What’s The Story? The whole point of The Joan Crawford Project is to see all of her films. In keeping with that spirit, I decided to start with a film from her early career — RAIN. Based on the short story “Miss Sadie Thompson” by W. Somerset Maugham and play version by John Colton and Clarence Randolph, RAIN is set in the South Pacific where a prostitute (the aforementioned Sadie Thompson) is at the center of a battle of wills between the solder who loves her, the doctor who likes her and the missionary asshole who wants to redeem her. Apparently, Joan Crawford hated this movie and said it was her worst film ever. (I’ve seen TROG and BESERK; this film isn’t great but it ain’t THAT bad.) And with this over-cooked script, I can see why.
The film never really leaves its stagy origins. Though it’s set in a tropical locale, the bulk of it takes places in an inn where a bunch of random people are stuck waiting on the next boat to come into port. While director Lewis Milestone does some work with the camera to give us the inn from every angle, the film feels claustrophobic. And the script has a lot of declaring of emotions and intents with very little character progression, except for Sadie. Many scenes without Joan are plodding and dull.
Oh, and how’s Joan? Her performance is uneven. Some moments fall flat, like a big emotional scene at the end - Joan completely whiffs a reaction. But when Joan is on, she’s ON. Sadie is a free-spirit on the run from her past, and Joan plays that to the hilt. But the script is so obvious and flat, she can only do so much with what she’s given.
Her character spends a lot of time fighting with Mr. Davidson, a very influential missionary who is hell-bent (pardon the pun) on saving her hooker soul. Walter Huston plays the stoic, self-righteous nature of Davidson rather one-dimensionally. In one of her best scenes in the film, Sadie and Davidson have a huge confrontation in the lobby of the inn and she lets him have it.
Joan leaves everything on the field here. She’s playing Sadie’s desperation moment-by-moment. And Huston is about as expressive as Mount Rushmore. Her turn at the end is convincing but the script isn’t doing her any favors. I say Joan acquits herself very well. I was really impressed with her even though I wasn’t too fond of the film overall.
Should you see it? Yes. But feel free to fast forward through some of it. Joan wouldn’t have minded.
How Can You See It? I saw it through Amazon. It’s currently part of Prime. If you’re a Prime member, you can watch it for free right here.