Cast & Crew
Pretty Sadie McKee works as a serving maid in the same household where her mother is a cook, and is admired by the son of her employer, lawyer Michael Alderson. However, when Michael defames her boyfriend, Tommy Wallace, during a family dinner, Sadie openly denounces her employers as cruel and insensitive. Sadie then flees to New York City with Tommy, who was fired from his job in the Alderson factory for alleged cheating. Nearly broke, Sadie and Tommy are befriended in New York by Opal, a hardened club performer, who takes them to her boardinghouse. The next morning, Sadie leaves the boardinghouse to look for a job but makes plans with Tommy to meet at the marriage license bureau at noon. Soon after she leaves, however, neighbor Dolly Merrick hears Tommy singing in the bathroom and seduces him into joining her traveling club act, which is leaving town that morning. Heartbroken and embittered by Tommy's desertion, Sadie struggles to find reputable employment but eventually joins Opal as a dancer in a nightclub. Ten days later, Jack Brennan, a jovial, rich alcoholic, helps Sadie handle an abusive customer and then demands that she sit at his table, which he is sharing with friend--Michael Alderson. Still angry at Michael, Sadie ignores his admonitions to leave his intoxicated companion alone and goes home with Brennan that evening. Soon after, Sadie marries the adoring Brennan and, while enjoying her newfound wealth, does her best to handle his constant drunkenness. Then one afternoon, Sadie, who has been following Tommy's crooning career, goes to see him performing with Dolly at the Apollo Theater and is thrilled by the loving looks he throws her during his number. However, when Sadie returns home that evening, she learns from Michael and the family physician that unless Brennan stops drinking, he will die within six months. Sobered by the diagnosis, Sadie sacrifices her chance to reunite with Tommy and, after rallying the servants to her side, imprisons her husband in his house and forces him to quit drinking. Later Sadie goes with Michael and the now recovered Brennan to the club where she used to dance and is startled to see Dolly there performing without Tommy. After she confronts Dolly and finds out that Tommy was dumped in New Orleans, Sadie confesses to Brennan that she is in love with another man and wants a divorce. The understanding Brennan grants Sadie her request, and Michael, anxious to win her forgiveness, undertakes to find Tommy. Michael eventually locates Tommy in the city and deduces that he is suffering from tuberculosis. Aided by Michael, Tommy is admitted to a hospital and begins gradually to recuperate. However, by the time Sadie is allowed to see him, Tommy's condition has suddenly worsened, and he dies after telling her that it was Michael who had helped him. Four months later, Michael celebrates his birthday with Sadie and her mother, and looks into Sadie's forgiving eyes before making his birthday wish.
Candy And Coco
Billie Van Every
Edward Le Saint
Samuel S. Hinds
Nellie Bly Baker
Charles Hill Mailes
Harry C. Bradley
Dr. William Axt
Nacio Herb Brown
Oliver T. Marsh
Edwin B. Willis
Sadie McKee (1934) was a film which particularly resonated with echoes of Joan Crawford's early life. Sadie starts out as a maid, the daughter of the cook in a wealthy household. Crawford, the daughter of a laundress, had worked her way through school as a maid. Also like Sadie, Crawford had been a nightclub hoofer in New York. Sadie's feckless working-class lover (Gene Raymond) seduces and abandons her. She goes on to marry and reform an alcoholic playboy (Edward Arnold) before finding happiness with the rich blueblood (Franchot Tone) who's loved her since they were kids together.
Sadie McKee was Crawford's third film with Franchot Tone, whom she'd met when they co-starred in Today We Live (1933). Crawford was on the rebound from her failed first marriage to Douglas Fairbanks Jr., and before long she and Tone were an item. They married in 1935. Always hungry for self-improvement, Crawford - again like Sadie -- had "married up" into Hollywood society with Doug Jr. With Tone, she would marry up again, into East Coast money, and left-wing intellectual and theatrical circles. They would make a total of seven films together before the marriage foundered due to Crawford's greater stardom and Tone's contempt for Hollywood and the roles he'd been playing. They divorced in 1939.
The plot of Sadie McKee may be pure soap opera, but the film was quite effective. Edward Arnold, who usually played a heavy, was sympathetic and complex as the alcoholic saved by Sadie. Gene Raymond made the peppy Arthur Freed/Nacio Herb Brown standard "All I Do Is Dream of You" into a touching and romantic ballad. And Crawford, perhaps thanks to Tone's coaching, reached for emotional truth in her performance, and sometimes found it. Crawford herself admitted that in one of her most effective scenes, at the bedside of a dying lover, she recalled her reactions when one of her boyfriends was dying of pneumonia years earlier. Franchot Tone, alas, had little to do in the film but stand around and watch Crawford emote. It was to be a pattern in most of their films together, and a situation that Tone, a fine actor, ultimately could not abide.
The film received mixed reviews from critics, but even those who didn't care for it, like the New York Times' Mordaunt Hall, noted "the throng expectantly standing in line at the Capitol Theater." And those who did, like the Hollywood Reporter critic, called it "sure-fire audience...well-tailored for the talents of Joan Crawford...the stuff the fans cry for...direction of Clarence Brown something to rave about."
Producer: Lawrence Weingarten
Director: Clarence Brown
Screenplay: John Meehan, based on the story "Pretty Sadie McKee" by Vina Delmar
Editor: Hugh Wynn
Cinematography: Oliver T. Marsh
Music: Arthur Freed and Nacio Herb Brown
Principal Cast: Joan Crawford (Sadie McKee), Gene Raymond (Tommy Wallace), Franchot Tone (Michael Alderson), Esther Ralston (Dolly), Edward Arnold (Jack Brennan), Jean Dixon (Opal), Leo G. Carroll ("Finnegan" Phelps).
By Margarita Landazuri
Singer Gene Austin and jazz musicians Candy and Coco, who were known as "the hottest boys this side of Hades," made their screen debuts in this film. Before Gene Raymond was added to the cast, various actors were considered for his role, including James Dunn, Leif Erickson, Arthur Jarrett, Donald Woods and Robert Young, according to Hollywood Reporter news items. A pre-production Hollywood Reporter news item stated that director Clarence Brown went to San Francisco to scout locations for the picture. It is not known if any scenes were actually shot there, however. In a May 1948 Saturday Evening Post article, actor Edward Arnold states that the role of "Jack Brennan" was, to that date, his favorite part.