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Sadie Thompson
Sadie Thompson
Actors: Gloria Swanson, Lionel Barrymore, Raoul Walsh, James A. Marcus, Blanche Friderici
Director: Raoul Walsh
Genres: Classics, Comedy, Drama
UR     2001     1hr 36min

A prostitute is caught on a tropical isle with a platoon of marines and a fanatical minister. Studio: Kino International Release Date: 02/20/2001 Starring: Gloria Swanson Lionel Barrymore Run time: 96 minutes Director...  more »


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Movie Details

Actors: Gloria Swanson, Lionel Barrymore, Raoul Walsh, James A. Marcus, Blanche Friderici
Director: Raoul Walsh
Genres: Classics, Comedy, Drama
Sub-Genres: Silent Films, Classic Comedies, Drama
Studio: Kino Video
Format: DVD - Black and White
DVD Release Date: 02/20/2001
Original Release Date: 01/07/1928
Theatrical Release Date: 01/07/1928
Release Year: 2001
Run Time: 1hr 36min
Screens: Black and White
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 4
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Languages: Japanese

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Movie Reviews

Gloria's greatest role.
P. Mitchell | Scotland | 03/04/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)

"This movie is stunning! I'm new to silent movies and recently "discovered" Gloria's silent films on DVD having only known her as the tragic star in the 1950 movie Sunset Boulevard - but I believe she gives the performance of her career in this film. I love her as Sadie. The movie is incredibly atmospheric and filled with ravishing close ups of Gloria. Her scenes are very well played - genuinely touching and funny and wonderfully sexy. Gloria really lives this part and you'll find yourself rooting for her character throughout. She also produced this movie and apparently really had to fight to get it made - the story was considered very daring in its day. The restoration by KINO is fine though some scenes show bad damage (never longer than a few seconds at a time and such moments are few and far between)and though the dramatic ending is marred by the use of film stills (the final scenes of the sole print are apparently lost forever) it can't diminish the overall power and impact of the movie. Everything else about the film is just too good - the sets, acting, camerawork are all superb - the story dated but still packing a real dramatic punch. Silent movie fans should lap this up - it's a real treat."
Legendary Gloria Swanson In One Of Her Greatest Silent Film
Simon Davis | 11/27/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)

"For those that only know the legendary Gloria Swanson from her performance in the classic "Sunset Boulevard" in 1950, a viewing of Swanson in her prime in the 1928 silent feature "Sadie Thompson", is essential. This film really goes a long way towards illustrating to viewers unfamiliar with her work the legend that she was during the 1920's when she reigned as one of the silent screen's greatest stars. "Sadie Thompson", came about just as Swanson hit her creative peak and provided her with one of the best acting vehicles in her long career. It was also significant in being her second effort as her own producer at a time when it was rare for a woman to have such control over her own films. Arriving on the screen just as sound was turning the film industry upside down and abruptly ending the careers of many formerly successful foreign stars "Sadie Thompson", is still immensely entertaining today despite the tragedy of the last reel of the film being lost from decomposition during the 1950's. With its final minutes recreated through surviving fragments and still photographs "Sadie Thompson" is a testament to the often underestimated abilities of Gloria Swanson who until this film was restored and released on video and DVD was largely remembered only as the eccentric Norma Desmond from "Sunset Boulevard". While both films are undoubtedly classics "Sadie", reveals Swanson in a character who couldn't be further removed from the reclusive actress she won renewed fame with in Billy Wilder's classic about the down side of Hollywood stardom in the 1950's.

Based on the controversial story titled "Miss Thompson", by W. Somerset Maugham, this was the first of three well known film versions of this story and tells the quite risqué (for the time it was written), story of a San Francisco prostitute Sadie Thompson (Gloria Swanson) who while on her way to take up a new "job" in Apia becomes stranded in Pago Pago when the boat taking her there becomes quarantined with small pox. Forced to seek temporary accommodation in a local seedy hotel Sadie not only becomes an instant hit with the marines stationed on the island and with one Sergeant Tim O'Hara (Raoul Walsh) in particular, but runs afoul of the fanatical missionary Alfred Davidson (Lionel Barrymore) who disapproves of Sadie's lifestyle and sets out to run her off the island. The two strong willed characters continue to lock horns with Davidson going to the governor to get Sadie deported back to the States. Tim soon expresses his love for Sadie and attempts to get her to come to Sydney with him to start a new life however Davidson attempts to blackmail Sadie when she in a weak moment reveals to him why she can't go back to San Francisco. Sadie under the constant threats from Davidson finally gives in to his reforming zeal and begins to repent her former free living lifestyle and she turns Tim away as she prepares to follow Davidson's advice and return to San Francisco to serve her sentence. However time reveals that the fanatical reformer Davidson is not the perfect individual he pretends to be and that under his determination to make Sadie see the error of her ways he secretly has a passion for her. Just when Sadie is at her most vulnerable however Davidson sees the hypocrisy of his own existence as a man of reform and kills himself thus freeing Sadie from ruining her own life. Reunited with the ever loyal Tim the pair then plan that future together in Sydney that they almost threw away because of Davidson's determination to destroy Sadie.

Long regarded as the supreme clothes horse on screen in the 1920's when just as much attention was often paid to how many exotic gowns she wore in each of her productions as for her acting, "Sadie Thompson", provided the type of dramatic challenge that Gloria Swanson craved after finally finishing her long contract with Paramount the previous year. She is luminous in the role of the free spirited prostitute who locks horns with the hypocritical missionary played by Lionel Barrymore. She displays different shades to the character of Sadie, as written by Somerset Maugham; one moment appearing fiery and unconventional, and the next seeking acceptance and the conventional love of a respectable man. It truly is a wonderful performance that shows what Swanson was capable of when given more to work with in her roles and it rightly earned her an Academy Award nomination as Best Actress at the first year of the Oscars. Lionel Barrymore's missionary is certainly a difficult role and despite the potential for going over the top with this character for the most part Barrymore manages to steer an even keel. He and Swanson make a formidable set of antagonists and their verbal sparring even in this silent drama is riverting and at times very comical. The legendary Raoul Walsh playing Sadie's love interest Tim wore many hats in this production which was both adapted and directed by him and at Gloria Swanson's insistence found himself also starring in. While his unconventional looks make him an unlikely love interest for the ever glamourous Swanson his simple manner and sincerity makes the character of the smitten marine ring true. The look of "Sadie Thompson", is first rate in every way with Catalina Island standing in for exotic Pago Pago to great effect courtesy of the atmospheric art direction of William Cameron Menzies especially in the construction of the seedy and perpetually rain soaked hotel where most of the action takes place, and in the Academy Award nominated photography of George Barnes.

One of the miracles of "Sadie Thompson", is that it was ever produced at all in the light of the tight Hays Code censorship that made filming of such a story literally impossible at this time. Although Sadie's profession is never mentioned by name it is obvious as to what her "job", actually is and getting the go ahead to film the story makes very amusing reading in Gloria Swanson's superb autobiography. I'm just grateful that the impossible was achieved as we have Swanson's interpretation of this famous character to enjoy always. Famed for both her film work and her colourful personal life, I often think of Gloria Swanson as the forerunner to Elizabeth Taylor; both actresses being blessed with incredible looks, great acting ability and an always newsworthy personal life. "Sadie Thompson" however proves there is much more to silent film legend Gloria Swanson than the ability to wear beautiful clothes on screen. Here we have a terrific story with plenty of emotion, atmosphere, and characters with depth that should not be missed. A true silent masterpiece.

Excellent film
Rachel | United States | 07/21/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)

""Sadie Thompson" is a brillant film that reflects one of gloria swanson's finest moments. Gloria Swanson portrays a woman of easy virtue, and for that time period, it was a very controversial film. Gloria Swanson's superb acting and clean viewing, for that type of story line, makes this movie a time piece of excellence. There is some strong language seen through her lip movements, but only if you look very closely. Overall it comes across very strongly and passionately. For the drama within you, you can see the story by the bodily movements which makes this type of film a masterpiece. Inspite of the distorted damage to the film from throughout the years, Sadie Thompson was restored enough to please the eye and the added orchestra sound makes this film a pleasure to have. I strongly recommend this film."
A landmark of silent cinema history
Barbara (Burkowsky) Underwood | Manly, NSW Australia | 12/14/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)

"This DVD is a special treat for serious enthusiasts of classic films because despite its missing end scenes, Kino Video has resurrected this silent film with a reconstructed ending and many bonus features which give ample in-depth and background information about Sadie Thompson. Based on a real-life person, the story of a prostitute clashing with a religious reformer or minister first appeared as a novella by W. Somerset Maugham, then a Broadway stage play before screen legend Gloria Swanson decided to tackle the challenge of playing the controversial character. Her second venture as a producer for United Artists, Swanson chose a highly talented crew to complement her own outstanding performance, which resulted in an energy-charged, entertaining and well-balanced drama with touches of playfulness and subtle humour. Lionel Barrymore is frighteningly convincing in the role of the overly zealous and pragmatic reformer, who was originally a religious minister in the story and play, but due to censorship rules in the 1920s, any reference to a minister or church had to be removed. Gloria Swanson also excels in this role which allowed her more acting expression and depth than her `fashion clothes horse' roles she had become so famous for in the early 1920s. Her mannerisms and even her walk convey the essence of the Sadie Thompson character as she fools around with some US Marines, then challenged by the strict, conservative and judgmental reformer and his wife. When she finally gives in to pressure to atone for her sins, the transformation to a plain and sullen woman is also quite striking. Just as the electrifying tension between Sadie and the reformer culminates, the moving film ends and is replaced by stills which reveal the final twist of the story. This is somewhat of a disappointment, but considering that "Sadie Thompson" was believed lost for several decades, most viewers will surely be happy just to see this important film in its present state: almost complete with only a few segments of poor picture quality due to deterioration. An exceptionally good orchestral score more than makes up for the few blurry scenes, and enhances the various moods and intensity of the drama throughout. The bonus features give background information about the film, the original story, as well as comparisons between the written story, play and films, including a sound re-make only a few years later with Joan Crawford entitled "Rain". With hardly any action and most scenes shot inside the hotel in the tropical downpour, "Sadie Thompson" is more of an intellectual film which challenges two extremes of thought and life-style, and when or whether a compromise can be found. The classic story and its author aside, this film is also of interest due to the cast and crew, with Raoul Walsh both acting and directing, and art direction by the renowned William Cameron Menzies whose efforts to re-create the South Pacific inn also add to the overall high quality of this production.