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2— Constructing a Woman's Speech: Words and Images: "Miss Thompson" (1921), Rain (1921), Sadie Thompson (1928)
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Constructing a Woman's Speech:
Words and Images:
"Miss Thompson" (1921), Rain (1921), Sadie Thompson (1928)

Looking at a series of adaptations of a short story written in 1921 gives us an opportunity to analyze the way "woman" and her voice are constructed across a series of texts that themselves make the transition from silence to sound. In each of the works examined here, the character of the woman is the catalyst for the action. Her "character" and motivations are the subject of speculation and concern for others in the narrative. In the short story "Miss Thompson" and in the play Rain, Sadie Thompson's "language" or speech is foregrounded as a privileged way for the other characters and the reader/spectator to know "her." When the play was adapted to film in 1928's Sadie Thompson, language was displaced in favor of visual representation. However the dialogue from the play, while much reduced, is still prominent in the silent film. Therefore in addition to analyzing the function of language in constructing the character "Sadie Thompson," I raise the larger issue of how texts make allowances for other "voices." On a formal level, these would include other modes of representation—dialogue in silent film and the establishment of a hierarchy among dialogue, sound, and image in sound film. However, if sound itself is the other "voice" being introduced to silent cinema, what are the implications of associating sound, defined as a potentially disrupting force, and the woman through the presentation of her vocie? In silent film, what are the implications for the woman's "voice" when her words are literally set apart, her ability to speak defined by the image?

Unlike the Maugham story, the play and the three films I shall be examining are average works and should not be considered artistically groundbreaking. Raoul Walsh's 1928 Sadie Thompson was perceived in its day as an entertaining vehicle for Gloria Swanson and for Walsh's own roughhouse, "masculine" comedy style. Lewis Milestone's Rain (1932) and the Curtis


Bernhardt adaptation Miss Sadie Thompson (1953) likewise do not stand out from other films of their periods or even within the arguably limited oeuvres of these particular directors. Representative of their eras in styles of filmmaking, use of sound, and the representation of women, these texts will serve to demonstrate a series of general propositions about the relationship of mode to the representation of women and women's speech.

In the movement from Sadie Thompson (1928) to Rain (1932) we can see how the conventions of classical silent cinema were challenged and forced to adapt to the presence of the sound-reproduction industry. Also present in these works is the pervasive influence of theater. While early sound film bears the alleged ignominy of flooding the screen with "non-cinematic" theatrical adaptations, silent cinema had never ceased adapting plays from the time of the Film d'Art movement onward. Producers were, in fact, always eager to turn to the stage for pre-sold material that promised to combine art with profit. The silent film Sadie Thompson and its sound remake Rain are both adaptations of John Colton and Clemence Randolph's play Rain (1921), which in turn is based on Somerset Maugham's short story "Miss Thompson" (1921). As each film claims descent from both play and story, we need a theoretical approach that will allow us to examine historical evolution, transformation within and between forms, and the relation between form and "subject matter," which in turn exerts pressures on, and is responsive to, formal change.

Summarizing the work of Marxist theorists, Fredric Jameson argues that every social formation or historical moment is made up of several overlapping modes of production, survivals of older methods now relegated to dependent positions (what Raymond Williams calls the "residual"), as well as anticipatory tendencies that point toward new methods yet to become standardized (the "emergent").[1] According to Bordwell, Staiger, and Thompson (1985), the project delineated by the classical Hollywood style is precisely to suppress or reabsorb signs of difference, to obscure historical change by reasserting a predominance of conventionalized forms within a given film as well as from text to text. In a highly conventionalized system, "emergent" or experimental modes of production and new styles are the rarely seen parameters of classical style. They keep the form fresh without ever shaking our confidence that we've been here before and will have no trouble "reading" the text.

Williams's discussion of hegemony, the dominant, residual, and emergent, is entirely in reference to social change, but it is helpful to appropriate his terminology in conceptualizing formal changes in cinematic style, keeping in mind the need to "find terms which recognize not only 'stages' and 'variations' but the internal dynamic relations of any actual process" (Williams 1977, p. 121). "'The hegemonic,'" according to Williams,

while by definition . . . always dominant . . . is never either total or exclusive. At any time, forms of alternative or directly oppositional politics and culture exist as significant elements in the society. . . . Any hegemonic process must be


especially alert and responsive to the alternatives and opposition which question or threaten its dominance. . . . The decisive hegemonic function is to control or transform or even incorporate

the oppositional or alternative elements that exist outside the dominant style (ibid., p. 113).

The precedence and subsequent coexistence of a multi-part sound industry (phonographs for recording blanks or playing prerecorded cylinders and discs; radio networks) constituted a potential challenge to the originally image-based industry of cinema. Radio threatened the economic base of cinema by drawing away its audience. Once the film industry chose to incorporate sound, sound recording posed a challenge to the formal system of signification within film texts by seeming to change the definition of "cinematic" to a style favoring speech over image. It then fell to the hegemony, here the dominant style, to incorporate or transform the threat posed by a wholesale switch to a sound-based system, and to make sure that the elements of sound that were used strengthened and reenforced the classical model.

Hollywood's classical project is by definition ahistorical, as it seeks to hide the materiality of cinema and obscure its signifying functions behind established conventions. In Rain (1932) the residual elements of silent film style, already five years out of date, are unusually prominent, disrupting the impression of a smooth "sound film" surface transparently "communicating" narrative information. Many transitional films (for instance, the half-silent, half-"talkie" films) suffer from an even more disturbing lack of consistency. Although much of the use of sound in Rain functions according to what were to become the classical conventions of the sound film, the film also demonstrates the new range of alternatives made possible by the cinematically emergent technology of sound.

All films to some extent juggle conventions formed in earlier eras. However, the varying modes of production visible in Rain , the antagonistic systems and styles, do not yet fit comfortably together. The older methods of the silent era clash visibly with newer methods, some that would become standard, others seldom to be seen after this transitional period. According to Williams, the "active presence" of these competing elements

is decisive, not only because they have to be included in any historical . . . analysis, but as forms which have had significant effect on the hegemonic process itself. That is to say, alternative political and cultural emphases [as well as the evolution of styles and processes of significantion] . . . are important not only in themselves but as indicative features of what the hegemonic process has in practice had to work to control.
(Williams 1977, p. 113)

Accordingly any understanding of classical style has to take into account "the internal dynamic relations" between dominant conventions, residual and


emergent, because "at any moment in the process, [these alternative and oppositional figures] are significant both in themselves and in what they reveal of the characteristics of the 'dominant'" (ibid., p. 122).

In his essay "Discourse in the Novel," Mikhail Bakhtin examines the novel as the form par excellence not only for revealing heteroglossia (Bakhtin's term for the dialogization of the many languages within a given language system) but as the one form that creates itself out of this multiplicity of languages and their interaction. Furthermore, every aspect of communication, being historically determined, shows traces of its determination. Bakhtin states that "verbal discourse is a social phenomenon—social throughout its entire range and in each and every one of its factors, from the sound image to the furthest reaches of abstract meaning" (1981, p. 259). He goes on to note that "proper theoretical recognition [needs to be] found for the specific feel for language and discourse that one gets in . . . the more complex artistic forms for the organization of contradiction, forms that orchestrate their themes by means of languages" (ibid., p. 275). "Discourse in the Novel" is his attempt to rectify this theoretical oversight.

However other forms of discourse besides prose and the novel will also, by necessity, reveal the workings of heteroglossia. Film is only tangentially a form that "orchestrates its themes by means of language," but cinema studies can expand the application of Bakhtin's concepts to other forms of artistic communication. In cinema, language (or verbal discourse) becomes only one of the modes of discourse in a complex of audio and visual forms, each vying for dominance. By examining the transformations of a specific short story (a prose work where "language" is the whole, but which in itself contains the interplay of many languages) as it is adapted into a play, a silent film, an early sound film, and a classical Hollywood musical, we can trace the displacement of verbal discourse in favor of other "languages," each in its own way a complex of languages passing through a historical evolution and serving a specific signifying function. With each change, the way woman is represented, here in the character of Sadie Thompson, undergoes changes reflecting the alteration in mode, style, and convention, as well as changes in the cultural position of women from the period of one adaptation to the next.

What makes cinema a potential example of heteroglossia beyond the fact of the multiple discourses simultaneously at work in a film is the dialogization of those discourses. Bakhtin notes that "the fundamental and wide-ranging significance" of the "dialogic nature of discourse . . . is still far from acknowledged" (ibid., p. 275). I shall argue that in early sound films the competing discourses—the image-based signifying system of silent film, the newly potent dialogue-based discourse from theater and radio drama, and the voices, music, sound effects, and ambient sound of the sound mix, each with its own power to signify—become dialogized as they struggle for dominance in the new cinematic form. The value of these transitional films lies precisely in their struggle, which the critical focus on classical films has ignored. Bakhtin


admits that the "centralizing tendencies in the life of language have ignored this dialogized heteroglossia in which is [sic ] embodied the centrifugal forces in the life of language" (ibid., p. 273). The same could be said of an evolving signifying system like cinema where signs of stylistic struggle are repressed in favor of a myth of a coherent, unified classical style.

Three areas of early sound film can be opened up when considered in terms of heteroglossia. First, dialogue is the most obvious and often the sole verbal discourse carried over in adaptations of literary works into films, yet because it stems from pre-cinematic sources, whether drama or prose, dialogue is seldom considered worthy of intensive examination in cinema studies. Dialogue, as well as being a chief carrier of narrative in sound film, performs a substantial narrative function in silent film and the change between the function(s) and placement of dialogue in silent film and in sound film is one of the major areas untheorized in the transition to sound.

Second, heteroglossia is characteristic of entire prose works and not merely of the dialogue of the characters. A character's "language"—that is, sociocultural position—can "infest" and interpenetrate the author's discourse and open a dialogue with the other languages passing through the text. This, I would argue, is also possible in cinema, where the forms of "cinematic" communication surround and inform the spoken dialogue. Elements of miseen-scène, editing, voice, sound effects, and music can all express, contradict, or reenforce a character's point of view or reveal its presence in scenes where the actor is not present (a musical theme often introduces a character in his/her absence). Point of view is thus not restricted to dialogue in novels or to subjective camera angles in film; it is closer to what Bakhtin terms the "struggle among socio-linguistic points of view" (here represented by elements in the image system versus the verbal/auditory system) and is not merely an "intra-language struggle between the individual wills or logical contradictions" (ibid., p. 273) among characters or within the narrative.

Third, by comparing various periods of cinematic history (classical silent film, early sound, and classical sound film) we can chart the evolution of the dominant hierarchical relationship between the languages within cinema. Through extreme industrial, technical and formal pressures, Rain in its very archaic, old-fashioned quality momentarily leaves bare the various functions of sound and image as the text suffers a temporary—historical—difficulty in hiding its enunciation. Through a combination of technological, cultural, and economic factors, the silent film hierarchy of languages is redefined as new conventions and a new hierarchy are formed.

As the substance of Maugham's story is subjected through a series of adaptations to the historically evolving properties of different media, it becomes possible for us to trace the effects of different systems on a single element—the representation of woman's voice. The potential for heteroglossia in a film's form then becomes particularly relevant to feminist analysis. The dominant conventions of cinema have traditionally been used to position woman within


a very restricted number of patriarchal roles that deny her a voice. Once these conventions are broken and new forms become possible (for instance under the pressure to create a new signifying hierarchy in sound film), what was previously contained might break free. Traces of the truth of women's lives might, for example, be glimpsed through the cracks; a woman might snatch a fleeting opportunity to express her own experience in words that do not serve any patriarchal project.

However in any medium, whether short story, play, silent or sound film, a "voice" is the product of conventions of representation, and I shall first chart the way in which each of these forms constructs the speaking woman.

Somerset Maugham's short story "Miss Thompson" was first published in 1921. Later that year it was produced as a play on Broadway under the title by which it is now known, Rain . (The story was subsequently reprinted under the title "Rain," reflecting the popularity of the play.) Written by John Colton and Clemence Randolph, the play was very successful and made a star of Jeanne Eagels, the actress who played Sadie Thompson. It has been filmed three times.[2] The 1928 silent version stars Gloria Swanson (who also produced) and Raoul Walsh, who directed and helped write the screenplay. In 1932 Joseph Schenck, who had distributed the silent version for Swanson through United Artists, chose the property for a sound remake to serve as a vehicle for Joan Crawford. This version was directed by Lewis Milestone, who had established himself as a pioneering director of sound films with All Quiet on the Western Front (1930) and The Front Page in 1931. This version was not commercially successful (it was the only film version that did not make money or garner critical praise for its star). The story was not adapted again until 1953, when it became Miss Sadie Thompson and provided a starring role for Rita Hayworth (abetted by color and the new 3-D process), supported by Jose Ferrer and Aldo Ray, and directed by Curtis Bernhardt.

Each of the films claims to be based solely or in part on the original story. Owing to legal complications, the 1928 version declares itself to be entirely based on the original, while the 1932 film credits the story, the play, and unspecified additional script work by Maxwell Anderson. However, it is important to keep in mind that it is the play that forms the foundation of all the major film versions. In order to appreciate the importance of the changes made by Colton and Randolph and carried over into the films, it will be necessary to look at the story at some length, in regard both to heteroglossia within the prose form and how it relates to the characters and their subsequent realizations in dramatic and cinematic form.

The story concerns several people forced by quarantine to spend two weeks together on a South Sea island. Dr. Macphail and his wife meet the Reverend Alfred Davidson and Mrs. Davidson (who are missionaries in the Pacific) on a ship bound for the island of Apia. When they stop in the port of Pago Pago, they are informed that no ship will be leaving for two weeks and that they


must stay at the island's only inn. There they find that another passenger from the ship, Sadie Thompson, has also taken a room. Hearing loud music and men's voices coming from her room, Davidson realizes that she is a prostitute from Honolulu and exhorts her regarding her evil ways. He is thrown out of her room by some sailors. After this, Davidson alternately prays for her soul, condemns her wickedness to Macphail, and demands of the island's governor that she be deported on moral grounds. Afraid of being returned to San Francisco, where a prison sentence awaits her, and under a great deal of mental stress, Sadie repents and becomes totally dependent on Reverend Davidson, who has persuaded her to go back to San Francisco as punishment for her sins. The night before she is to leave, Davidson goes to pray with her; the next morning he is found on the beach, having cut his own throat. Back at the inn, Dr. Macphail discovers Sadie, dressed vulgarly and playing her phonograph loudly. When Macphail, horrified, insists she turn off the music out of respect for the dead man and his widow, she screams at him that men are all alike, "filthy pigs."

Any summary of a literary or cinematic work inevitably ends up privileging the diegesis over the structure. Just as form is inseparable from "content" and is essential to the creation of any meaning a work might have, it is impossible to discuss heteroglossia through plot summary. One of the most interesting things about Maugham's story is that most of the action takes place "offstage"—the story is built around absences and enigmas, which are in turn re-presented to Dr. Macphail, who functions as a witness within the text. Dr. Macphail hears noises and deduces that Davidson has been thrown out of Sadie's room by the sailors. He is told that Davidson has been to see the governor, that Davidson has bad dreams and prays for Sadie's soul, that Sadie has later repented. Most important, it is through him that we are given to understand what has led to Davidson's death (something never made explicit in any of the versions of the story). Everything we learn is filtered through Macphail, our observer and the author's representative of objectivity and accurate perception.

Macphail is presented as a doctor. By profession he is thus an educated, disinterested observer, a purveyor of "scientific" discourse, a moderator between the excesses of Sadie and Davidson. His relation to excess is noted early on, when he is eager to see some native cases of elephantiasis. However it is the exaggerated and perverted emotional extremes that become the bulk of the story's action, and that are diagnosed as such by the doctor.

Maugham describes Macphail initially as "precise and rather pedantic" (Maugham 1967, p. 412; page numbers given below refer to this edition). "He spoke with a Scots accent" (cultural connotations of pragmatic Scotsmen) "in a very low, quiet voice" (p. 412)—again connoting moderation. He appreciates, at first, the "good" qualities in both Sadie and Davidson. He admires her "effrontery" (p. 420) in bargaining for her room and is in awe of Davidson's physical courage (p. 423). He is portrayed as kind, asking his wife


to speak to Sadie because "she's all alone here, and it seems rather unkind to ignore her" (p. 427). His easygoing nature betrays "misgiving" when Davidson's fanatic discipline tries to impose itself (p. 428), and he has a sense of humor (p. 433).

The most prominent thing about Macphail is his reticence. When the innkeeper appeals to Macphail about Davidson pressuring him to evict Sadie Thompson, Maugham writes, "Dr. Macphail did not want to commit himself" (p. 435). When Sadie pleads with him to intervene with the governor on her behalf, Macphail "had the shy man's resentment at being forced out into the open" when confronted about it by Davidson (p. 441). Later he openly states, "I think one does better to mind one's own business" (p. 441). Macphail's role as observer requires him to stay out of the conflict in order to maintain his aura of "objectivity" and disinterest. When Macphail does begin to take sides, his earlier reserving of judgment suggests that his eventual choice will be the inevitable and appropriate one. Earlier, when he heard of Davidson's techniques for compelling the natives to abide by the church's mores, "What he heard shocked him, but he hesitated to express his disapproval" (pp. 424–25). But later Macphail begins to speak out against Davidson, his relativistic moral stand, a beacon of liberal pluralism, placed in opposition to Davidson's absolutist one. Davidson disparages the governor for not deporting Sadie. Macphail says, "I suppose that means he won't do exactly what you want" (p. 437). Davidson retorts with the language of common sense and the transparency of the "one true path": "I want him to do what is right." And when Davidson argues that Macphail wouldn't hesitate to amputate in a case of gangrene, Macphail counters, "gangrene is a matter of fact"—speaking the irrefutability of empirical science, confronting Davidson's monologic discourse of the sacred with the empiricism underlying liberalism.

Macphail's reservation of judgment merely prepares the reader for his eventual decision to step in and take charge of the action at the climax of the story. When Davidson's body is found on the beach, Macphail is called to determine the cause of death. Here every word Macphail says is grounded in his medical authority; as Maugham says, "He was not a man to lose his head in an emergency" (p. 452). The trader is superstitious about having a corpse taken to his inn. Macphail replies "sharply": "You'll do what the authorities say" (p. 452). Macphail (directing the course of the narrative) instructs his wife to break the news to Mrs. Davidson, and it is Macphail who confronts the resurrected whore-ish incarnation of Sadie, assailing her for "playing ragtime loud and harsh" (p. 454).

Macphail's perceptions guide the author's description for the rest of the story. "Dr. Macphail was outraged. He pushed past the woman into her room. 'What the devil are you doing?' he cried." His confusion about the meaning of her actions shows Maugham's use of the hermeneutic code to both inform the reader and create a need to know, a question that needs to be answered. This is repeated when Sadie callously tells Macphail, "can that stuff with


me," and he replies, "What do you mean?" Maugham repeats this as well: "'What do you mean?' he cried. 'What do you mean?'" (p. 455).

She gathered herself together. No one could describe the scorn of her expression or the contemptuous hatred she put into her answer.

"You men! You filthy, dirty pigs! You're all the same, all of you. Pigs! Pigs!" Dr. Macphail gasped. He understood.
(p. 455)

The story ends this way with Macphail's understanding substituting (and supposedly being sufficient) for the reader's understanding. In fact, the enigma of "what happened between Sadie and Davidson?" is still open. In place of an explanation, the text suggests that "common sense" will make it clear by asserting that if our moderate, objective reader-figure Dr. Macphail understands, then whatever we choose to fill in the blank will probably be the "right" choice. Maugham depends instead on inference. (This is made hamfistedly clear in the play—the trader and Sergeant O'Hara are outside Sadie's door when they hear the loud music and exchange these lines: "What do you infer?" "I don't infer anything.") The clues offered by Sadie's non-response response are based on late Victorian cultural assumptions about the language of prostitutes (men only want one thing— "You're all the same") and the Victorian equating of male sexuality with animal (as opposed to spiritual) "instincts," ("Pigs!"), and its accompanying assumption that sexuality is "filthy, dirty." (Ironically, this puritanical and Victorian disgust with sexuality is the one view Sadie and Reverend Davidson share, revealing that they are in fact at opposite poles in the same discourse of good and evil. It is the inability of either to compromise, a problem endemic to the discourse of the sacred, that destroys them.)

What Macphail observes that so horrifies him is the revelation of a naturalist discourse, so vicious and untamed by either the sacred or the liberal light of reason that it threatens to overwhelm all that goes before it. The secular pluralism Macphail represents is powerless to intervene, for the fanaticism of Davidson and the violence of Sadie are antithetical—there is no middle ground.

The use of Macphail is a strategy employed to suppress heteroglossia, the chaos that would ensue if Sadie and Davidson were left alone to fight to the death for dominance. By distancing the reader through a more comfortable identification with the good doctor, Maugham (himself an M.D.) provides the reader with a "safe" position, knowledge of the extremity (the great chasm existing between classes and genders and its potential to shatter the world), while providing a safety net in the conservative reenforcement of a non-extreme, middle language from which to view the others. By creating and foregrounding the doctor's discourse, characterized as reliable and therefore close to denotative or "realist," Maugham urges on us a point of view "everyone" can agree is better than either of the "extreme" views—in other words, a centralized, unitary language. The words of Sadie and Davidson, their cultural


positions, "are completely denied any authorial intentions: the author does not express himself (as the author of the word)—rather, he exhibits them as a unique speech-thing, they function for him as something completely reified" (Bakhtin 1981, p. 299). He places Macphail's language as the superior choice in a language hierarchy and seeks to separate the reader from any possible identification with Sadie or Davidson.

The most salient difference between the story and the play is the replacement of Macphail with a character/participant, Sergeant O'Hara, and the attempt to reconcile and smooth out the oppositions delineated by Sadie and Davidson. The play dramatizes almost every one of the scenes "reported" to Macphail in the story: the confrontation with the sailors in Sadie's room, her discussions with Davidson. (Her conversion is reported in the play but dramatized in all of the film versions.) The only scene always left unrepresented is the final one between Sadie and Davidson. This is both the climax of the story and the ultimate taboo, but in the play it is displaced by a supposedly "greater" event—Sadie's acceptance of O'Hara's marriage proposal. Sadie and Davidson remain structured as a series of oppositions based on class and gender: Davidson as authority (religious, military, political), and as a man with physical and vocal superiority. Sadie is sub-working-class, "vulgar," without political power, exploited and female. Davidson's views on sex are puritanical (the conversion of sexual energy into work results in profit), the supposed opposite of Sadie's, who exploits sex for direct access to cash, exposing the work ethic as an exchange of sex for money. Sadie's and Davidson's names are virtual inversions of each other, the initials of which indicate their positions as representatives of the Marcusian bipolar opposites, eros and thanatos, or Sex and Death (the sexual woman and the puritanical minister, the prostitute and the suicide). Or as Barthes might have it, "S/D." O'Hara is at every point inserted as the middle ground between their antithetical positions. It is through O'Hara that Sadie is reconciled to men and middle-class monogamy. Macphail is phased out.

Sergeant O'Hara becomes so important in the play that in the introduction to the published version of the play, Ludwig Lewisohn defines the major conflict as being between Davidson and O'Hara. "It is O'Hara who saves Sadie" (Colton and Randolph 1936, p. xi). This is a misreading of the play, because what "frees" Sadie from Davidson's influence is what happens between the two of them before he kills himself. O'Hara functions in the same way Macphail does, as the observer who eventually takes sides, and like Macphail he is identified with reliability. When he is introduced in the play by Quartermaster Bates, his main attribute is that he "flies straight" (Colton and Randolph 1936, p. 11). But instead of being in Macphail's disinterested position. O'Hara is placed between Sadie and Davidson. His language is a combination of authority (the marines) and slang (Sadie's refutation of authority). His class standing is between Davidson's (he's not as educated or "respectable") but


above Sadie's (holding with the cultural assumption that men should marry "down" a little and bring the woman "up"). But, principally, O'Hara is able to marry Sadie and propose a refuge in Australia, portrayed as an idyllic place where men and women can marry and live in a class-free society. In effect, the religious, dictatorial male authority of Davidson is refuted by a figure of democratic pluralism who can actively create a male and female utopia based on similar goals and a truce by consensus.

The introduction of O'Hara creates certain strains near the end of the play, where the full chasm between Sadie and Davidson becomes most apparent. When Sadie wrathfully denounces all men as "filthy, dirty pigs," the text struggles through O'Hara to patch things up again as quickly as possible. The stage directions have Sadie's "voice black with loathing":

You men—you're all alike. [Hoarsely] Pigs! Pigs! I wouldn't trust one of you! [She turns quickly toward O'Hara] No offense to you in that last remark, old pardner. [She pauses.] And I'm going to Sydney if that invitation of yours still holds good.
(Colton and Randolph 1936, p. 241; brackets in original)

In the interests of reconciliation and recuperation, she is forced instantly to modify what was originally an out-of-control and heartfelt blanket condemnation. The psychological likelihood of such loathing melting in the presence of "Mr. Right" is a gap the text is willing to live with. In the face of pluralism, both holiness and naturalism disappear.

The play's urge to reconcile everything and everybody extends to Davidson's strict, puritanical wife. Although a key figure in labeling Sadie as morally objectionable and beyond the pale in both the play and the story, at the end of the play Mrs. Davidson has a change of heart only slightly less sudden than Sadie's. As Sadie and O'Hara are preparing to leave arm in arm for the boat for Sydney, Mrs. Davidson returns from having identified her husband's body on the beach. She looks up at Sadie and says, "I understand, Miss Thompson.—I'm sorry for him and I'm sorry for you" (Colton and Randolph 1936, p. 241). This line preserves (if displaces) the story's famous last line ("He understood.") and completes the conversion of the play's characters so that now everyone sides with Sadie, no matter how improbably.

One can see how great a transformation this is when comparing it to the end of the story. There, as Dr. and Mrs. Macphail escort Mrs. Davidson back from the beach, they find Sadie all dressed up again, "the flaunting queen that they had known at first" (Maugham 1967, p. 454).

As they came in she broke into a loud, jeering laugh; and then, when Mrs. Davidson involuntarily stopped, she collected the spittle in her mouth and spat. Mrs. Davidson cowered back, and two red spots rose suddenly to her cheeks.


Then, covering her face with her hands, she broke away and ran quickly up the stairs.
(pp. 454–55)

That Mrs. Davidson, whose "anger almost suffocated her" (p. 432) when she thought of Sadie earlier, should suddenly feel sympathy for her is hard to make psychologically persuasive, although Colton and Randolph try to ease us into the change with an added scene of Mrs. Davidson expressing doubts about her strictly celibate marriage. But it is absolutely necessary in order to attest (indirectly) to the rightness of Sadie marrying O'Hara (covering up the gulf of oppositions that had existed between Sadie and Davidson).

The main conflict that drives the story, play, and films is the one personified by Sadie Thompson and Reverend Davidson. This conflict is an "intralanguage" dialogue, exposing the contradiction at the core of the sacred discourse. Sin is the engine that makes religion move in Western culture, the problem the sacred purports to solve and without which it would be unnecessary. Without hell, heaven would be meaningless. Bakhtin argues that drama cannot fully embody heteroglossia precisely because it is built of intralanguage dialogue, although he also admits that this form "has hardly been studied linguistically or stylistically up to the present day" either (Bakhtin 1981, p. 273).

The internal dialogism of authentic prose discourse, which grows organically out of a stratified heteroglot language, cannot fundamentally be dramatized or dramatically resolved (brought to an authentic end); it cannot ultimately be fitted into the frame of any manifest dialogue, into the frame of a conversation between persons; it is not ultimately divisible into verbal exchanges possessing precisely marked boundaries.
(ibid., p. 326)

Although dialogue is used within the novel, heteroglossia is greater than that small portion of the novel expressed in the dialogue alone.

True, even in the novel heteroglossia is by and large always personified, incarnated in individual human figures, with disagreements and oppositions individualized. But such oppositions of individual wills and minds are submerged in social heteroglossia, they are reconceptualized through it.

These "languages," represented by characters or not, exceed dialogue and begin to interact with each other across the text, infiltrating the author's discourse after the specific characters linked with a particular language are out of the "scene." It is this free play of languages, this dialogue between languages, as opposed to characters, that makes heteroglossia so rich, so present in every part of the novel.


"A speaking person's discourse in the novel [is] not merely transmitted or reproduced [as in drama]; it is, precisely, artistically represented and thus—in contrast to drama—it is represented by means of (authorial) discourse " (ibid., p. 332; italics in original). Within the authorial discourse, a word or sentence becomes "double-voiced," serving "two speakers at the same time and express[ing] simultaneously two different intentions: the direct intention of the character who is speaking and the refracted intention of the author" (ibid., p. 324).

With the displacement of an identifiable "author figure" in drama, double-voiced discourse must be contained almost completely in dialogue. The characters must always speak doubly, must always convey the author's intentions about what they say as they say it. They must (if distanced from the author's intentions) condemn themselves out of their own mouths, while simultaneously being true to their own discourse. Although Bakhtin admits that a form of double-voicedness exists in the rhetorical and poetic genres (where he places drama), he feels that "it is not fertilized by a deep-rooted connection with the forces of historical becoming that serve to stratify language" (ibid., p. 325). In other words, by aspiring to a closed, monologic universe (which Bakhtin finds typical of poetic genres), a narrower, closed system is presented, one that represses the complexity of society, language, and their historical evolution.

But any character in a drama is a complex of social and historical "evidence," all interacting to inform the audience of the class, cultural, educational, ethnic, religious background, and gender of the character in his/her "process of becoming." All of these languages speak to each other and situate themselves in relation to the other languages within any segment of character dialogue. Any part of dialogue from one character to another also situates its complex of languages in relation to another character's complex mix of linguistic and historical/social affiliations and enmities.

Bakhtin feels that "oppositions between individuals are only surface upheavals of the untamed elements in social heteroglossia, surface manifestations of those elements that play on such individual oppositions, make them contradictory, saturate their consciousness and discourses with a more fundamental speech diversity (ibid., p. 326). Since characters in drama are types selected from a pool of already determined characteristics provided by a specific culture at a specific time, I would argue they represent not merely individual conflicts but social ones. The "surface upheavals" embodied in dialogue are, as Bakhtin notes, legible symptoms of deeper issues. Not all characters have access to all languages in a given society, therefore there is a strong potential for social/historical conflict each time a character speaks, that is, each time anyone is forced to define him or her self from a limited set of predetermined and determining linguistic choices. In a dialogue, each character's choices are also in potential conflict with the social and historical determinants indicated by the language choices of the other characters.


It is necessary to consider the question of the relationship between heteroglossia and dialogue in such depth because most of the time the dialogue (and a few stage directions) is all that is preserved of dramatic "texts." In order to understand the full embodiment of heteroglossia in a drama, one would ideally need the dramatic performance: acting, lighting, stage direction, the behavior of extras, costumes, and the audience. These other "languages" are the aspects of the dramatic form that have the potential to become dialogized, interacting with the dialogue as the dialogue interacts and repositions itself in relation to them. This requires a drastic repositioning of the play's author. The actor's distance from the character would assume as much importance as the writer's. The ability to reify, to parody, to distance oneself from the words of a character while speaking them would create another register unique to the production as a whole, and one not to be found in the published script. The position of the author thus exists across the text, fragmented and dissolved, as one more language engaged in dialogue with all the others. Heteroglossia needs a complete form, not the transcript provided by a published version of a play, in order to be traced out in its full complexity. The complete dramatic text (existing in performance) is ephemeral and therefore difficult to analyze. Cinema, which also radically repositions the author, provides us with a complete artifact for study, as does the novel. But rather than passing over dramatic dialogue, I would like to look at it in some detail in order to understand how much social and historical specificity it holds. When we appreciate the linguistic diversity of dialogue alone—"those socio-ideological cultural horizons (big and little) that open up behind heteroglot languages" (ibid., p. 299)—we shall be better able to appreciate dialogue's re-positioning within the larger complex of cinema as a whole, both silent and sound.

The languages that form the character of Sadie in "Miss Thompson" vary greatly from those that create "Sadie" in Colton and Randolph's Rain, which supplied almost all of the dialogue in the 1932 film and much of what remains in the 1928 silent version. The issues surrounding Sadie, defining her, and working through her, are softened to a great extent in the play and a look at the languages used by and about Sadie will show how this ideological shift is made.

Maugham's Sadie is a remnant of the Victorian stereotype of the prostitute. She is from the "lower depths," carrying almost exclusively negative connotations of a sub-working-class position. She is described as "quite willing to gossip" and her voice is "hoarse" and usually "jeering" (Maugham 1967, pp. 427, 420, 454). In need of the doctor's help, "she gave Macphail an ingratiating smile," and in apologizing to Davidson, "she stepped toward him with a movement that was horribly cringing" (p. 445). ("Ingratiating" and "horribly cringing" have an almost Dickensian flavor, reminiscent of Uriah Heep trying in a distastefully false way to "make up to his betters.") Sadie is inarticulate and uneducated. When she is upset she speaks "a torrent of insult, foul and insolent" (p. 438)—insolence being the refusal of someone on the lower end of a power relation to accept his or her "place." Elsewhere Sadie


gives vent to "an inarticulate cry of rage" (p. 439) and "a torrent of confused supplication [as] the tears coursed down her painted cheeks" (p. 445).

Physically Maugham seems disgusted with Miss Thompson. "Her shiny white boots with their high heels, her fat legs bulging over the tops of them, were strange things on that exotic scene" (p. 427; italics added). When she becomes ill worrying about Davidson, there is no sympathy, but rather continuing distaste. "Macphail noticed that her skin was yellow and muddy under her powder and her eyes were heavy" (p. 440). "Her hair, as a rule so elaborately arranged, was tumbling untidily over her neck"; her clothes are "unfresh and bedraggled" (p. 444). When she has broken down under pressure from Davidson, Maugham has Macphail observe that "she had not troubled to dress herself, but wore a dirty dressing gown, and her hair was tied in a sluttish knot. She had given her face a dab with a wet towel, but it was all swollen and creased with crying. She looked a drab " (p. 448; italics added).

Compare this unappealing physical detail to the introduction of Sadie by Colton and Randolph:

Miss Thompson is a slim, blondish young woman, very pretty, very cheery, very rakish. She has a tip tilted nose and merry eyes. She walks easily without self-consciousness. There is something of the grace of a wild animal in her movements, something primitive perhaps, even as her clothes suggest savage and untutored response to cut and color.
(Colton and Randolph 1936, p. 26)

The lack of self-consciousness absolves Sadie from being guilty of any calculated attempt to offend or oppose the dominant order. Anything "animal" or "savage" about her is modified by being linked to "grace" or deflected to her clothes. Colton and Randolph's description is altogether one of youthful high spirits and innocence, an attractive construction especially when contrasted with Maugham's vulgar drab.

Part of what Colton and Randolph are doing in their massive revision of the character of Sadie Thompson—besides making the main character likable—is turning her into a fetish. Annette Kuhn summarizes the process of fetishization this way:

In the social-historical context of the patriarchal family, it is argued, the body of the mother begins to signify the threat of castration and powerlessness. . . . [The resulting anxiety for the male] may be dealt with by turning woman, or the figure of woman, into a fetish: that is, by disavowing and defusing the castratory aspects of the image by making them their opposite through idealizing the image.
(Kuhn 1982, p. 61)

According to Laura Mulvey, this fetishized object "becomes reassuring rather than dangerous" (Mulvey 1975, p. 14). The fearful viciousness of Maugham's Sadie, the jeering, exultant hoyden "red in tooth and claw," is replaced by a


cutie-pie, a prototype for the upcoming flapper who has plenty of "it." The horror of the castrating "bad mother" who flaunts her sexuality disappears, denied and obscured by the pointedly "young" Miss Thompson. In making this journey from slut to slim, cheery, and rakish, Sadie is also repositioned from upholding a pole in the sacred discourse to standing firmly within the bourgeois world of melodrama and psychoanalysis.[3]

The difference in conception of the two characters is epitomized in language, particularly in their dialogue. Sadie's dialogue in the story is reified and never infiltrates Macphail's (or the author's) descriptions. The play's conception of Sadie is different because its conception of class is different; it is more complicated and therefore the use of language is more complex. In his introduction to the play, Ludwig Lewisohn writes, "Sadie is lifted from mere suffering to action. The drama required that she be not left passive, no mere object, but that she, too, be in herself a source of interest and energy" (Colton and Randolph 1936, pp. viii–ix). What is intriguing about this description of Sadie, besides the writer's own rather strange syntax, is his tone of amazement that Sadie should be an active character, a potential subject and not just an object of contention between O'Hara and Davidson. For our purposes, it will be most illuminating to analyze the way this impression of an "active" and "interesting" character is created entirely through her speech, speech that was to become a major point of controversy for all subsequent adaptations.

Maugham's Sadie curses and uses slang expressions in ways that convey her coarseness. "The feller's tryin' to soak me for a dollar and a half a day for the meanest sized room" (p. 420) and "'Don't try to pull that stuff with me,' said Miss Thompson. 'We'll settle this right now. You get a dollar a day for the room and not one bean more'" (p. 420). Her grammar also shows the class status of an outsider. Shouting at Davidson: "'You done it,' she shrieked. 'You can't kid me. You done it'" (p. 438). "'Do you think I want to stay on in this poor imitation of a burg? I don't look no busher, do I?'" (p. 439). Along with the previously noted "inarticulateness," Sadie's language marks her, sets her apart from everyone else in the story. If this Sadie is comparable to an animal, it is to a dumb animal; if she is unselfconscious, it is because she is too low in class to be aware of how vulgar, how far outside of bourgeois norms, she really is. A significant part of what sets her irrevocably outside of society's norms is her use of language, and so language itself becomes an issue, one that is carried over and elaborated upon in the play.

Sadie in Colton and Randolph's Rain speaks more interestingly than any of the other characters; this is part of what makes "Sadie" the starring (and starmaking) role it is. Linguistic complexity—sudden changes in style, unexpected words and word usage, an awareness of language and distancing herself from her own language—makes Sadie's speech unpredictable and fascinating. The constant mixture of tones and languages in later or "better" plays often passes for psychological realism giving the impression of background for a character, a lived past, and "untold depths" of experience and


feeling. Although it does not blend smoothly into a "psychological realism" here, Sadie's extremely varied use of a number of languages (both within a language system and quoting French, Japanese, and British forms) creates a foundation of adaptability that will be transformed into psychological malleability later (underscoring her conversion under Davidson and her proposed new life in Australia with O'Hara).

The following speech occurs early in the play when Sadie first enters the inn following a sudden rainstorm.

Christ on the mountaintop! That was sudden—and me in the only decent togs I've got to my name. Put that stuff down anywhere, boys. [Holds up her hat] Behold—the Wreck of the Hesperus! H'm—that plume has waved its last—farewell, pretty one—farewell—I guess any idea of me looking neat and chipper when I get to Apia is shot to pieces, eh, what?

To separate the languages out of this, let's look at it phrase by phrase.

"Christ on the mountaintop!"

This illustrates the issue of "bad" language, the use of a moderately shocking biblical reference to express a conception of "the ultimate" (Christ, mountaintop, and the exclamation point). The ejaculation also expresses frustration and ruefulness as seen in the follow-up, "That was sudden." (In the 1932 Rain the phrase "Moses on the mountaintop" was substituted. This is directly traceable to the Production Code, which forbad exactly this usage of "Christ." "Moses on the mountain" seems to have caught on as an acceptable film substitute because it is used again in the 1937 Nothing Sacred .)

"That was sudden."

Coupled with the preceding phrase, this modifies the shock value by emphasizing that it was unpremeditated, thereby preserving Sadie's innocence and unselfconsciousness.

"—and me in the only decent togs to my name."

Further justification with connotations of poverty. Expresses Sadie's sense of humor and ability to accept a joke that is "on her." Comments on nature, fate, and bad luck, as well as on Sadie's ability to survive and adapt.

"Put that stuff down anywhere, boys."

Casual, informal way of relating to others seen in the lack of a more formally polite "Would you" or "Please put that" or other niceties mandated by etiquette. "Boys" shows her ease at making acquaintances and familiarity with the marines.


Here she is referring to her soaked hat. The dash implies a pause afterward. This is because simply stating "Behold" is in itself a reference to Shakespearean or classical drama signifying a knowledge of "high culture." (Maugham's Sadie would never be capable of pronouncing "Behold.")


"—the Wreck of the Hesperus!"

Longfellow's poem "The Wreck of the Hesperus" is associated with nineteenth-century theatrical melodrama. Historically, it connotes the educational policy of having schoolchildren memorize and recite epic dramatic poems. All of this indicates an "All-American" public school education for Sadie, implying that she was brought up in this turn-of-the-century, literature-privileging society. Sadie instantly steps up in class, becoming an average petit bourgeois American girl of standard education who has fallen on hard times. (Sadie's education is implied elsewhere when she speaks of someone's "fine Spencerian hand," referring to a course of instruction in penmanship, using an archaic meaning of "hand," and again, distancing herself from the phrases she uses by making them so florid.) Because Sadie has "fallen," she can be redeemed, restored to her prior social status, the class in which she was raised. Marriage to O'Hara is appropriate because he has similar class mobility. As an enlisted man he has worked his way up to sergeant, which is the highest rank available without being a commissioned officer, and he is about to become a small businessman in partnership with his ex-army buddy. These are "poor but honest" petit bourgeois aspirations to middle-class status.

"—that plume has waved its last—"

Nineteenth-century rhetorical formations along with connotations of patriotic songs and slogans ("Oh say, does that Star-Spangled Banner yet wave . . . ?"). "Waved its last" calls to mind "breathed its last"—a euphemism for "died."

"farewell, pretty one—farewell"

Reminiscent of nineteenth-century melodrama and Dickensian elegies (Paul Dombey, Little Nell).

"I guess any idea of me looking neat and chipper when I get to Apia is shot to pieces, eh, what?"

"Shot to pieces": military. "Neat and chipper" and "eh, what?" are British expressions and point to Sadie's varied background, travel, experience, meeting a lot of people who speak in many ways. Combined with the above nineteenth-century theatrical and literary allusions, this expresses intelligence, the ability to pick up new languages (literally, too, for her next line is in Japanese which she then translates into English). This exaggerated fluency also suggests that Sadie has "been around."

In the story, Sadie is in a class-based trap. In the play, she's freer, more resilient, in part because by positioning herself within a variety of languages she is able to distance herself from the negative and restricting class connotations of one specific language. This defines and illustrates her freedom. It is when she loses the ability to distance herself from language (particularly from the language of others), when she succumbs to the authoritarian language of Davidson, that she seems trapped and needs to be rescued; her escape comes from being able to regain her distance and once again mock the religious discourse she obediently mouthed when converted.

"It is precisely the diversity of speech, and not the unity of a normative


shared language, that is the ground of style," Bakhtin observes (1981, p. 308). He means "diversity of speech" within a prose text, but nonetheless we can see here how the same may apply to a single character. Those with "a normative shared language," like the Davidsons, are embodiments of a language that seeks to efface its determinations and claim its discourse as the "right" (natural) one. Sadie, on the other hand, can be described as having style, demonstrating a range of vocabulary that indicates knowledge of many discourses and usages, her awareness of her position in regard to all of them, and her exercising a choice among them every time she speaks. Specifically, Sadie has a comic style.

Bakhtin defines comic style thus: "Comic style (of the English sort) is based . . . on the stratification of common language and on the possibilities available for isolating from these strata, to one degree or another, one's own intentions, without ever completely merging with them" (ibid., p. 308). When Sadie uses class-ified, "educated" terms, she separates them out as phoney, reified, and reflects them back on themselves in order to expose their pretentiousness as well as the dominant class's attempt to impose them as signifiers of "culture" (high culture), as the normative language of the high-culture-aspiring middle class.

The reification and ridicule of these terms can be seen as a form of rebellion, as a refusal of "their" discourse and its dominance. Julia Kristeva, whose work on language in the novel forms a complement to Bakhtin's, notes that "on the omnified stage of carnival, language parodies and relativizes itself, repudiating its role in representation; in so doing, it provokes laughter but remains incapable of detaching itself from representation" (Kristeva 1980, p. 79). Sadie may assert a comic distance from language(s), but she is enslaved by one and eventually beguiled by another (that of O'Hara and marriage). The fact that she does use the languages that are ultimately used against her reveals the limits of her range, the fact that she acts from within a culture that has already defined how far she can go. Kristeva's continuation of that thought applies resonantly to Sadie's place in Rain as a whole: the history of language in carnival "is the history of the struggle against Christianity and its representation; this means an explanation of language (of sexuality and death) [Sadie and Davidson], a consecration of ambivalence [what happens between them] and of 'vice'"—here the celebration of the "whore" at the expense of a centralized monologic religion, until she is recuperated into the middle class through marriage (ibid.).

The following exchange shows Sadie openly parodying religion, the culture of Victorian literature and melodrama, and the ways in which each seeks to position her:

[Hears voices] Methinks I hear the winds of religion whistling down the chimney! [with mock trepidation] Whereat the low hussy frolics off to buy her dinner!
(Colton and Randolph 1936, p. 97)


The pragmatic finish deflates the archaic rhetoric of "methinks" and "whereat," while the dark melodrama of "the low hussy" clashes with the pastoral "frolics off."

[To Dr. Macphail before she leaves] Life just teems with quiet fun, don't it?
(Colton and Randolph 1936, p. 97)

The ungrammatical "Don't it?" more closely reflects the grammatical insouciance of the British upper class in this period (à la Dorothy L. Sayers's Lord Peter Wimsey) than the uneducated status of Maugham's Sadie.

Parody may not be able to break free from representation, but "carnivalesque discourse breaks through the laws of language censored by grammar and semantics and at the same time, is a social and political protest. There is no equivalence, but rather identity between challenging official linguistic codes and challenging official law" (Kristeva 1980, p. 65). Sadie's language throughout the play is clearly oppositional as she rejects any single language as whole, normative, or transparent. Her essentially comic tone is one of the elements that makes us identify with her and regret her submission to Davidson. While Colton and Randolph actively insert comic elements into the first part of the play, they do not use Sadie's comic discourse subversively, resorting instead to melodrama for Sadie's confrontation with Davidson and her ultimate recuperation.

Davidson is the exemplification of unitary language in the play, as is Maugham in the story through his validation of Macphail's speech at the expense of the other characters' language. Bakhtin describes how the working of unitary language is inherently opposed to Sadie's challenges. "Thus a unitary language gives expression to forces working toward concrete verbal and ideological unification and centralization, which develop in vital connection with the processes of socio-political and cultural centralization" (Bakhtin 1981, p. 271; italics added). Davidson's language goes hand in hand with his work as a missionary, his imposition of Anglo-American Protestant beliefs on the native population and his fellow travelers.

The victory of one reigning language (dialect) over the others, the supplanting of languages, their enslavement, the process of illuminating them with the True Word, the incorporation of barbarians and lower social strata into a unitary language of culture and truth, the canonization of ideological systems. . . . All these . . . give expression to the same centripetal forces in socio-linguistic and ideological life.

And Davidson is their representative, the spokesman for religion (as a minister), politics (his mission, he points out to the governor, has many friends in Washington), the military (in the film Rain he is described as an official in-


spector of navy morals), and as a man ("You may be big and you may be strong," Sadie at one point argues before attacking his superior position).

Davidson's language is very controlled; there are few contractions, the syntax is careful and perfectly balanced. He speaks in complete sentences and does not use slang, giving the impression that his language is transparent and not subject to historical change. All languages must bend to his. In dialogue with Sadie we can see how their positioning themselves with regard to language (plural and distanced for Sadie, wholly at one with the only "true" language for Davidson) makes it almost impossible for them to communicate. Their first discussion (Colton and Randolph 1936, pp. 114–16) is built on misunderstandings and miscues.

Sadie: You want to see me?

Davidson: Yes, I want to talk to you, Miss Thompson.

He takes her blunt question and submits it to the rules of grammar and etiquette.

Sadie: I'm eating my supper. [Her mouth is full of banana.]

She opposes his polite form with fact, rudely implying the inconvenience of his visit.

Davidson: I'll wait until you're through.

Connotations: he is patient. The use of contractions implies his reasonableness, his willingness to recognize her needs.

Sadie: Oh, the supper can stand by if it's important.

"Stand by," nautical, to wait.

Davidson: It is important, very important.

Again he uses her phrase as if they are in sync, showing his willingness to use her language, implying they will see things the same way.

[continued] Sadie Thompson, I have brought you out here to make you a gift—the most precious gift life can offer you.

Use of her full name signals the beginning of a speech, a set form. Religious discourse.

Sadie: [uncertainly] You want to give me something?

She substitutes a practical meaning for a spiritual one.

Davidson: Yes—I want to give you something.

Uses her words.

Sadie: I guess I'm not following you—

Her incomprehension mildly implies his inadequacy at expressing himself.


Davidson: The gift I offer is free.

Continuing the religious metaphor regardless of her "confusion" or rejection.

Sadie: I'm glad of that—I'm pretty short on cash.

Again substituting the practical for the spiritual.

Davidson: The gift I'm offering you is the infinite mercy of our Lord, Jesus Christ.

He reveals the religious meaning of his ruling metaphor. The standard use of "our" suggests the centralizing tendency of both Davidson and all religious institutions. By repeating forms of the phrase "the gift I offer you," Davidson implies that this expanded version was always contained in embryo in the earlier ones, as if he has been making a set speech without any real regard for the presence of his listener.

Sadie: Just what is the idea, Rev. Davidson—making me these presents?

Kristeva notes how "the dialogism of [Menippean discourse's] words is practical philosophy doing battle against idealism and religious metaphysics" (Kristeva 1980, p. 83). Sadie's intensely practical concern for her dinner and her negative cash flow continue to outweigh Davidson's spiritual discourse. Later in the scene, as this miscommunication becomes apparent, each begins to interpret the intentions underlying the other's words. (Their interpretations are for the most part positive; if they were negative, the conversation would end.)

Sadie: You mean right by me, Reverend Davidson—and I sure am grateful. . . .

Davidson: You are mistaking me—but I do not think wilfully.

Sadie: They all told me you were sore, but I just couldn't think a man as big as you would hold a grudge over a little misunderstanding.

Later in the scene Davidson spells out the "two paths" Sadie can take, either accepting his "gift" of submission or being destroyed. Sadie's opposition clearly fits Kristeva's description of "politically and socially disturbing" Menippean satire. "Menippean discourse tends towards the scandalous and eccentric in language. The 'inopportune' expression, with its cynical frankness, its desecration of the sacred and its attack on etiquette, is quite characteristic" (ibid., pp. 82, 83).

Davidson: The devil in you is strong, poor Sadie Thompson. Evil has claimed you as its own.

He positions her according to his own discourse.

Sadie: You take care of your own evil, and I'll take care of mine.

She now uses his words against him, rejecting his power to position her.


I know what you want!

Reveals understanding in place of earlier confusion. Asserts that she holds the key, the hidden meaning of his "gift."

You want another scalp to hand to the Lord.

Displaying Kristeva's "inopportune" cynicism and frankness as well as the desecration of the sacred.

Well, you don't get mine, old tit-bit!

—And the attack on etiquette.

Davidson: Lord! Hear Thou my prayer for this lost sister

He counters with the full power of religious discourse, speaking directly to God and closing her out of the conversation.

—close Thy ears to her wild and heedless words.

Rejecting her discourse as being beyond the pale—which it is, and intentionally so.

When Sadie gives in under pressure and tries to consciously adapt herself to his language in order to negotiate with Davidson and avoid prison, her language shows the difficulty of synthesizing two such opposing discourses:

Not all words for just anyone submit equally easily to the appropriation, to this seizure and transformation into private property: many words stubbornly resist, others remain alien, sound foreign in the mouth of the one who appropriated them and who now speaks them; they cannot be assimilated into this context and fall out of it; it is as if they put themselves in quotation marks against the will of the speaker.
(Bakhtin 1981, p. 294)

Sadie: Reverend Davidson—wait a minute! Reverend Davidson—you're right.—I am a bad woman, but I want to be good, only I don't know how—So you let me stay here with you, then you can tell me what to do, and no matter what it is I'm going to do it for you.

Here, "bad" and "good" stand out along with "only I don't know how," a fauxnaïf expression of dependence meant to elicit a protective response. Davidson speaks in such global simplicities; Sadie can't. It "feels" wrong. She isn't necessarily lying—that's too simplistic. What she's doing is trying to embody a discourse she doesn't believe, her words putting "themselves in quotation marks" regardless of whether that is her actual intention.

Davidson: No, you can't stay here—You've got to go back to San Francisco—You've got to serve your time.

Again the repetition: "You can't," "You've got to—," "You've got to—."


Sadie: You mean to say if I repent and I want to be good—I still have to go to the penitentiary?

She tries to use the same simple sentence structures and short words in order to give an impression of artless simplicity and sincerity. Shows an effort to understand ("You mean") and then uses two of "his" terms ("repent" and "be good") before reaching the part that directly concerns her.

When Sadie finds that negotiations haven't worked, that total capitulation is all Davidson will accept, she reverts to her own original position in regard to language in all its multiplicity and variety. Davidson tells her that she has to go to jail whether or not she is guilty of the charge.

Sadie: Innocent or guilty? What kind of a God are you talking about? Where's your mercy? Ah, no, Rev. Davidson, I guess that repentance stuff is off.

Davidson: Was it ever on, Miss Thompson?

Sadie: Whether it was or not, it's off now! The way you figure out God, he's nothing but a cop.

Davidson: You've got to go back to San Francisco!

Retorts with the "law," straight and simple.

Sadie: Straight orders from your private heaven, eh? Ah, no, Rev. Davidson, your God and me could never be shipmates,

Naval reference domesticates religious discourse.

and the next time you talk to Him—you tell Him this for me—Sadie Thompson is on her way to Hell!

She takes his biggest threat and changes it into a positive assertion, a personal choice, deflating it and taking possession of the religious discourse.

In dialogue, the speaker anticipates the response of the listener and at the same time positions the listener's possible responses. For instance, when Davidson speaks to Sadie, he positions her as either a brazen sinner or a potentially repentant one, a "poor lost soul." There are no other positions from which she can answer; if she did, Davidson would not recognize or acknowledge the response. Monologic discourse typical of a centralized language like Davidson's reduces the number of positions it recognizes and from which it will allow itself to be addressed. When Davidson says to Sadie, "My poor lost child, what happened the other day is of no importance. Do you imagine what you or those sailors said to me made any difference?" (Colton and Randolph 1936, p. 122), he is making it clear that their words are literally as if unsaid because authority such as he represents cannot be addressed in that way—he/it doesn't hear it.

"In any actual dialogue the rejoinder also leads such a double life: it is


structured and conceptualized in the context of the dialogue as a whole, which consists of its own utterances ('own' from the point of view of the speaker) and of alien utterances (those of the partner)," Bakhtin says (1981, p. 284). But some utterances are more alien than others because of class contiguity or other differences in status. O'Hara, in an intermediate position with regards to Sadie and Davidson, is able to position himself vis-à-vis language in a way that is more open to the many possible rejoinders of the partner. When O'Hara speaks three different languages in one sentence (say, slang, official marine jargon, and deference to authority), he positions Sadie in an equally complex way; his freedom of speech allows her to respond in any of the languages he has used or any contiguous language (her street slang in response to his marine slang, her "Christ on the mountaintop!" to his "holy bilge-water"). O'Hara's dialogues with Sadie show not only their individual wills but the historical position of their classes; which classes can speak to each other; and which languages are reconcilable, as opposed to those that are irredeemably opposed. Sadie cannot speak to Davidson unless she completely submits. O'Hara can speak to Davidson, but as an inferior to a superior. As a mid-level officer in the strictly hierarchized military, O'Hara's ability to yield to rank is a necessary part of his daily life. Around Davidson, O'Hara controls his language. In all the subsequent versions, when Sadie begins to curse Davidson, it is O'Hara who tries to shut her up.

Although O'Hara recognizes Davidson's higher status, he is closer to Sadie. He can speak the codified language of the military, "speak" it in his dress, posture, and gestures. At the same time he undermines it with slang, specifically army slang. The oppositional stance of slang is very close to Sadie's opposition to almost all authority, and in their dialogues we see how they are able to negotiate a common ground.

The invention of O'Hara softens the story's "fight to the death" conflict between Sadie and Davidson's inimical historical positions. If the ruling class cannot tolerate the exploited working class, there is the middle rank of sergeant ("Tim O'Hara," Irish immigrant, a group making its way up from the ghetto into the petite bourgeoisie through jobs as priests, police, and members of the armed forces throughout the 1920s and 1930s). If religious authority cannot tolerate a sexual woman exploiting her exploited position, O'Hara can accept her sexuality and contain it by offering her a less controversial position as wife (but unlike Davidson, he gives her a choice rather than insisting on submission). If Davidson elicits Sadie's virulent attack on all men, O'Hara is there to make her immediately modify her position to some men. O'Hara as a construct attests to the redemptive powers of the middle class, mediating harsher "Old World" distinctions of class and church, softening sexual antagonisms by forgoing the double standard, and doing it all within the forms of democratic pluralism, repeatedly asking Sadie what she wants. The reconciliation O'Hara seeks with Sadie is closer to Bakhtin's description of prose:


"The unity of a literary language is not a unity of a single, closed language system, but is rather a highly specific unity of several 'languages' that have established contact and mutual recognition " (ibid., p. 295).

Although drama as a system cannot be fully analyzed (because the other codes or languages are "missing" and changeable), film provides a complete text with all the interrelationships within the text fixed and available for analysis. In discussing the differences between cinema and theater, Christian Metz states that "because the reflection (the signifier) is recorded in cinema, as opposed to being live in theater, it "is hence no longer capable of change" (Metz 1982, p. 68; see, in general, pp. 63–68). It merely awaits the spectator/listener's reading to constitute it, as we shall do here.

Sadie Thompson (1928) is the silent film adaptation of the play Rain . The play was high on a list of works banned by Will Hays as inherently immoral and not to be adapted to the screen under any circumstances. Gloria Swanson in her autobiography relates how she gained Hays's permission to adapt a story about a minister and a prostitute if she agreed to change the minister to a plain Mr. Hays agreed and she set about buying the rights to the story (and the play as well, for legal reasons). She attained those rights cheaply because, she asserts, "we would not be using the play, which was supposedly the valuable property, to concoct the script" (Swanson 1980, p. 303; see, in general, pp. 297–314). This is clearly not true, as the film closely follows the play in structure, in all of the dialogue titles, and most prominently in the presence of the character of Sergeant O'Hara, an invention of the playwrights, Colton and Randolph.

Dialogue is the only part of drama that lasts, that precedes and succeeds the ephemeral production and each individual performance, but in silent film dialogue and verbal discourse as a whole are drastically limited. As we shall see, this has consequences for Sadie and for the representation of women's voices in general. Dialogue as a form brings with it all the patriarchal assumptions of language. Silent film's reduction of dialogue in favor of visual communication offers a way out of the ideological strictures of pure language. However, the consequences for the representation of women are, as we shall see, decidedly mixed.

Sadie Thompson convincingly illustrates to what extent verbal discourse has been reduced in the effort to establish film as a monologic (visual) system. As previously noted, the idea that film should be primarily visual is a myth and not a "natural" result or expression of any cinematic essence. Silent films are constructed, particularly in classical Hollywood narrative films, to promote the image as the primary bearer of meaning. Because it was seldom possible to provide an intelligible narrative out of images alone, it became necessary to incorporate verbal discourse in the form of titles while segregating it, setting it apart as an "inferior" language system.

In the urge to centralize language, other languages must be either entirely suppressed or marked, set apart as belonging to "a" discourse versus "the"


essential and transparent discourse of the dominant language. Just as hegemony is never total and has gaps and the traces of what it seeks to suppress, the impulse to make film a monologic system fails (except in the few historically overemphasized titleless silent films).[4] In place of a monologic system, silent film substitutes a hierarchy: the "invisible" discourse of the image, with conventions of editing that hide themselves as the story "constructs itself" (eyeline match, invisible editing, cutting on movement) while other languages (verbal discourse, music) are set apart, not "part" of the text but "other," visible as discourse. One scene in Sadie Thompson when compared with the play shows the extent to which verbal discourse is made secondary to the visual discourse and the implications for the representation of woman's "voice."

After Sadie receives the letter from the governor telling her she must return to San Francisco, she and O'Hara run into Reverend Davidson (here "Mr." Davidson as described above). Sadie, furious, begins to curse him and tell him off. In the story Sadie becomes so frustrated, "she gave an inarticulate cry of rage and flung out of the room" (Maugham 1967, p. 439). In the play, this confrontation becomes a major scene, with thirteen dialogue exchanges covering three pages. The silent film maintains the position and prominence of the scene while retaining only four lines of dialogue in a scene that runs for about three minutes. This is all the more striking because one of the subjects of the scene is language itself, specifically Sadie's "bad" language, or profanity.

The scene consists of twenty-seven shots and five dialogue titles. Of the twenty-seven shots, twenty-one are of Sadie talking, five are reaction shots of Davidson or of Mrs. Davidson and Mrs. Macphail listening to Sadie, and one is of Davidson speaking. In effect we have a visualization of a tirade where the dynamism and energy of the emotional outburst is communicated through the editing, the acting, and the mise-en-scène. It is nonstop talk where the words don't matter.

In the first shot, Sadie and O'Hara, moving left, encounter Davidson coming up the stairs of the porch, moving right. He passes them by, but Sadie turns to Davidson and begins to speak. He exits right. She follows. In the next shot Davidson is crossing the main room and Sadie enters screen left, following him. She confronts him again until O'Hara steps between them (shot 2). Davidson again exits right and Sadie again follows him, with O'Hara in pursuit, leaving an empty frame. In shot 3, Sadie traps Davidson with his back to a staircase. Close-up of Sadie and the first dialogue title: "You dirty squealer. What lies did you tell the governor about me this time?" (condensing the following lines from the play, "You low down skunk, what have you been saying to the Governor about me?" and "filling the Governor up with a lot of filthy lies about me" [Colton and Randolph 1936, pp. 145, 146]).

The first four shots of the scene are all cut on movement in classical silent film editing style. There is no camera movement. Cutting on action and on the "look" of the characters makes the visual discourse invisible. The narrative


Shot 2

constructs itself from within as it effaces its own construction. The sense of relentless pursuit is conveyed through the repetition of movement to the right. In each shot Davidson faces Sadie as if to listen but always buckles under the (visualized) verbal onslaught and flees. The shots are filled with constant motion, especially from Sadie and Davidson, with O'Hara as an observer (one literally in Sadie's corner). The constant motion stands in for the stream of words we don't hear.

The one aspect of a silent film that cannot be completely hidden by editing techniques is the introduction of the second discursive system, verbal discourse. Shot 4, the close-up of Sadie talking, and the title that follows it show one of the ways silent film works to contain the limited verbal discourse within the privileged visual system. Sadie in close-up looks offscreen right and rapidly moves her lips. Cut to the title, "You dirty squealer. . . ." Cut back to the same close-up of Sadie completing the words of the title in pantomime (" . . . to the Governor about me?").

The shot / title / (same) shot structure is one of the ways silent films made dialogue titles comprehensible as dialogue . An S/T/S structure fits the dialogue as much as possible into the image while obscuring (as much as possible) the work of the author. In earlier silent films, titles that described a mood or an action or that set the scene were clearly the work of the author/producer/filmmaker or the exhibitor. With the exact shot of a speaker bracketing a title (and the frequently "readable" mouthing of the words before and after the title), it is the image that triggers and contains the title, the words generated by the image and retroactively attributed to it. The image speaks the words. The opposite could easily be said of the earlier form where the title would lead into and pre-define the image. The words are reified as words and their interruptive power only keeps them more separate, "lesser" in their communicative ability than the smooth enveloping visual narrative.

Sadie Thompson is late in the silent period (1928) and consequently doesn't need to slavishly follow the S/T/S form for intelligibility; it can use more sophisticated forms, usually a shot 1/ title / shot 2 (speaker/title/listener) structure.


In shot 4 following the title, O'Hara steps in front of Sadie and she pushes him aside to continue her abuse of Davidson. Davidson in medium close-up holds up his hand and visibly says, "Enough!" Cut to title 2: "It was my duty to have you deported." Cut back to Sadie as in shot 4. We no longer need the bookend effect of identical shots surrounding the title. Once Davidson has begun to speak (making clear who is speaking the title), we can return to a shot of the listener and understand that (s)he is hearing the remainder of the title we just saw. In keeping with this, after a few moments of "listening," Sadie begins to curse even more heatedly, presumably in response to the title she just "heard."

Shot 7 is a long shot of O'Hara, Sadie, and Davidson (facing her with his back to the stairs). He exits right and she follows. Shot 8: Sadie enters, throwing off O'Hara's arm, and faces Davidson on the right, with Mrs. Davidson and Mrs. Macphail on the far right behind him. Title 3: "Was I doing you any harm, you bloodthirsty buzzard. Was I?" The way this title is "fixed" as coming from Sadie is by having Sadie be the only figure moving in this shot. Everyone else is static. She points her arm at full length at Davidson, shakes her hair and throws back her cape. This could be called an S1/T/S1a structure. After the title we return to the speaker, Sadie, but in a reframed shot taken from a different angle. The new shot is a medium close-up of Sadie. This shot becomes in turn the beginning of a new sequence, grounding the upcoming title, title 4: "Who gave you the right to pass judgment on me, you psalm-singing louse." Return to shot 9 (the close-up of Sadie) still speaking. Title 5: "You'd tear your own mother's heart if she didn't agree with you, and call it saving her soul."[5]

The string of dialogue titles (titles 3–5) is built into an alternating structure of titles and shots of the speaker—S1/T3/S1a (shot 1 with slight variation) / T4/S1a/T5/S2. After she says title 5, we return not to the close-up of Sadie but to a new long shot (shot 10) of O'Hara on the left and Sadie in the center yelling and pointing at Davidson on the right. This is the silent film's visual representation of a harangue—nonstop dialogue with no listener represented. Having three consecutive titles gives the impression of a lengthy diatribe while actually containing only four short sentences. The titles also are never literally consecutive; three "pages" of words on black background, one after the other, would lose the dynamic close-up of Sadie, her facial expressions, her hair flying, and her violent gestures. Besides, we must always be reminded that Sadie speaks —this is more important than what she says.

After the flurry of titles 3, 4, and 5, there are no more dialogue titles, even though Sadie talks continuously for the next sixteen shots. It is in these shots that the image of Sadie talking overwhelms and improves upon dialogue itself. Through the narrative we are given the impression that we don't want to know the words themselves, that we "get the gist of it," pure meaning, and understand what she means better than words could express. This is the hierarchy of languages in silent cinema, the image advanced as superior to words,


more true to verbal expression than words themselves could be—a hierarchy that was to be profoundly challenged by early sound cinema.

In shot 10 (the long shot described above) Sadie climbs up on the chair between her and Davidson and points her finger at him. Shot 11: Davidson, in heavily shadowed light, looks disturbed, eyeline match suggests he looks at her. Shot 12: Sadie speaking vigorously and shaking her hand as O'Hara in soft focus behind her tries to pull her away. Shot 13: The two ladies cover their ears presumably in horror at what they hear . They exit left. Shot 14: Long shot as the ladies cross left in the foreground. Shot 15: Mrs. Davidson and Mrs. Macphail enter from the right and cross left out on the porch. Mrs. Macphail turns however to look back in the direction from which they have come and the camera cuts on her look. Shot 16: The earlier long shot with Sadie on the chair gesturing toward Davidson. O'Hara reaches around her with his arm. Shot 17: Close-up of Sadie with O'Hara's hand reaching in and covering her mouth.[6] In the original stage directions, he pulls at her arm and finally she "is pulled out of the scene by O'Hara" (Colton and Randolph 1936, p. 148).

As Sadie pulls herself away from O'Hara, still talking, we cut to shot 18, of Davidson shielding his eyes (connoting stress, possibly prayer, in a nice


echo of Sadie with a hand over her mouth). Shot 19: Close-up of Sadie trying to free herself to speak. Shot 20: O'Hara drags her off the chair and out of the shot to the left, reversing the direction of their initial pursuit of Davidson. Shot 21: Long shot of the porch as O'Hara drags her to the left, her feet trailing, as Sadie continues yelling and gesturing with her arms. Shot 22: Close-up of Sadie yelling. Shot 23: Mrs. Davidson and Mrs. Macphail again cover their ears in shock and retreat right. Shot 24: O'Hara helps Sadie to her feet and she agrees to stop attacking Davidson, although she has one final word, extending her arm toward the right "at" Davidson. She and O'Hara turn left. Shot 25: They walk down the stairs and into the courtyard.

Thematically, the exhilaration of Sadie standing up to Davidson is tempered by O'Hara, who clearly marks off when she has "gone too far." It is also O'Hara who makes the episode comic by literally stopping her mouth and dragging her out of the scene. Here, he leads the couple instead of following Sadie. Her feet dragging in front of her is visual slapstick and reduces her outrage and oppositional stance to an eccentric, comic one.

Noël Burch argues that in Western film, "speech, the Word, was an intangible, ineradicable presence inside the diegesis"—its presentation on inter-


ruptive title cards signaled only "the parenthetic suspension (not the acknowledgment) of representation" (Burch 1979, p. 78). As we have seen in Sadie Thompson, speech itself is presented as in the image and it is to the images that the titles refer, supporting and strengthening them in their creation of the diegetic world rather than presenting an equal verbal and/or auditory field that, with the images, could become a multilinguistic, heteroglossic, dialogized form.

The displacement of verbal language by the image in silent film was not inevitable; nor was the use of title cards, so graphically distinct from the visual flow of the narrative-bearing image, the only choice available. In Burch's description of the benshi who spoke throughout the projection of silent films in Japan, we see the verbal presentation of a simultaneous field of signification, parallel, but in no way inferior, to that of the image. In fact, according to Burch, the narration of the benshi took precedence in both narrative and performance over the image. "We may, in fact, consider the benshi 's entire discourse as a reading of the diegesis which was thereby designated as such and which thereby ceased to function as diegesis and became what it had in fact


never ceased to be, a field of signs ." Speech was also positioned differently. "Speech was indeed explicitly absent, since it was removed , put to one side; the voice was there, but detached from the images themselves, images in which the actors were thereby all the more mute and were confined, moreover, in many instances, to remarkably static visual renderings of the scenes unfolding through the voice ." Because of the benshi , "the image was purged of speech" (Burch 1979, pp. 79, 78).

The other possible languages of silent film, music and sound effects, were kept so thoroughly "outside" of what was defined as the "text" (the image track and interspersed titles) that there was no felt need to control them in exhibition (they were merely indicated in "cue sheets" suggesting well-known musical numbers to accompany certain scenes and possible effects for specific actions). Consequently much of this "supplementary" material has been lost to history, in part because of lack of concern for its preservation. Film historians presenting Battleship Potemkin or Metropolis or Napoleon evidently feel no qualms at substituting a newly written score in place of the original. This lack of shame has extended as far as sound films; Alexander


Nevski (1938) has, for example, been exhibited with its carefully recorded music track excised and replaced by a live orchestra.[7] The assumption of music as ornamental, "outside" the text, thus becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy—the silent film text is reduced to the celluloid strip.

Without a preserved score or cue sheet, it is not possible to analyze the interaction of the score and the image in Sadie Thompson . Briefly though, silent film music tended to present a continuous wash of sound whose purpose was to guide the viewer emotionally, indicating the tone (suspenseful, humorous, romantic, etc.) of a scene. The constant auditory presence , especially in a silent film with a live orchestra, wraps the audience in a mood, and smooths over any gaps or interruptions in the visual text, the transition to titles or the abruptness of cuts. Noël Burch and Walter Kerr point out the difficulty of watching silent films silent, the unpredictable rhythms of the editing and the "weakness of the diegetic effect."[8] The emotional effect of the music is preserved in sound films as is the privileging of the image. The sound film, however, had to work out new methods for "containing" and subordinating voices and dialogue—for instance, the voice of a woman who doesn't know her place.

Although silent film representation is vastly different from either the theater or prose, the results are fundamentally the same when we consider Sadie's speech. As we have seen, over and above the narrative's restriction of women to dramas of sexual conflict resolved by a climactic marriage, the silent film's system of visual representation found analogous methods for limiting a female character's ability to speak as a subject.

In Sadie Thompson , the figure of the woman can be dynamic, forceful, and impressive. In the "tirade" outlined above, Sadie's "speech" exceeds the dialogue and is transferred to the image. In that scene, Sadie's fury seems to control even the filmic enunciation, with the camera and editing striving to "keep up." However, her power (synonymous with her rebellious point of view—her outspokenness) is literally contained by the men in the text. O'Hara stops her mouth when he considers she's had her say. Davidson converts her energy in denouncing the system that oppresses her into whole-hearted endorsement of her own repression. Sadie's relationship to her "voice" in the play is at every point restricted by the languages she is forced to adopt from the men around her, "freedom" being submission to the "right" language of egalitarian marriage. The cinematic system, which had seemed to conform itself to Sadie's point of view, also yields to O'Hara's hand. We see , when she is converted, that Sadie does not know what she is saying—that her expression of her own experience is confused. Rather than visually stating Sadie's expressed peace, the camera presents a wide-eyed, hypnotized "drab." In place of Sadie's absolute trust of Davidson, we are given Davidson's lustful vision, which Sadie does not see.

The cinematic system reveals the limits of the woman's understanding,


Lionel Barrymore and Gloria Swanson in  Sadie Thompson

which leads to her propensity to be victimized. The film, like the play, positions O'Hara as the agent of the correct way of seeing and speaking. With O'Hara, we "see through" Davidson. He authorizes our view of Sadie as worthwhile. And he speaks the right language.

In Sadie Thompson , "woman's speech" remains subject to every system (narrative, language, image) that simultaneously constructs and contains her. The question to be asked next is whether the addition of sound—bringing with it its own prescriptions on how and when a woman should speak—will in any way challenge the obstacles placed between woman and her voice, woman and her vision, woman as speaker/author of her own experience.


"I was born hootched."


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2— Constructing a Woman's Speech: Words and Images: "Miss Thompson" (1921), Rain (1921), Sadie Thompson (1928)
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