Crawford goes overboard as the jaded Sadie in Maugham's fine novel about sex and religion, with Huston giving one of his best performances as the zealot Davidson. A tramp steamer is forced to dock at remote Pago Pago in the Samoas after a disease breaks out on board. Among the passengers
is pavement pounder Crawford, whose curves quickly attract the eyes of woman-hungry soldiers on the island, especially good-hearted Gargan, a sergeant who naively believes that Crawford is not what the crooked seams of her stockings should easily tell him. Crawford jokes with and teases the
soldiers but it's all in suggestive fun, which is how layman religious zealot Huston sees her behavior. He and his wife, Bondi, are both fanatical missionaries who would convert the coconut trees if the trees would listen to their diatribes. The severe Huston dedicates himself to the crusade of
reforming prostitute Crawford. Her initial response to his blandishments is to answer him with smart talk and wry remarks. But he persists like a grasshopper clinging to a leaf, and she soon grows impatient and angry with him. Meanwhile, Gargan learns the truth about his mascaraed dream girl and
he, too, wants her to take up a new way of life--surprisingly, as his wife. The dogged Huston keeps chipping away at Crawford's tough bark until he compels her to confess her sinful ways. Moreover, he lets it be known that, unless she changes her moral attitude, he will have her deported to any
number of ports where she may be imprisoned for past indiscretions. Crawford succumbs to his spiritual demands and embraces Huston's rigid religious philosophy, believing he is sincere in wanting her salvation. The rain, meanwhile, and throughout the film, continues to drum down on this little
world, fraying nerves to the breaking point. Huston himself loses his iron control and, while natives beat out drum chants in the forest, he is overcome with a feeling about Crawford he has long suppressed--lust. He attacks and rapes her in her room, shattering her new-found religious
inclinations. At dawn Crawford emerges from her room more cynical and jaded than before. She learns that her one-time spiritual mentor Huston has committed suicide but she can find no pity for him. Gargan comes to her as she is about to leave the island, and it appears that even though Crawford is
more worldly than ever, she can now accept the love of the soldier and, perhaps, plan a new life.
Milestone captures the mood and murk of the rain-drenched island and the strange bedfellows compelled to live with each other until redemption or the sun appears. The play, adapted from Maugham's novel, is faithfully produced, and Crawford is convincing if overly made-up, while Huston is excellent
as the humorless soul-saver who cannot save himself from his own desires. Crawford was terrified of making RAIN, believing that she would be unfavorably compared with stellar actresses who had played the Sadie Thompson role in previous productions, particularly Gloria Swanson, who appeared in a
silent screen version, and Jeanne Eagels, who made the role her own on stage. Crawford was compared later to those ladies and it proved an uphill battle to convince the critics that she had brought anything new to the role. Movie mogul Schenck persuaded the star to leave the friendly confines of
MGM to make this film at UA, soothing her apprehensions by getting her favorite cinematographer, Marsh, to shoot the film, but Milestone and Crawford did not get along. The director insisted upon innumerable rehearsals and the star balked at such preparations. She did not get along with Huston, a
polished stage actor, nor did she appreciate the then-crude accommodations available on Catalina Island where the film was shot on location. Moreover, two other New York stage actors, Gargan, her supposed protector onscreen, and Catlett, a man with an acid tongue who had made his name in the
Ziegfeld Follies with sketches that were largely character assassinations, proved cold if not outright antagonistic toward her. Their treatment caused Crawford to retreat to her cabin where--when not shooting scenes--she remained, locked inside and having her meals brought to her, playing and
wearing out Bing Crosby records until other members of the cast complained to Milestone, who merely shrugged. The director was more upset when Crawford marched onto the set one day and refused to perform until all the visitors gaping at her were sent away.d Milestone had to order large black-cloth
screens to shield the outdoor set from public view. To keep the peace, he did, but it didn't improve Crawford's attitude or that of others in the cast.
Following the negative reviews of the film upon its release, Crawford put the blame on her obsession with Swanson and Eagels and how they had achieved success with the role she felt was beyond her. But her portrayal, upon viewing today, is much better than the critics of the time thought. She is
sensitive, raucous, bawdy, and yet, when embracing Huston's fever-pitched religion, genuinely touching. Remade as MISS SADIE THOMPSON, (1953), starring Rita Hayworth as the tramp, Jose Ferrer as the religious crackpot, and Aldo Ray as the fun-loving, gullible sergeant.
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- Rating: NR
- Review: Crawford goes overboard as the jaded Sadie in Maugham's fine novel about sex and religion, with Huston giving one of his best performances as the zealot Davidson. A tramp steamer is forced to dock at remote Pago Pago in the Samoas after a disease breaks ou… (more)