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Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Sadie Thompson (1928)

When a brassy good time gal (Gloria Swanson in an Oscar nominated performance) of easy virtue arrives on the island of Pago Pago, a religious fanatic (Lionel Barrymore) makes it his personal mission to see she's deported from the island. In the meantime, a soldier (Raoul Walsh, the film's director) falls for her and wants to marry her. The first of the three film versions of W. Somerset Maugham's short story MISS THOMPSON (it was remade in 1932 and 1953) remains the best. In no small part to director Walsh's atmospheric direction which perfectly captures the humid and steamy, rain soaked claustrophobic mien. Truth to tell though, Maugham's story is a pretty hoary piece which is why I doubt we'll see any more remakes. Barrymore slightly overdoes the religious zealousness but Swanson is excellent here, neatly balancing the brazen hoyden with the conflicted redemptive Sadie. It's a pity that most filmgoers think of her only in conjunction with SUNSET BOULEVARD. Unfortunately, the film's final reel no longer exists so the print I saw had to "recreate" the film's final moments with stills and intertitles based on the original screenplay.

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