Film Legends Of Yesteryear (2021): Rita Hayworth in… Miss Sadie Thompson (1953)

Well, it’s October 17, and that means it’s time for another round of “Film Legends Of Yesteryear” featuring Rita Hayworth! Of course, we’re REALLY celebrating here, as not only is it her birthday (her 103rd, to be exact), it’s also my 400th post on my blog! I know, in the past I’ve kind of preferred to celebrate milestones like that with a very special post (like a Top 10 list or something of that sort), but I couldn’t find a way to fit one in (and quite frankly, I had no idea for a list at this time). So, we are marking both occasions with Rita Hayworth’s 1953 film Miss Sadie Thompson, also starring Jose Ferrer and Aldo Ray!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Little Daddy (1931)

(available on Blu-ray as part of The Little Rascals: The ClassicFlix Restorations, Volume 2 (1930-1931) from ClassicFlix)

(Length: 21 minutes, 10 seconds)

Farina (Allen Hoskins) has been taking care of Stymie (Matthew Beard) by himself, but the authorities are coming to put Stymie in an orphan’s home. This one took a more dramatic turn than some of the other recent ones, but I think that works well in its favor! By now, we as the audience have started getting used to Stymie, so it’s easier to identify with Farina’s plight as he has to deal with losing Stymie. Of course, this short does have its more humorous moments, like Farina trying to tell Stymie the story of Noah and the ark, with Stymie constantly interrupting him. This one had heart, and that makes it just as enjoyable to see as the more hilarious shorts!

And Now For The Main Feature…

On an island in the South Pacific where a military base is located, Marine Sgt. Phil O’Hara (Aldo Ray) and his men are anxiously awaiting their discharges. In the meantime, they are bored, and just going about their days with their humdrum tasks. One day, a ship stops by, with several passengers disembarking for a few hours while they stand by for the next leg of their trip. This group includes missionary Alfred Davidson (Jose Ferrer) and his wife, and Dr. Robert MacPhail (Russell Collins) and his wife. While Davidson and Dr. MacPhail leave to visit the missionary hospital, O’Hara and his men await the mail boat. The men perk up when they realize that the mail boat is also bringing one of the passengers: the beautiful Sadie Thompson (Rita Hayworth). Wanting to keep her presence to themselves, the men try to smuggle her in to the bar in the village (but some of the other Marines quickly find out as well). Their boisterous celebration quickly disrupts the nearby church service, and in the process attracts the attention of Davidson (who is less than thrilled with her conduct). After Davidson breaks up the party, O’Hara and his men rush to get Sadie to her boat, only to discover that everybody has been quarantined for a week. So the men take Sadie to the local hotel run by Joe Horn (Harry Bellaver) and his wife, Ameena (Diosa Costello). The Davidsons and the MacPhails had already gotten there first and got the best accommodations, but Sadie was willing to work with what’s left. Over the next few days, Sadie spends a lot of time with the men, particularly O’Hara, who has become quite fond of her. However, Davidson starts stirring up trouble for her, believing that she was a prostitute from a bordello he helped shut down in Honolulu. Since he thinks that she escaped being deported to San Francisco, he goes to the Governor (Wilton Graff) and demands that she be deported. Due to Davidson’s influence in the area, the Governor reluctantly goes along with it. Sadie tries to appeal to the Governor when she finds out, but he is only willing to rescind that order if Davidson will agree to the idea (which he doesn’t). When he learns that Davidson is unwilling to stop Sadie from being deported, O’Hara tries to talk to him, but learns Davidson’s suspicions about Sadie, which she essentially confirms. Shocked, O’Hara is angry, and leaves. Now on her own, can Sadie recover? Will she be able to escape deportation, or will Davidson convince her to go along with it?

In April 1921, the short story “Miss Thompson” was published by W. Somerset Maugham in the literary magazine The Smart Set. The story would be adapted in several different ways, including a 1922 play (Rain), a 1928 silent film (Sadie Thompson with Gloria Swanson) and a 1932 talkie (Rain with Joan Crawford). In 1952, movie producer Jerry Wald bought the film rights, intending to make a film musical version of the story with his production unit at RKO. However, the following year, he became a vice president and executive producer at Columbia Pictures, and brought the project with him. With Rita Hayworth enjoying a resurgence at the box office since her return with Affair In Trinidad, she was cast in the film, allowing them to have a bigger budget to work with. Some of the movie (mostly the exteriors) was filmed on location in Hawaii. Of course, with this film being made while the Production Code was still in effect, some of the story elements had to be changed to conform with the Code. The movie was also filmed in 3-D (due to the then-recent fad), although by the time the movie was released to theaters, the fad had died down enough that all 3-D prints were pulled after only a few weeks.

I’ve seen this a few times over the last few years, and enjoyed it. Admittedly, I haven’t seen the 3-D version since I haven’t had the technology to view it that way (nor will I, considering I can count on one hand the number of films originally shown in 3-D that I actually want to see that way, and the cost is beyond what my budget can handle). Rita Hayworth was part of the original appeal when I first heard of this movie, and I will say that her performance in this film did not disappoint! Watching her go from the good-time gal at the start, to slowly revealing her past (while still staying somewhat ambiguous) makes the movie work for me. I will admit, the (almost) musical nature of the film also appealed to me. And, in some respects, it’s also what hurts the film. To be fair, it’s not the musical aspects that bother me, it’s the change in tone. As I said, the movie was initially conceived as a musical, but partway through production, that idea was abandoned, and it shows. The first half (give or take a few minutes) does seem to veer into musical territory, with her singing with the Marines and a few solo moments (including her song-and-dance to “The Heat Is On,” the song that I came away remembering the most strongly) before veering into more dramatic, non-musical territory. Personally, I wish they’d just kept it as a musical, as I would have been much happier. I’m also not sure about the writing, especially near the end for Jose Ferrer’s Davidson. His ending almost seems to come out of nowhere for me, and kind of bogs things down. This is far from a perfect film, but, as far as I’m concerned, it’s the only version of “Miss Thompson” on film that I have any intention of seeing (currently). And, for that reason, it’s definitely one that I would recommend!

What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2020) with… Miss Sadie Thompson (1953)

This movie is available on Blu-ray as part of the twelve film Rita Hayworth: The Ultimate Collection from Mill Creek Entertainment. Like two other films in this set (You’ll Never Get Rich and Pal Joey), Miss Sadie Thompson was previously available individually on Blu-ray from Twilight Time (an edition which is now out of print). While this set uses the same transfer (which was pretty good on that release), the encoding on Mill Creek’s disc isn’t as good, thereby making the transfer not look *quite* as good. Of course, the Mill Creek release only contains the 2-D version (whereas the Twilight Time release had both the 2-D and 3-D versions). For the price, it’s not too terrible, but if you’re hankering to see it in 3-D, then this release would not be recommended.

Film Length: 1 hour, 30 minutes

My Rating: 7/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Salome (1953) – Rita Hayworth – Fire Down Below (1957)

Jose Ferrer – The Caine Mutiny (1954)

Aldo Ray – We’re No Angels (1955)

Salome (1953)Rita Hayworth: The Ultimate CollectionFire Down Below (1957)

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