Sadie Thompson (1928)

[Note: The following review is of a non-Peary title; click here to read more.]

“Sadie Thompson, you are an evil woman!”

Sadie Thompson Poster

Synopsis:
A fun-loving woman (Gloria Swanson) fleeing from San Francisco arrives in Pago-Pago, where a judgmental missionary (Lionel Barrymore) tries to convince her to repent her sins, and a handsome soldier (Raoul Walsh) tempts her with the prospect of a new life in Australia.

Genres:

  • Gloria Swanson Films
  • Lionel Barrymore Films
  • Literature Adaptation
  • Morality Police
  • Prostitutes and Gigolos
  • Raoul Walsh Films
  • Silent Films
  • South Sea Islands

Review:
W. Somerset Maugham’s short story “Rain” was adapted for the screen three times — most famously in 1932 with Joan Crawford, and later as Miss Sadie Thompson (1953) with Rita Hayworth. However, this early silent version — directed by and co-starring Raoul Walsh — remains worth a look on its own merits, both as an atmospheric adaptation of the story, and for Swanson’s iconic performance as Sadie. As I noted in my review of Cecil B. DeMille’s Male and Female (1919), Peary only includes three Gloria Swanson titles in his GFTFF, none of which portray her at her silent-era best — this title, I think, fits that bill. Given that Peary nominates both Swanson and Barrymore (nicely epitomizing moral hypocrisy) in his Alternate Oscars, it seems especially suitable to include here as a “missing must-see” title; however, be forewarned that its final reel is missing. Check out Wikipedia’s article to read more about the film’s troubled birth and production history.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Gloria Swanson as Sadie (nominated by both Peary and the official Academy as Best Actress of the Year)
    Sadie Thompson Swanson
  • Lionel Barrymore as Mr. Davidson
    Sadie Thompson Barrymore
  • Fine cinematography
    Sadie Thompson Cinematography

Must See?
Yes, simply to see Swanson’s Oscar-nominated performance, and for its general historical interest.

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