Monday, May 2, 2011

Joan Needs an Umbrella

1932's Rain most assuredly falls into the Pre-code era.  Ms. Crawford starts as the notorious Sadie Thompson, a woman with a shady past, who is traveling through the Pacific.  Trapped on Pago Pago with a reformer (Walter Huston as the creepy Alfred Davidson), his snooty wife (Beulah Bondi), and Sgt "Handsome" O'Hara (William Gargan), Sadie immediately befriends O'Hara.  But when O'Hara is placed in the brig, she finds herself under attack from the other hotel residents.  Davidson convinces the governor to deport Sadie on the next departing ship, which happens to be going to San Francisco. A terrified Sadie begs for a reprieve, but to no avail; instead she finds herself the latest victim of Davidson's reform efforts.

Nowadays, we would recognize Sadie as a victim of Stockholm Syndrome.   Rain does a good job of showing Sadie's transformation from good-time girl to missionary.  Frankly, we thought Crawford was GORGEOUS once the heavy Sadie makeup was stripped off to reveal her true face.  The reformed Sadie IS almost saintly in appearance, with her long-sleeve, flowing robe, while Davidson resembles something along the line of an old-testament prophet. Without giving too much away, the ending is jarring, and one that would not be permitted once the code was strictly enforced.  Here is the scene where Davidson goes to work to demoralize Sadie:
Beulah Bondi is just wonderful as the prissy Mrs. Davidson, a part she originated on Broadway; It is also nice to see Guy Kibbee as Joe Horn, the resident hotel owner. He is sympathetic to Sadie, but powerless, if he is to be allowed future residence in Pago Pago.

There is an excellent article on the TCM website that will give you some further insight into this interesting film.  We hope you will join us next week for another early Crawford.

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