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Sadie Thompson

One of the last big hits of the silent era, Sadie Thompson is considered Gloria Swanson's greatest performance, save her self-mocking role years later as faded silent movie star Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard. Swanson stars as the title character, a seemingly carefree, liberal sexpot stranded for ten days on the South-Pacific island of Pago Pago with only some sailors and Christian reformers for company. When it becomes clear that Sadie vastly prefers passing her time with the seamen and some jitterbug tunes than with the stern reformers and their prayers, an influential reformer (Lionel Barrymore) makes it his mission to save her soul (and then some). If you thought Hollywood's one-sided depiction of religious folk as harsh, twisted killjoys was a recent phenomenon, Sadie Thompson proves otherwise. But aside from the simplistic moralizing, Swanson gives a reputation-worthy performance, and director Raoul Walsh (who also stars as Sadie's favorite sailor) stages the action vividly and fluidly. The final reel, missing for decades, has been recreated from the original screenplay with stills as well as some film clips from a sound version of the same story shot by the same cinemtographer in 1932. Kino's new digital transfer from the 35mm preservation negative is otherwise very nice, with occasional deterioration. Also includes the illustrated essay "The Many Faces of Sadie Thompson"; scene comparisons featuring excerpts of Somerset Maugham's story and scenes from the prior staged version, the screenplay, and the 1932 remake Rain; and a gallery of production photographs. Keep-case.
—Gregory P. Dorr

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