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Joan Crawford in RAIN and Rita Hayworth in MISS SADIE THOMPSON


HoldenIsHere
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TCM aired MISS SADIE THOMPSON (1953) and RAIN (1932) back to back last night. I was wondering if anyone here has a preference for one film over the other.

The 1953 film with Rita Hayworth as Sadie was greatly "sanitized" for the 1950s audience and apparently was originally shown in movie theaters in 3D.

The 1932 film with Joan Crawford as Sadie was not a great success when it was initially released, but I think many Joan Crawford fans today think it features one of her great performances although Crawford herself supposedly did not like the film.

 

The character of Sadie Thompson was created by W. Somerset Maugham in his short story "Miss Thompson" (which was later retitled "Rain").

 

There was also a silent version in 1928 called SADIE THOMPSON starring Gloria Swanson as Sadie. The final reel of this film is missing.

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Personally, I'm not a huge fan of TCM showing the same storyline in back-to-back presentations. I feel like many people on this board must watch the channel a lot more than I do, but committing to just two movies in one night for me seems a pretty substantial investment of my time. I'd like them to be two different storylines! Every year at Christmas it seems TCM shows The Shop Around the Corner and In the Good Old Summertime back-to-back, and I think there have been at least three different times over the years I've seen them show the Katharine Hepburn and June Allyson versions of Little Women back-to-back.

 

My initial instinct is to say I preferred Hayworth's performance, but Crawford had the bad luck of having to go second, by which time I was beginning to tire of the story. Though she had such great charm in Grand Hotel from the same year, her efforts here to be the good-time flamboyant party girl early on the picture felt a little forced to me. Of course, that sort of thing was second nature to Hayworth.

 

It's sort of hard for me to figure out exactly whom Hayworth's production was being marketed to, what with its Technicolor, exotic locale, musical numbers and 3-D, no less. And yet it was a freaking Somerset Maugham story, not exactly the sort of material usually given such elaborate cinematic treatment. I wasn't familiar with the story, and all the early business with Aldo Ray and the other soldiers hustling showgirl Hayworth around, trying to keep her a secret, felt like the setup for some screwball comedy. I had no idea how serious the plot was going to get.

 

I found it interesting that the word "prostitute" is spoken aloud twice in the film. Every time From Here to Eternity airs, Robert Osborne tells us Donna Reed's character had to be changed from a prostitute to a "dance hall girl" because there was no way the Production Code was going to allow mention of prostitution in a movie. And yet, here's a movie from the same year and the same studio (Columbia), no less that actually uses that word in the film. Twice! Seems to me there's some backstory here about why the word could be used in one film and not the other. I think it might be because Hayworth's character is never specifically proved to be a prostitute - she claims to have been working a legitimate job in an illegitimate location (though later on the film, she does acknowledge having done immoral things). In Eternity, we actually go into Reed's place of business, and I guess we couldn't exactly show her practicing the world's oldest profession on screen.

 

I found the violent lurches in the characterization of the Davidson character particularly in the Hayworth version unsettling. Jose Ferrer is usually an actor I like, but watching him go immediately from apparently genuinely caring for Hayworth's welfare to attempting to rape her with no transition was pretty jarring. I preferred Walter Huston's performance where we see his self-assured arrogance early on and throughout the picture. It just registers in his face, while Ferrer never registers any emotion at all, in my opinion.

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"Not considered a success" is putting it mildly. Apparently it was considered a disaster, but I think unfairly. I think time has vindicated Joan's initial hopes for the film and she gives a good performance.

I still haven't seen Rita's Sadie, so can't comment. Maybe next time.

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I'd seen Rain several times before, but this was my first viewing of the Hayworth movie, so I gave it extra attention.

 

I can't see it as much of a contest, and the key difference was the Davidson character. Huston was perfect for the role, while Ferrer never brought much conviction to it. He played Davidson more like the school principal Mr. Carroll in Reefer Madness than as serious religious figure. I also liked Crawford much better, but I'm pretty sure that if Hayworth could have been transported back to 1932, she could have played the original film part very well.

 

Of course the biggest disappointment in both versions is that the Davidson character wasn't just tarred and feathered and then sacrificed to a pagan god of sensual pleasure, but I guess that would've required too much alteration to the Maugham story. ;)

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That's an interesting contrast between "Miss Sadie Thompson" and "From Here To Eternity" in the same year. The "dance hall girl" ploy was still in effect a couple of years later when Twentieth Century-Fox released "The Revolt of Mamie Stover", with Agnes Moorehead as the "proprietress" of a "dance hall' and Jane Russell as a "dancer". At the time of her death, Marilyn Monroe had supposedly been in talks to do a version of "Rain" for television, directed by Lee Strasberg. I wonder if the intervening decade would have made for a franker treatment of the subject or, since it was television and not film, Marilyn's Sadie Thompson would have been as muted as Rita's. In any case, I think Joan Crawford's crassness worked best for the character.

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Paul Muni and his gang attend a theatrical version of this play in SCARFACE (1932). They breifly discuss how the rain is made on the stage by means of pipes. I assume they used a water pump, and (presumably) recycled water that falls onto the stage and then is collected and pushed back up through the pipes. Apparently, major stage presentations had a nearly constant rainfall, on stage, during some of the segments. In the film, Muni had to leave the play to go do some gang job, so he didn't see the end of it.

 

I saw the 1953 version in 3-D.

 

In the mid-to-late 1970s, Rita attended a special showing of this film in Hollywood at some theater, but I don't remember which one. A pal of mine and I went to see it. She wasn't announced to be there. She just came riding up in the back of a Rolls Royce before the film began.

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I only saw a bit of the Hayworth version, but saw all of Rain, even though I said I was going to bed. Crawford was outstanding, a really raw and honest performance. When she "converts" and tells "Handsome" that she won't be going to Australia, there is such torment, sadness, guilt, and regret. I think that role and Grand Hotel were her two best early performances. Walter Huston is also outstanding. His face in that last scene expresses the torment that he is going through. The conversion scene plays a bit like a seduction, which is perhaps as it should.

 

As I said, I didn't see the Hayworth version, but I wonder whether she had the acting chops for the type of performance we see from Crawford.

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Msybe Fred it was at the Tiffany on Sunset. They did a whole run of 3D movies for awhile. I remember seeing "Kiss Me Kate"and "Dial 'M' for Murder" in 3D there, but then so did the Vagabond on Wilshire. They once had a 3D festival - saw a weird movie called "The Maze" also " It Came from Outer Space" and one of the "Creature" movies - i think it was " Revenge of the Creature". Fun!

For fans of old movies (like all of us here at TCM) in the mid to late 70's especially, before VCR's killed most of them off, LA had at least 6 revival houses plus the Bing theatre at LACMA (LA County Museum of Art) - most ran double features with 2 to 3 program changes weekly and nearly alwys great prints. The Vagabond usually ran brand new prints for most of their shows. Movie lovers' dream!

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Lewis Milestone's direction, and Joan Crawford's and Walter Huston's performances, were IMO much superior to the later version. Even before we see the main characters there is the rain starting to fall, then turning into a torrent -- then the Marines slogging through the mud and singing.

 

The only scene that put me off was Crawford deciding to go to jail as a "thank offering." I almost barfed when that happened; I couldn't believe that Sadie would have said or done such a thing. But the rest was first rate.

 

And about Donna Reed in "From Here to Eternity": I think it was Oscar Levant who said that someone had to explain to Reed what a prostitute was. Too bad that illness prevented Carolyn Jones from playing the part. (I know that Reed won an Oscar, but I didn't give it to her.)

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  • 2 months later...

For some odd reason I have always wanted to see Crawford in Rain but always managed to miss it, that is until last night. I thought it was a superb film with a very raw, emotional performance from Crawford. Houston too was outstanding. I wanted to slap him all through out the movie; suicide was too good for him. I kept this one on the dvr. I will definitely watch it again.

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I've always thought that Rain was up there with Mildred Pierce and Sudden Fear among Crawford's finest performances, and it always has fascinated me that she seemed to view it as her worst. My take on that is that Crawford was always *striving* in her personal life to act the part of a respectable Republican club lady, and Sadie Thompson was just too far removed from that platonic ideal for Crawford to want to be even remotely identified with it. In a way it's sort of like Cagney's knocking his classic gangster performances in favor of Yankee Doodle Dandy, and Paul Muni's always trying to land "prestige" roles in those godawful biopic hagiographies that now seem as dated as stale cheese.

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Joan probably internalized the critical drubbing received by the film, her performance,.even her appearance, which was compounded by its failure at the boxoffice. She and the film were compared unfavorably to the silent SADIE THOMPSON, and Gloria Swanson's portrayal. Of course, Crawford and RAIN have since been reassessed.

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I like Joan's version more than Rita's because like everyone else is stating, it's just more raw. However, Swanson's version is effective too.

 

I totally buy Crawford as someone who's down on their luck running from the law. Hayworth seems too clean cut in that particular version, even though I have seen her play sorta sleazy characters before this, like in Gilda.

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  • 2 weeks later...
  • 1 year later...

I'm bumping this thread since MISS SADIE THOMPSON aired recently on TCM. 

 

When I started this thread I'd not yet seen the silent SADIE THOMPSON with Gloria Swanson.

I saw it for the first time when it aired on TCM during a spotlight on silent screen stars.

The missing final reel was reconstructed using stills.

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I'm bumping this thread since MISS SADIE THOMPSON aired recently on TCM. 

 

When I started this thread I'd not yet seen the silent SADIE THOMPSON with Gloria Swanson.

I saw it for the first time when it aired on TCM during a spotlight on silent screen stars.

The missimg final reel was reconstructed using stills.

 

So what did you think of it?

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So what did you think of it?

 

I liked Gloria Swanson's Sadie very much.

I think she's the most beautiful Sadie Thompson on film.

 

RAIN with Joan Crawford is still my favorite version of the story but Gloria Swanson captures Sadie's torment so well in the conversion scene.

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I liked Gloria Swanson's Sadie very much.

I think she's the most beautiful Sadie Thompson on film.

 

RAIN with Joan Crawford is still my favorite version of the story but Gloria Swanson captures Sadie's torment so well in the conversion scene.

 

It's a while since I saw Swanson's take, but I remember it compared well with Crawford's.  Both versions had able directors.  Walsh with Swanson, Milestone with Crawford.

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I'm bumping this thread since MISS SADIE THOMPSON aired recently on TCM. 

 

When I started this thread I'd not yet seen the silent SADIE THOMPSON with Gloria Swanson.

I saw it for the first time when it aired on TCM during a spotlight on silent screen stars.

The missing final reel was reconstructed using stills.

I didn't realize TCM aired the Swanson version last year. How did I miss it...?

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I just looked up Pauline Kael's review of MISS SADIE THOMPSON. Here is part of what she has to say (and I agree with everything in this particular review):

 

****

First, Sadie Thompson was the prototype of many shady ladies in exotic locales played by Jean Harlow, Marlene Dietrich, Hedy Lamarr, Mae West, Ann Sheridan, Ava Gardner and dozens of others. 

 

But by the time Rita Hayworth steps into the role in the 50s, Maugham's story runs into production code censorship troubles. So in this updated version Sadie just seems like a naturally high-spirited gal who likes to sing and dance and scamper about with small children. She's wandering from one island to the next, because she's looking for a nightclub engagement. Ferrer isn't even allowed to be a clergyman in this version. He's just an insomniac spoilsport who wants her to stop entertaining the soldiers so he can get a night's sleep.

 

Rita Hayworth seems physically overblown, and she's rather dull (though she works hard to be scorching when she sings).

 

***

From 5001 Nights at the Movies by Pauline Kael, published by Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 1982.

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I just looked up Pauline Kael's review of MISS SADIE THOMPSON. Here is part of what she has to say (and I agree with everything in this particular review):

 

****

First, Sadie Thompson was the prototype of many shady ladies in exotic locales played by Jean Harlow, Marlene Dietrich, Hedy Lamarr, Mae West, Ann Sheridan, Ava Gardner and dozens of others. 

 

But by the time Rita Hayworth steps into the role in the 50s, Maugham's story runs into production code censorship troubles. So in this updated version Sadie just seems like a naturally high-spirited gal who likes to sing and dance and scamper about with small children. She's wandering from one island to the next, because she's looking for a nightclub engagement. Ferrer isn't even allowed to be a clergyman in this version. He's just an insomniac spoilsport who wants her to stop entertaining the soldiers so he can get a night's sleep.

 

Rita Hayworth seems physically overblown, and she's rather dull (though she works hard to be scorching when she sings).

 

***

From 5001 Nights at the Movies by Pauline Kael, published by Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 1982.

 

Boy, she went rather easy on the movie.  I don't hold Rita to account, as Miss Kael herself remarks, she did what she could with the material.  I had it on in the background doing something else while it aired.  I was careful not to pay too close attention to it prevent cringing, shuddering, and gagging.

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