Sadie Thompson ★★★½

Sadie Thompson (Gloria Swanson), a woman of unknown, but questionable, background lands in Pago Pago, claiming to be en route to a job. She attracts the attention of a group of Marines based on the island, especially Sergeant Tim O’Hara (Raoul Walsh). She also attracts the attention of Alfred Davidson (Lionel Barrymore), an influential man of strict moral and social attitudes, who is outraged by the flamboyant Sadie. When Sadie cannot take her expected ship and Sergeant O’Hara is confined to base, Davidson assumes the duty of redeeming her. After three days of intense instruction by Davidson, Sadie, subdued, seeks redemption and regeneration. Even as Sadie disciplines herself, Davidson is loosing his resistance to Sadie’s charms. On Sadie’s last night in Pago Pago, Davidson can resist no longer, and Sadie learns that all men have feet of clay. In the morning, Sadie has reverted to her old self, and Davidson has committed suicide.

As the Talkies approached, Gloria Swanson committed to a silent version of Rain (1921), the Somerset Maugham story of the relationship between the sexes in the morally and socially unconstrained tropics. Sadie comes out true to herself. Davidson, having revealed his desires and given up his morally constrained conduct, has no recourse but suicide.

Unfortunately, the last reel of the film is degraded beyond salvage. Just as the climactic scene begins, the available film ends. The conclusion of the story is told by a series of stills, inter titles, and a small amount of actual footage. The impact of the story is severely weakened.

Seen at the San Francisco Silent Film Festival, December 2016.