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"Madame X" (1929)


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Is anyone else recording/watching this?

 

*Madame X* (1929)

Infidelity and an accidental death force a society wife to leave her infant son.

Cast: Lewis Stone, Ruth Chatterton, Raymond Hackett, Holmes Herbert Dir: Lionel Barrymore BW-95 mins, TV-PG

 

http://www.tcm.com/thismonth/article/?cid=66909

 

*Madame X (1929)*

 

When the movies began to talk, many Hollywood producers attempted to insure their success by relying on writers and filmmakers who specialized in dialogue and music. Because of his pedigree as a member of the "First Family of the American Stage," Lionel Barrymore suddenly found himself in great demand, but not as an actor. In the year 1929, at the behest of production head Irving Thalberg, Barrymore directed three feature films and a short, in an effort to help MGM wrestle sound technology into submission.

 

Barrymore had directed a handful of films in the 1910s but turned away from the profession in 1917 to concentrate on acting. With the advent of sound technology, he recognized new challenges and new potential for the medium, and gladly returned to the director's chair.

 

Barrymore looked with amusement upon the endless screen tests with which the studios nervously prepared for the sound revolution. "Speech has been a success for thousands of years," he quipped, "and now they are testing it."

 

Yet Barrymore took the challenge of sound filmmaking very seriously. He astutely advised MGM executives, "Action will remain the chief ingredient of these little cultural dramas of ours... The main difference will be that the titles will from now on be uttered -- preferably in something approximating English -- instead of printed."

 

His first assignment was a short film, Confession (1929). Satisfied with the technical and artistic results, MGM assigned Barrymore his first talking feature, Madame X (1929). A somber adaptation of Alexandre Bisson's oft-revived play of maternal sacrifice, Madame X follows the downward trajectory of Jacqueline Floriot (Ruth Chatterton), a wife and mother who loses the love of her husband (Lewis Stone) when she has an affair. Returning home to see her sick child, Jacqueline is forbidden entry and cast back into the street. In the ensuing years she remains devoted to her child, whom she barely remembers, even as she sinks into moral depravity. When a con man (Ullrich Haupt) discovers her true identity (and prepares to blackmail her prominent husband), Jacqueline shoots him in the back. Put on trial for murder, she refuses to defend herself or reveal her identity, lest her long-lost son (Raymond Hackett) be humiliated by the revelation. And in a bitter twist of fate, her son, now an aspiring lawyer, has just been assigned to her case.

 

Receiving its New York debut in 1910, the play Madame X had twice been adapted to the screen before it became Barrymore's property, and would be remade another two times afterward (with Gladys George in 1937 and Lana Turner in 1966). By 1929 it had already come to emblematize the maternal melodrama, in which devoted mothers sacrifice money and respectability so that their children can live their lives free of the taints of poverty or scandal. This "fallen woman" formula would become a genre of its own in the 1930s. The Sin of Madelon Claudet (1931), Blonde Venus (1932), Stella Dallas (1937) and Kitty Foyle (1940) all owe a dramatic debt to Bisson's original play and Barrymore's 1929 adaptation. Incidentally, Dickie Moore, who plays the object of maternal affection in Blonde Venus can be glimpsed in the puppet show sequence of Madame X.

 

Barrymore consciously avoided the song-and-dance formula that dominated early sound pictures, treating Madame X as a somber and important dramatic play -- without music. To emphasize the film's credentials as a serious drama and avoid any music hall associations, MGM premiered the film in New York's Sam H. Harris Theater, a legitimate stage venue that was rented for the occasion.

 

Even in the midst of the film, Barrymore savored silent pauses rather than filling every screen second with Movietone gab. Some critics, frazzled by the unceasing noise of the typical talkie, were grateful. "Mr. Barrymore is to be congratulated for his intelligence and restraint in having nothing said or heard when there is no need of it in furthering the progress of the story," wrote Motion Picture Magazine.

 

Although pleased to be able to work with the new dimension of sound, Barrymore was frustrated by the technology's lack of mobility. Rather than group actors underneath an overhead microphone (or gather them around a flowerpot or telephone with the recording apparatus concealed within), he wanted to allow them freedom to walk around the sets without falling out of microphone range. To remedy the situation, he called for a prop man to fetch a fishing pole, and suspended the microphone from one end of the pole. The microphone could then follow the actors instead of vice-versa, and the "boom microphone" was born. Unfortunately for Barrymore, other filmmakers, including Cecil B. DeMille and W.S. Van Dyke, also claim to have invented the mobile microphone at the same time, so the question of its true innovator remains unresolved.

 

Viewers may notice that no music is heard under the opening or closing credits of Madame X (even though Leo's growl is audible). This is the result of a short-lived practice in which studios expected the local theatre musicians to provide live accompaniment to the opening credits of sound films. Because keyboardists and orchestras were still working in the theatres at that time (providing music for silent films still in distribution), it was an easy way to make the screening more of a special event and not a purely "canned" presentation. At times during the film's production, the sobriety of Madame X and its lack of music were more than Barrymore could bear. He reportedly visited the set of Broadway Melody during breaks in the shooting. When asked the purpose of his visit, Barrymore replied, "Watching the pretty girls. Over on my set I'm directing Ruth Chatterton in Madame X -- only heavy drama... Every director needs a change of pace."

 

Barrymore was not the only one to question Madame X's dramatic weight. Freshly recruited from the Algonquin Round Table, Dorothy Parker did some uncredited dialogue work on the film and was disappointed in its sobriety, in the age of flappers, red hot rhythm and Al Jolson's The Jazz Singer (1927). "Why not jazz up the story?" She asked Barrymore, tongue-in-cheek, "Stick in a few hot numbers and call it Mammy X!"

 

Barrymore resisted the temptation and was rewarded with an Academy Award nomination for Best Director. Ruth Chatterton was nominated for Best Actress. In its review, Variety praised the film for ignoring the musical urge and for daring to present a grim and controversial tale without glamorization. "Pictures of this caliber and their makers are entitled to untold commendation...in lending to the screen a quality that the screen needs. Pictures like Madame X confound the reformers, elevate the name of pictures and tell the world that there is an art in film making."

 

Chatterton's performance is remarkable even by today's standards, as she degenerates from a society woman to an absinthe-swilling, bloated wretch, almost unrecognizable as the same actress. Variety also lauded her work, with one minor reservation: "During the picture's running, Miss Chatterton in her character is twice knocked down, each time by a different brute. And each time she 'takes the slap,' as it is called in stage parlance, warding off the blow by her open hand at the point it is struck. In this film the slaps are taken so obviously by her they will bring a smile. To the lays [laypersons] they are invisible."

 

Director: Lionel Barrymore

Screenplay: Willard Mack, Based on the play by Alexandre Bisson

Cinematography: Arthur Reed

Production Design: Cedric Gibbons

Cast: Ruth Chatterton (Jacqueline Floriot), Lewis Stone (Louis Floriot), Raymond Hackett (Raymond Floriot), Ullric Haupt (Laroque), Sidney Toler (Dr. Merivel).

BW-95m.

 

by Bret Wood

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Rats. I didn't even look at the date, I just assumed it was going to be the newer version they usually show, which is boring. I'm recording the last part now but missed the majority.

 

If anyone has recorded it today and would like to share (costs covered of course) please email me? Thanks. :)

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Wow, I finally found this thread again. I think it belongs up in one of the main topics.

 

Anyway, this was one of the most re-made films in all of Hollywood, and every version I've seen has been very good:

 

This plot was also used in Ruth Chatterton?s Frisco Jenny (1932), Kay Francis? Confession (1937), and Pola Negri?s ?Mazurka? (1935).

 

A version of:

Femme, La (1910)

Who Is She? (1910)

Hvem er hun? (1914)

Madame X (1916)

Madame X (1920)

Madame X (1937)

A Woman Is the Judge (1939)

The Trial of Madame X (1948)

Agnostos, I (1954)

Mujer X, La (1955)

Madame X (1966)

Madame X (1981) (TV)

 

Alternate language version of

Mujer X, La (1931)

 

Referenced in

The Secret of Madame Blanche (1933)

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*Wow, I finally found this thread again. I think it belongs up in one of the main topics.*

 

Maybe it does, at that. I didn't think there would be enough interest there in a 1929 movie. But I suppose I could be wrong.

 

P.S. How often do you get to hear someone described as "absinthe-swilling"? I really must watch this movie! ;)

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Well the last twenty minutes I saw were good. It reminded me of the heightened emotions in The Trial of Mary Dugan the same year.

 

I have a friend in UK who has been wanting to see this film for years. I feel badly I missed out in recording the whole thing so I could share it with him. Oh well. Maybe someone out there who happened to record it will share with others.

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I got my gift copy of Madame X. There was no music in the opening titles and credits and no sound for the first scene! I thought maybe the guy sent me a defective disc but after the first scene Lewis Stone's voice popped up. Weird! The audio was muffled and I had to turn it up practically to 90% in order to understand the words. Yet another 1929 film which would have fared better as a silent!

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>There was no music in the opening titles and credits and no sound for the first scene! I thought maybe the guy sent me a defective disc but after the first scene Lewis Stone's voice popped up. Weird!

 

It's possible that this was recorded on a Vitaphone disk (but I'm not sure). It sounded to me like the initial sound was missing, such as being a piece broken out of the original disk, maybe a chip half an inch wide, along the edge of the record. I also noticed a click.....click.....click.....click for several seconds when the sound did come on. This is a repeating disk click caused by a deep scratch. It's not an optical sound track click.

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From the first post...

 

*Freshly recruited from the Algonquin Round Table, Dorothy Parker did some uncredited dialogue work on the film and was disappointed in its sobriety, in the age of flappers, red hot rhythm and Al Jolson's The Jazz Singer (1927). "Why not jazz up the story?" She asked Barrymore, tongue-in-cheek, "Stick in a few hot numbers and call it Mammy X!"*

 

Mammy X, now that cracked me up! :)

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> {quote:title=FredCDobbs wrote:}{quote}

> >There was no music in the opening titles and credits and no sound for the first scene! I thought maybe the guy sent me a defective disc but after the first scene Lewis Stone's voice popped up. Weird!

>

> It's possible that this was recorded on a Vitaphone disk (but I'm not sure). It sounded to me like the initial sound was missing, such as being a piece broken out of the original disk, maybe a chip half an inch wide, along the edge of the record. I also noticed a click.....click.....click.....click for several seconds when the sound did come on. This is a repeating disk click caused by a deep scratch. It's not an optical sound track click.

 

 

Please don't think I'm being rude, but I kinda zoned out while reading the Long post Film Fatale put up, but it was so interesting, I started over, and I noticed this...thought perhaps you guys might have missed it as well.

since I didn't see the film, besides the clicks, does this sound like the sound...you weren't hearing??? Did you hear Leo roar???(I'm pretty sick, so if I am not making much sense, sorry!)

 

*Viewers may notice that no music is heard under the opening or closing credits of Madame X (even though Leo's growl is audible). This is the result of a short-lived practice in which studios expected the local theatre musicians to provide live accompaniment to the opening credits of sound films. Because keyboardists and orchestras were still working in the theatres at that time (providing music for silent films still in distribution), it was an easy way to make the screening more of a special event and not a purely "canned" presentation. At times during the film's production, the sobriety of Madame X and its lack of music were more than Barrymore could bear. He reportedly visited the set of Broadway Melody during breaks in the shooting. When asked the purpose of his visit, Barrymore replied, "Watching the pretty girls. Over on my set I'm directing Ruth Chatterton in Madame X -- only heavy drama... Every director needs a change of pace."*

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http://goldensilents.proboards46.com/index.cgi?board=soundtalk&action=display&thread=10094&page=1

 

I added some screen snapshots from the film here.

 

I guess I don't care as much for historical accuracy as I thought. I couldn't stand the fact that the film has no sound for the opening credits and opening scene and so I added some opening music to my copy from another 1929 film The Right of Way. ;) I also got rid of all the pops and clicks in the first ten minutes of the film. They were just incredibly annoying.

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Of the 4 versions of MADAME X I've seen. the 1929 version, despite lousy direction from Lionel Barrymore, is the best because of Ruth Chatterton and the fact that the story fits the era. The 30s version, with a ferocious performance by Gladys George, is a throw-away B film with nothing to offer but the great Miss George. By the time this was retread for Lana Turner (gag) and then as a TV movie for Tuesday Weld, the context of the story just didn't make much sense anymore.

 

The 1929 version, along with an Oscar-nominated turn by Chatterton, also offers solid work by Lewis Stone and Raymond Hackett (who was married to Blanche Sweet) as the son. The son character fares (fairs?) much worse in the later versions.

 

To Barrymore's credit, the extended scene of Hackett pleading for Chatterton as she sits in the pew-like court bench is well done since we get to see Hackett's big scene and Chatterton's reactions in one frame and without annoying cross cuts.

 

A bravura performance by Ruth Chatterton!

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I think it's her best performance because her character changes so much, the part gives her great flexibility. I agree the later 1937 one was a snoozefest.

 

Of the three big courtroom dramas of 1929 I think The Letter was the most phenomenal, followed by Madame X, and then Trial of Mary Dugan.

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>Did you hear Leo roar???(

 

I turned the movie on a little late, and I don't remember Leo.

 

I saw titles and I heard a dead track. The film started and it was still a dead track for maybe 20 seconds. Then I heard a background hiss, and click, click, click, click, click, like a scratch in a record. The the clicks became less loud and then stopped. That's what made me think the sound was on a phonograph record.

 

Optical film sound track clicks would be random, and due to random dust and scratches.

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Goldensilents,

 

Sometimes problematic discs may be dirty or have oily residue. Discs may require gentle cleaning using a soft cloth dampened with diluted dish soap. Wipe from the center hole to the outside edge, and rinse with clear water.

 

Sometimes problematic discs may be dubbed in real time by a HDD/DVD recorder. Then the contents may be high-speed dubbed from the hard drive to a new disc. I've done this with my Philips 3575 and Magnavox 2160 HDD/DVD recorders. Or, use a DVD player or DVD recorder to play the disc while another DVD recorder makes a real-time copy. I've done this with my Panasonic ES and EZ series DVD recorders.

 

Often disc problems arise when a DVD may slip on the rubber hub that grips it during read, write and finalizing operations. The rubber hub needs regular cleaning, more often when the machine is used in warm, dusty or smoking environments; or where discs are handled with a finger through the center hole transmitting oily residue to the rubber hub area. The rubber hub may be cleaned with a cotton swab dipped in isopropyl alcohol.

 

Cleaning procedures may vary by make of machine. At the AVS Forum I've posted advice and photos (as "DigaDo") for the thorough rubber hub cleaning procedure for DVD Drives found in recent model Panasonic DVD recorders:

 

http://www.avsforum.com/avs-vb/showthread.php?p=14479898#post14479898

 

While the direct access cleaning procedure is the most thorough, there is a short-cut procedure. The disc tray is extended and then the machine's power cord is disconnected. With a long-handled cotton swab clean the rubber hub by rolling the cotton swab along the hub. This will gather up most of the debris or residue as the swab rotates the hub, perhaps sufficient to correct reading, writing or finalizing errors. Be gentle when working near the easily-damaged lens assembly. Don't close the disc tray by manually pushing it back into the machine (as some drive tray mechanism parts may become dislodged or misaligned). Reconnect the power and close the disc tray by using the disc tray open/close button.

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Thanks for the cleaning tips. My husband and I have both tried on occasional problem discs; he gets much better results with cleaning than I do for some reason. Maybe I'm too impatient.

 

I usually use IsoBuster to rip defective discs; it will even rip video data off an unfinalized disc. But sometimes even IsoBuster can't help with a disc that's too far gone.

 

You know the line I can't get over in that Trial of Mary Dugan scene? It's when HB Warner comes in for the kill, wagging his finger in her face and shouting at her, "You cajoled him into going to bed." Definitely a precode line that stands out. ;)

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