Films Showing

An American Tragedy

An American Tragedy

An American Tragedy

1931 / 96min / 35mm

DIRECTOR: JOSEF VON STERNBERG

Working in pre-Code times, von Sternberg’s adaptation of Theodore Dreiser’s 1925 novel of the same name was permitted certain freedoms that George Stevens’s 1951 film from the same source, A Place in the Sun, didn’t enjoy, among these a candor when discussing abortion as a solution to an unwanted pregnancy. Telling the story of a triangle between social-climber factory worker Phillips Holmes, his co-worker Sylvia Sidney, and socialite Frances Dee, von Sternberg eschews Dreiser’s sociology, instead turning the film into a study of what he would call “the sexual hypocrisy of the [petty-bourgeois] social class.”