Sometimes the Past Catches Up – Miss Sadie Thompson (1953)

Sadie Thompson is a girl who just likes to have a little fun, a girl who wants to enjoy her life while she can – to do what she wants, when she wants. Anyone can relate to that, especially the soldiers upon the island where she stops over before she can catch the next boat. Rita Hayworth stars as the aforementioned Miss Thompson, putting in an excellent performance that essentially eclipses all else in the film and that is not a bad thing whatsoever. The focus should be on Hayworth, for what good is a star if they are not able to generate what is needed to make the film a success? Based upon the story Miss Thompson or Rain by W. Somerset Maugham, it has made its way to the screen numerous times previously, with this film being the first one to get not only the Technicolor treatment, but was also filmed in 3D, which producers would later realize was a bit of a mistake. It is by all accounts, a tamer version than those other movies and lighter than the original story, but there is still enough meat on the bones to make it an enjoyable outing.

Life is not all fun and games though as most can attest and there is one man who wants none of it. Miss Sadie Thompson threatens his work and the morale of the native peoples upon the island, people he is trying to turn into good Christians one and all. Played by José Ferrer, the man is usually quite good at what he does and while he does indeed turn in a fairly absorbing performance as the religious fanatic Mr. Davidson, a little more emotion on his part would probably have gone a long way. As it is, the man is not only devoted to his religion, but also to Sadie and is obsessed with her from the first moment that he sets his eyes upon her. Maybe she is the Devil made manifest in a woman, but the man cannot help but turn his mind towards her and as he looks to tame her wild ways, it gets to a point where there is no redemption to be found in what he does, never mind Sadie.

For the most part, director Curtis Bernhardt does a good job with the material, but the film lacks the punch that earlier versions had, specifically Rain starring Joan Crawford. That being said, there is still a lot to love here, including a couple of musical numbers and the good performances by its stars which included not only Ferrer and Hayworth, but Aldo Johnson and a young Charles Bronson, still Buchinsky at this point. The cinematography by Charles Lawton Jr. paints the movie with beautiful colours and vistas, the ocean and the island looking especially scenic and attractive. It is also apparently extremely hot which is perfectly showcased by the constant sheen of sweat present on the bodies of the various actors. The one main weakness that can be found is the ending of the film which felt a bit rushed, specifically after that point where Sadie and Davidson have their confrontation, but still satisfying overall.

The story itself is a good one with a lot to love to be found within the film, and while overall this is not the finest movie of Hayworth’s career, she does put in a very compelling performance that is not to be missed if a fan of hers or of the classic tale upon which it was based.

3.5 out of 5

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