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Rain The pleasures of the flesh confront the discipline of the Lord's teachings in this screen adaptation of W. Somerset Maugham's story Miss Sadie Thompson. Sadie Thompson (Joan Crawford) is a sassy streetwalker who lands in Pago Pago in the South Pacific after an epidemic grounds the ship on which she's booked passage. Sadie's shapely legs, free spirit, and quick wit soon attract the attention of a group of American soldiers stationed on the island; while most are motivated by simple lust, the naive Sgt. O'Hara (William Gargan) falls head over heels for Sadie, thoroughly unaware of her checkered past and shameful profession. Rev. Alfred Davidson (Walter Huston), a fire-and-brimstone preacher bent on bringing salvation to the soldiers, is fully aware of Sadie's occupation and moral code, and is determined to convince her to change her ways. Sadie slowly but surely is softened by Davidson's conviction, but the preacher soon finds himself affected by her sensual presence; O'Hara also learns the truth about Sadie, but hatches his own plan to reform her -- marriage. While a box office failure in 1932, Rain has gone on to become a cult favorite, thanks to Crawford's vivid performance as Sadie and director Lewis Milestone's adventurous visual style. ~ Mark Deming, Rovi, Rovi
Of Human Bondage The first of three film versions of Somerset Maugham's Of Human Bondage stars Leslie Howard as sensitive, clubfooted artist-cum-med student Philip Carey. Despite his yearnings for the finer things in life, Carey cannot extricate himself from a mutually destructive relationship with sluttish waitress Mildred Rogers (Bette Davis). After an incredible series of emotional disasters, Carey finally finds happiness in the arms of Sally Altheny (Frances Dee). The industry buzz in 1934 indicated that Bette Davis was a shoe-in for an Academy Award for her savage portrayal of Mildred, but her home studio Warner Bros. failed to mount an adequate publicity campaign on Davis' behalf, allegedly because she'd made the film on loan-out to RKO and Warners wasn't about to heap praise upon a rival. It is now generally conceded that Davis' Oscar win for 1935's Dangerous was consolation for her losing the statuette in 1934. Long out of circulation due to the 1946 remake, the 1934 Of Human Bondage has since slipped into the public domain, and is now seen more often than either of the subsequent remakes (the last was in 1964). ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi, Rovi
Lady of Burlesque Barbara Stanwyck shines in her second portrayal of a showgirl in less than two years (the first was in Howard Hawks' Ball of Fire in 1941). In Lady of Burlesque -- which, at times, has a Hawksian edge to the dialogue -- she portrays Dixie Daisy, a striptease artist at a Broadway theater in New York at the end of the 1930s. In the course of fending off the unwanted advances of brash comic Biff Brannigan (Michael O'Shea), with whom she is teamed in several numbers, and staying clear of the dressing room feuds of her fellow dancers -- including a very nasty dispute between Dolly Baxter (Gloria Dickson) and Lolita La Verne (Victoria Faust) -- she finds herself up to her neck in trouble when one of the women is found strangled with her own G-string. The police don't know what to make of it, especially as the victim was already dying of a fatal dose of poison, which means that there are two murderers somewhere in the theater; and when a second woman turns up strangled inside a prop that Dixie was supposed to be hiding in onstage, she looks like a good suspect. Between the backstage comedy-drama, and the songs, dances, and on-stage comic routines, with the police breathing down both their necks at different times, Dixie and Biff manage to solve the mystery and find each other in this briskly paced, funny, yet amazingly gritty comedy-thriller. Lady of Burlesque was allowed to fall out of copyright in 1971, and since then it was seen in substandard editions until the May 2001 DVD release from Image Entertainment. ~ Bruce Eder, Rovi, Rovi
Home Town Story Home Town Story was commissioned as a pro-Big Business tract by General Motors. The story revolves around Blake Washburn, a mildly leftist newspaperman, played by Jeffrey Lynn. Returning to his home town, Washburn turns his journalistic vitriol upon the local business interests. Only after his kid sister Katie (Melinda Plowman), trapped in a cave-in, is rescued by locally produced technology, does Washburn realize the value of the capitalistic system. Home Town Story was fitfully distributed by MGM, then lapsed into obscurity. It might have remained there had it not been for the presence of a young Marilyn Monroe in a supporting part. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi, Rovi
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