Back in August of last year, Thrilling Days of Yesteryear’s BBFF Stacia at She Blogged by Night took a summer sabbatical to go pearl diving in the Caribbean, and asked me to water the plants at her blog on a couple of occasions…not to mention picking up the out-of-date newspapers that had piled up in the driveway. Because security is a bit lax at the SBBN complex, I was also able to borrow a few goodies from her film vault: one of them, Madam Satan (1930), was even the subject of a guest post at her blog proving I’m positively brazen when it comes to old movies.
The Story of Temple Drake—a very watered-down adaptation of William Faulkner’s 1931 novel Sanctuary (which was brought to the screen a second time thirty years later in a version starring Lee Remick and Yves Montand). The titular heroine, played by Miriam Hopkins in what may very well be her finest hour onscreen, is a Southern debutante of good family (her grandfather [Sir Guy Standing] is a local judge, father a war veteran) who enjoys a “fast” reputation among the eligible young men in town…and is gossiped about a great deal by other bluenoses of the community. Temple’s flirtatious, to be sure (a choice bit of graffiti scrawled on a wall in the movie reads: “Temple Drake is just a fake/She wants to eat and have her cake”), but this doesn’t deter the romantic intentions of defense lawyer Stephen Benbow (William Gargan), who has proposed to Temple on several occasions—only to be turned down flat each time.
Film Threat about The Story of Temple Drake states that “it is not a very good production” and “is much less interesting than its sordid reputation would suggest.” The individual responsible for this critical opinion wisely chose to leave his/her name off to stave off any ridicule they might receive on my end—I think the film is fascinating from start to finish, an atmospherically amoral tale of a woman’s seamy descent into Hell. It’s one of my favorite pre-Codes, and has remained in the memory ever since I first saw it via a crappy VHS tape that I obtained from a collector friend…sadly, the tape did not survive the moves back-and-forth between
(birthplace of star Miriam Hopkins) and Savannah, GA . (The amateur psychologist in me can't help but wonder whether this reviewer watched it through a pre-Code prism or the jaded attitude of most film critics of this generation.) Morgantown, WV
Museum of Modern Art into collaborating on a restoration print that was shown at MoMA and TCM’s Classic Film Festival in 2010. TCM aired it in September of last year, but if you missed it some generous soul has put it up on YouTube in a less-than-stellar print than Tee Cee Em’s. It is truly a memorable film.