Hayworth's Musical Rain
I recently got to watch "Rain" the 1932 adaptation of W. Somerset Maugham story and for a movie 80 years old I was impressed, it had some great performances and even greater atmosphere. So when I sat down to watch "Miss Sadie Thompson" the 1953 adaptation of the same W. Somerset Maugham story I was hoping to be equally impressed especially as Rita Hayworth took on the role which had been played by Joan Crawford in the 1932 movie and Gloria Swanson prior to that. Unfortunately my hopes were dashed because "Miss Sadie Thompson" is a different sort of movie to "Rain", it still uses the same story but the tension and atmosphere has disappeared, replaced by some surprising musical numbers and more comedy. It's still entertaining but nowhere near as impressive as I had hoped.
Having come ashore on a Samoan island to wait to change ships the Davidsons, MacPhails and Sadie Thompson (Rita Hayworth - Pal Joey) find themselves having to stay longer when the ship they are meant to leave on is quarantined. For Sadie it is not an issue as the island plays host to a military base full of Marines and Sadie loves having a fun time with men in uniform. But Sadie's fun loving attitude doesn't suit the pious Alfred Davidson (JosÃ© Ferrer) who takes exception to it and persuades the Island's Governor to sign a deportation notice to send her back on the next boat to San Francisco. But as Sadie is a fugitive on the run from the law and with options running out she must submit herself to Davidson's religious fervour in the hope he will be lenient on her. The question is, is Davidson's beliefs all they are cracked up to be when dealing with sexy Sadie.
At its heart "Miss Sadie Thompson" is still W. Somerset Maugham's story about Sadie who finds herself stranded on an island with the pious Alfred Davidson, his wife and friends and finding herself being victimized by him. As such we watch as the fun and flirtatious Sadie makes friends with the Marines stationed on the island, especially Sgt. Phil O'Hara who is smitten by the sex kitten and we watch as Mr. Davidson makes it his mission to make her life a misery and get her deported back to San Francisco. And as such we watch as Sadie eventually submits herself to his religious fervour when her options run out. All of which is the same as what was done in "Rain" 21 years earlier.
But as already mentioned "Miss Sadie Thompson" is a very different movie to "Rain" and that is because it fails to create the same atmosphere, the intensity of the rain and the stifling heat as well as the claustrophobic feeling of everyone being stuck in Joe Horn's place. In fact there is very little atmosphere at all and instead director Curtis Bernhardt seems to have focussed on the fun loving aspect of Sadie with a few musical numbers thrown in with Jo Ann Greer dubbing for Rita Hayworth. And there is more fun from the attitude of the 4 marines who first set eyes on Sadie as she arrives, it borders on comedy at times and that certainly feels wrong.
The knock on effect of this is come the second half when we have what are meant to be the big impact moments, Sadie submitting herself to Mr. Davidson, the hypnotic sound of the drums and the climax of the movie have very little impact at all. Yes it is more in keeping with the lighter first half but it doesn't feel right and you begin to wonder whether it will ever kick in to life.
The saving grace to "Miss Sadie Thompson" is that Rita Hayworth is great as sexy Sadie, she may play it more like a fun loving singer rather than a dangerous seductress but watching her flirt with various Marines and dance is the movies highlight, although to be frank this is not Rita Hayworth at her best. At the other end of the scale you have JosÃ© Ferrer as Alfred Davidson and he just doesn't come across as a man who is devoutly religious but more of a vindictive man who is jealous of those who have fun. And in between you have Aldo Ray who is almost normal as Sgt. Phil O'Hara, well that is when he is not in a scene when he is having fun with his marine friends which include Charles Bronson.
What this all boils down to is that whilst "Miss Sadie Thompson" is not a bad movie it is no where close to the impressive "Rain". It just fails to create the same atmosphere, the intensity of the heat and rain as well as the battle between Sadie and Mr. Davidson. If it wasn't for Rita Hayworth bringing plenty of life to the character of Sadie it would have been a struggle.