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Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Madame Butterfly (1932)

A young Japanese girl (Sylvia Sidney) becomes a geisha in order to support her family. An American Naval Lieutenant (Cary Grant) is attracted to her and marries her rather nonchalantly as he knows he must eventually return to America where his fiancee (Sheila Terry) is waiting for him. Based on the 1898 short story by John Luther Long which in turn was dramatized in 1900 for the stage by David Belasco and eventually turned into the acclaimed opera by Giacomo Puccini in 1904, which he revised several times. As directed by Marion Gering, there are important differences from the opera but Puccini's music is incorporated into the film's underscore. The opera is passionate and heartbreaking but here, without Puccini's glorious music, it all seems rather cruel and sordid. I don't think I've ever found Grant as unappealing as he is here though granted his character is shamefully dishonest and cowardly. As usual for films of this period, almost all the major Japanese characters are played by Caucasians. That aside, Sylvia Sidney, she of the liquid eyes, is both lovely and charming and she conveys so much emotionally that it's a pity it's not a stronger film.  With Charles Ruggles, Irving Pichel and Louise Carter.

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