Of Madelon Claudet (1931)

A young French farm girl (Helen Hayes in the first of her two Oscar wins) runs off with her American lover (Neil Hamilton) to Paris. After he abandons her, she finds herself pregnant. In order to support her child, she becomes the mistress of a wealthy older man (Lewis Stone) and from there descends to prostitution and thievery. Films about mothers who sacrifice their lives out of love for their children at whatever the costs were quite popular in the 1930s, STELLA DALLAS and MADAME X being the most notable examples. This one isn't as solid as the others but it benefits from a strong, if uneven, performance by Helen Hayes. Some of her performance is very actressy with lots of indicating as if she were doing a silent movie or theatrical as if she were on a stage rather than a soundstage. But she has many affecting moments too, mostly as the thieving harlot but also as the old Madelon. Directed by Edgar Selwyn. With Robert Young as the grown up son, Jean Hersholt, Karen Morley, Cliff Edwards, Alan Hale, Marie Prevost and Charles Winninger.

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