Helen Hayes made her sound-film debut in this well-acted soaper scripted by her husband, Charles MacArthur. Jean Hersholt narrates in flashback the story of Hayes, a French girl who falls in love with Neil Hamilton, an American artist. The two move in together without marrying, but their
idyllic life is ruined when Hamilton leaves and marries another woman. Hayes then becomes involved with Lewis Stone, but, arrested on jewel theft charges, he kills himself rather than face the law; Hayes, charged as his accomplice, is sentenced to 10 years in prison. On her release, she becomes a
streetwalker to support her illegitimate son, Robert Young, sending the money to Hersholt, a doctor tutoring Young in medicine. Young is suspicious about the money because of the irregular sums and sporadic deliveries; however, Hayes lies, telling Young the money is from the estate of his late
mother. Eventually Young becomes a successful doctor, setting Hayes up in a Parisian apartment. The film ends as Hersholt finishes his narration. He has been telling the story to Young's wife, a woman upset by Young's devotion to his career. She had been considering leaving him, but after hearing
Hayes' story, the woman reconsiders.
Hayes won a well-deserved Oscar for this performance, taking her character from young girl to old woman with astonishing believability. The story piles twist upon emotional twist, coming close to self-parody, but audiences of the day loved the picture. The story had been made numerous times under
the title MADAME X. Two silent versions were made in 1915 and 1920, while sound versions were made in 1929, 1937, 1948, 1960 (as THE TRIAL OF MADAME X), 1966, and l98l as a television film.
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- Rating: NR
- Review: Helen Hayes made her sound-film debut in this well-acted soaper scripted by her husband, Charles MacArthur. Jean Hersholt narrates in flashback the story of Hayes, a French girl who falls in love with Neil Hamilton, an American artist. The two move in toge… (more)