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MGM. 88 minutes. US release: 5/9/34.
VHS release: 12/5/90.
2/12/08 as part of the Joan Crawford Collection, Vol. 2
3/3/17 on demand from Warner Archive Collection
Cast: Joan Crawford (as "Sadie McKee"), Gene Raymond, Franchot Tone, Edward Arnold, Esther Ralston, Earl Oxford, Jean Dixon, Leo Carrillo, Akim Tamiroff, Zelda Sears, Helen Ware, Helen Freeman, Leo G. Carroll. Cafe entertainers: Gene Austin, Candy, and Coco.
Credits: Based on the 1933 story "Pretty Sadie McKee" by Vina Delmar, which originally appeared in "Liberty" magazine. Screenplay: John Meehan. Producer: Lawrence Weingarten. Director: Clarence Brown. Camera: Oliver T. Marsh. Costumes: Adrian. Editor: Hugh Wynn. Sound: Douglas Shearer.
Plot Summary: MGM's Sadie McKee is a superb example of how the "committee" system of moviemaking in the 1930s could sometimes yield unexpected delights. It all begins when Sadie McKee (Joan Crawford) is brought to big bad old New York by glib vaudevillian Tommy (Gene Raymond), only to be unceremoniously dumped in favor of actress Dolly (Esther Ralston). Cast adrift, our Sadie lands a nightclub job, where she meets genially intoxicated millionaire Brennan (Edward Arnold). Accepting his drunken marriage proposal, Sadie must endure the slings and arrows of Brennan's friends and family, who consider her a gold-digger. Meanwhile, Sadie's former boss Michael (Franchot Tone), the one true love of her life, waits and waits and waits to see what's really on the girl's mind! And as a bonus, this is the film that introduced the peppy ditty "All I Do Is Dream of You". The labyrinth plotline of Sadie McKee is proof enough that more than one screenwriter had a hand in its creation: but instead of chaos, the film is irresistibly watchable, full of unexpected plot twists and marvelous little surprises. ~ Hal Erickson, All Movie Guide
Mordaunt Hall in the New York Times (1934):
Clarence Brown's direction of this film is studied and in its way effective but it scarcely improves the flow of the story. There are many static interludes, a great deal of talk, which is by no means as interesting as the producers evidently thought it to be. Miss Crawford assuredly does well by her part, but even so the incidents in which she appears often are hardly edifying. It is in fact an exasperating type of motion picture.
Marguerite Tazelaar in the New York Herald Tribune (1934):
Mr. Brown has employed an emotional quality in his direction that both helps and hinders the picture. It helps in keeping the story an exciting, vivid, enkindled canvas. It hinders, in exaggerating its artifice, its confusion and its lack of logic....Miss Crawford seems a bit miscast in the role of girlish innocence, but she does a competent job with Sadie, and in certain of her scenes is genuinely moving.
Hollywood Reporter (1934):
Swell picture...sure-fire audience...well-tailored for the talents of Miss Crawford.... the stuff the fans cry for...direction of Clarence Brown something to rave about...a humdinger for femme fans.
If you've seen Sadie McKee and would like to share your review here, please e-mail me. Include, if you like, a picture of yourself to accompany your review, as well as a star-rating (with 5 stars the best) and any of your favorite lines from the film.
Stuart Hoggan (March 2013)
Rating: -1/2 of 5
A fatal flaw in romantic moviemaking is the glaring lack of sincerity of the craftmanship. Too often -- and the filmic repertoire of Jennifer Lopez and Sarah Jessica reek of it -- the genre is manipulated, or geared even, toward star vehicle commerciality. The art of film itself becomes a commodity in the proceedings. That latter aspect of moviemaking was decidedly a contrived cog in the MGM machine back in the 1930s, yet Sadie McKee is one of those lost rare creations that deftly exhibits the star power of its cast while also striking with a certain warmth.
When spirited maid Sadie McKee
(played by a very fresh-faced Joan Crawford) overhears her snobby
aristocrat employers badmouth her boyfriend, she verbally puts them in
their place and denounces her job. Along with her aspiring vaudevillian
lover Tommy (a very charming Gene Raymond), she relocates to New York,
where after sharing a few genuinely tender interludes with Raymond,
she finds herself jilted for a sultrier actress. From here the film
navigates Sadie through many situational contrasts; from mingling with
nightlife glitterati by means of earning a keep to accepting a proposal
of marriage from a drunkard suitor, to gaining the affections of her
ultimate true love (Crawford's future second husband, Franchot Tone),
Sadie has blossomed from a spiritually impoverished girl into a
liberated and wordly woman by the time the credits have rolled.
Conclusively the ending here seems intent on insinuating something more
emotionally uplifting than merely feel-good entertainment.
Sadie McKee explores its themes (social class, alcoholism, true love) in cheap melodramatic fashion, but the quality of dialogue renders endearment from many of the scenes. The chemistry between Crawford and Raymond is especially affecting, perhaps in part due to the relative inexperience of both as first-rate moviestars. Together they create a tearfully bittersweet denouement with their character arc -- one that is twicefold more moving than we generally see in this genre today.
As a whole, Sadie McKee was an intelligent choice of material for Crawford following her artistic breakthrough in Grand Hotel. The film has surprisingly aged well over the decades and undeniably more so than many classics of its day.
"All I Do Is Dream of You": Words by Arthur Freed. Music by Nacio Herb Brown. Published by Robbins Music Corp., New York.
The Best of Everything