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3.9 out of 5 stars
Madame X (2 Disc)
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
I bought this Warner Archive double feature primarily to get the 1929 version, which is very rare, so that is what my review focuses on.

Watch the 1929 version for its performances and understand that if the photography seems static and uninspired it is because that at this point in early talking film the camera could not move. You had to cross cut between shots to get even the illusion of motion.

As for Ruth Chatterton and Lewis Stone, in my opinion these two never could give a bad performance and that is true here too. These two were pioneers in acting in the talkies and acquit themselves marvelously considering that actors were often directed to over-emote. Ruth Chatterton resists the common early talkie urge to chew scenery better than Stone, though, probably owing to the fact that until she was 35 she was a star of the stage and thus was familiar with handling dialogue. Stone had started acting in silent films, so in these early talking roles he was having to feel his way through it, although he quickly got the hang of it.

In this case the two play estranged couple Jacqueline and Louis Floriot. Unlike the other filmed versions of Madame X, this one starts several years after Jacqueline has abandoned her family and at a time of severe illness for her son. The man she left her husband for has died, and she asks for a fresh start with Louis, who still loves her, but rebuffs her anyway on account of his pride and turns her out into the street without even allowing her to see her son.

In this version there is no meddling mother-in-law thinking the wife is not good enough for her son. Instead it is Louis' coldness that apparently caused Jacqueline to look for affection elsewhere. The vast majority of the film belongs to Chatterton as we see her go from man to man and fall deeper into alcoholism and despair. The makeup job was quite good on this film too as we see Chatterton transform from a woman with delicate China doll features to a bloated used-up alcoholic that not even her ex-husband recognizes when she goes on trial for her life in a courtroom where he presides as judge. Raymond Hackett is excellent as Jacqueline's grown son who feels real compassion for this woman that he does not know is his mother when he is assigned to defend her.

As for the 1937 version, I watched it once and probably would not be inclined to watch it again. It was made in 1937 at the height of censorship after the production code started being enforced and it is interesting to compare the much raised production values and advances in technology versus the 1929 version, yet the presentation lacks the power of the earlier performance because Jacqueline's dissolute lifestyle is so sanitized here.

As for video and audio quality the 1929 version is unrestored. The audio can be poor at times although the video is in pretty good shape considering its age. The 1937 version looks just fine, but I think it is the lesser of the two movies.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Warner Archive has released the 1929 and 1937 versions of the classic tear-jerker "Madame X" as a two DVD set. I only purchased it as a big fan of Warren William, who stars in the 1937 version, to add to my collection. The story, from a 1908 play by Alexandre Bisson, has been filmed NINE times so far, in 1916, 1920, 1929, 1937, 1948, 1952, 1954, 1966 and 1981! (WARNING! there are many spoilers ahead) The plot concerns a woman who left her husband and young child for another man. She attempts a reconciliation when she learns the child is ill, but the cold-hearted cuckolded husband will not forgive her. She begins a downhill spiral of alcohol, drugs, and prostitution, eventually becoming the mistress of a criminal. When the criminal threatens expose her secret she kills him, and being destitute she's assigned a lawyer who turns out to be her now grown son. Recognizing him she refuses to divulge any personal information, hence "Madame X." While testifying, her husband arrives to support their son and recognizes her, but she's able to stop him from divulging her identity, eventually dying in her son's arms. Whew! In true movie fashion, both films play loose with the original plot. Here's the breakdown......

The 1929 version stars Ruth Chatterton in the lead, one of MGM's first female stars. Chatterton was a respected stage actress, signed at the dawn of "talking pictures" when the movie studios were raiding Broadway to sign actors with experience in actually talking while their acting. During the early 1930's she was one of MGM's leading stars. Most of her famous pictures were filmed before the Production Code that sanitized movies for almost three decades went into effect. These "Pre-Code" films were able to be frank about topics such as premarital sex, adultery, addiction, abortion, and so forth in a realistic manner. Chatterton, whose last film was made in 1938 is mostly forgotten today, but viewing her performance in "Madame X" it's easy to see why see was so popular with female movie audiences. Although her line readings can be a little too "stagey," her gradual transformation from a beautiful young mother to a broken old woman whose life of depravity shows in every line on her face attests to her estimable talent. The print is in fairly rough shape, especially the soundtrack which is very hissy and needs the volume raised to understand the dialog. The director was also a famous presence on the stage scooped up by MGM due to his experience with dialog, Lionel Barrymore. Although hired by MGM for his talent behind the scenes, Barrymore was soon to become one of the studios most beloved (and profitable) stars. The film's lack of a musical score was intentional, Barrymore didn't want the actor's emotions compromised, using the silences for impact. He also was one of the first to use a microphone on a "boom" (in this case a fishing rod!) that followed the actors overhead so they could move around naturally. Before this, microphones were either stationary over the actors or hidden in the set's decor. Both Chatterton and Barrymore were nominated for Academy Awards, in Oscar's second year, losing Best Actress to Mary Pickford for "Coquette" and Best Director to Frank Lloyd for "The Divine Lady." With Lewis Stone (GRAND HOTEL, THREE GODFATHERS (1936), The ANDY HARDY Series) as the hardhearted husband, Raymond Hackett (THE SEA WOLF) as their son, and Sidney Toler (The CHARLIE CHAN Series) as her victim, the movie may seem creaky by today's standards, but the ending courtroom scene, especially Hackett's impassioned plea for her acquittal, is still quite powerful today. I would also challenge anyone to not be moved by their brief reunion at the end, dated maybe, but still powerful stuff......(3½ stars)

Prolific director Sam Wood (A NIGHT AT THE OPERA, KITTY FOYLE) helms the 1937 remake with Gladys George (MARIE ANTOINETTE) in the titular role, with Warren William (THE SECRET BRIDE,WIVES UNDER SUSPICION) as the wronged, and wrong-headed, husband and John Beal (LES MISERABLES (1935)) as the lawyer son. What sinks this version is the Production Code. Where the 1929 version spoke of her adultery in no uncertain terms and showed her participation (and enjoyment) in her own depravity, here it's mostly implied. The censorship starts from the beginning, the wife is shown breaking off the relationship with her lover, who soon after is murdered by HIS wife, throwing our heroine into scandal, with both now conveniently punished for their sins. Her punishment has just begun, however, their son becomes seriously ill (the doctor is played by George Zucco) and the husband throws her out. In the earlier film she falls into a life of depravity, here she gets a job as a governess and falls in love with another man. It's only when she finds out he's married that her downward spiral begins. The plot follows the same trajectory as the earlier film, but is tame in comparison, and her decision to disappear when her husband remits just doesn't ring true here. Things almost look like they're going to pick up when she gets involved with a cardsharp played by the requisitely oily Henry Daniell (JANE EYRE,THE BODY SNATCHER), but their relationship goes by too quick. Unlike the first film, where she blurts out her secret while drunk later into her affair, she blurts it out soon after meeting him. At least from here on George finally looks the part of a destroyed woman. Everything seems condensed when compared to the earlier picture, which ran 95 minutes compared to this brisk 72 minute remake. Both films also excise the role of the mother-in-law, who serves as an important plot hinge in the original play. The role was reinstated in the popular 1966 remake with Lana Turner. As for the all-important finale and denouement, George and Beal do a decent job, but I have to give the nod to the earlier version. Hackett's impassioned plea in her defense runs rings around Beal's. Either way, unless you're made of stone, tears will fall......(2 stars)

Unlike the the 1929 film, this retread has music, Gladys George even gets to sing a (torch) song. Warren's role, although second billed, is mostly limited to the first and last fifteen minutes, if that. This was his second of four films made under contract to MGM, beginning with the Jeanette McDonald vehicle THE FIREFLY and ending with his best for the studio, ARSENE LUPIN RETURNS. The print is much better than the early film, not surprising due to the battered condition of the former. A short trailer in decent shape is included as well. Both films come across as creaky and dated due to the extreme changes of moral acceptability since their inception. Now mostly curiosities for the film buff or fans of the stars, but if weepy melodrama is your thing, they're right up your valley of tears......
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on June 30, 2013
The story of "Madame X" -- a woman forced to abandon her child and husband and then years later finds that son, now an adult, defending her in court for murder -- is one of the most re-made film plots of all time, next only,perhaps, to "Alice in Wonderland."

I have seen four versions: the 1929 Ruth Chatterton, the 1937 Gladys George, the 1966 Ross Hunter production starring Lana Turner and a TV movie with Tuesday Weld in the title role. All are worth watching (although the Weld is not yet on DVD to my knowledge). Chatterton is very much the fallen lady, more sinned-against than sinning; Gladys George, very convincing as a fallen, absinthe-addicted mantrap, Turner has many effective moments and ages from glamour girl to harridan and Weld, a vastly underrated actress, makes a wry, knowing "Madame X."

It's interesting to see how the story changes to fit the eras in which it was filmed.

Tidbit: The 1929 "Madame X," directed by Lionel Barrymore, had the first boom mike when Barrymore tied the microphone to a fishing pole.

"Madame X" has been ripped off many times, too: "The Sin of Madeline Claudet (Helen Hayes") and "Confession" (Kay Francis) being just too examples.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on September 8, 2013
Two very different films with Ruth Chatterton's the better film, overall. However, Gladys George gives a better singular performance; more depth to her emotion & voice. Unfortunately, a dated subject, even by 1937.

Both great actresses with fascinating lives offscreen. Chatterton became a noted authoress & painter after her acting career & Gladys George died a relatively young woman, I believe in 1950. Yet, no biopic about either of them has ever appeared.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on July 6, 2013
The first disc in this set is damaged. It's pixcellated and repeats chapters. The second disc is okay. I have no complaints on the second DVD, but the set is ruined.
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on December 23, 2014
Great stuff. Considering the age of the Chatterton film, I am very happy to own it, even if the video quality is never more than adequate and the sound turns out to be often faulty (which forces one to pay attention and concentrate on the actors). All I can say is that I am mesmerized by Ruth Chatterton. Having seen her in DODSWORTH and FEMALE, both excellent films in every respect, I thoroughly enjoyed her early attempt to come to terms with Madam X. Comparing the 1929, 1937 and 1965 film versions of the play, I believe Chatterton's is the more impressive, definitive performance of the famous role. You will notice that she was able to maintain a high level of emotion, modulating it beautifully, in very long takes. Not an easy feat. Great actress.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on August 22, 2014
Both are excellent and a heart breaking story. Classic
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on August 18, 2014
nice old pre-code films
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