Monday, November 15, 2010

Joan and Franchot and Gene (and Edward)

Sadie McKee (1934) feature Joan Crawford as the title character. The daughter of a cook, who works for a wealthy family, Sadie has been raised quite happily with the scion of the house, Michael Alderson (Franchot Tone).  Newly returned from school, Michael immediately alienates Sadie by criticizing her beau Tommy Wallace (Gene Raymond).  In anger, Sadie elopes with him to New York.  However, before their actual wedding, Tommy is lured off by stage singer Dolly Merrick (Esther Ralston) to work in her act.  While working in a club, Sadie meets Jack Brennan (Edward Arnold), a very rich, but constantly drunk gentleman who married Sadie on a whim, much to the disgust of his friend and lawyer, Michael Alderson.

We really enjoyed this movie.  It is one that is rarely discussed, and seldom seem, which is unfortunate.  Given that Sadie spend the night with Tommy and is not punished, this film certainly falls into the pre-code category.  The scene is subtle, but it is quite clear that Sadie has good reason to expect marriage the next morning, and is truly devastated when Tommy betrays her.  Another interesting aspect to this film are the characterizations.  Quite honestly, with the exception of Dolly Merrick, there was something to like about every character. Even Tommy is redeemed in the end.  We were particularly impressed with Sadie's relationship with her husband, Jack.  Her determination to see him back to sobriety and health because "Mr. Brennan has always been good to me" shows us the essential kindness of Sadie.  But it is not just her goodness - take for example the character of Phelps the Butler, here played by the every wonderful Leo G. Carroll (in his first role, listed only as Leo Carroll).  Phelps is smuggling alcohol to Jack behind Sadie's back. In a rage, she fires him, then discovers that Phelps thought he was helping his employer.  Once Sadie explains the situation, Phelps and every member of the staff vow that no one will bring him booze.

Of course, the complicated relationships of the movie all reach a satisfactory ending.  And our Ms. Crawford is truly wonderful as she takes on this ride into the adventures of the kind Ms. McKee; a character one would love to meet again!  In this scene, Tommy serenades Sadie:

Next time, a film from 1940.

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