The Sin of Madelon Claudet (1931)

73-74 mins | Drama | 24 October 1931

Director:

Edgar Selwyn

Cinematographer:

Oliver T. Marsh

Editor:

Tom Held

Production Designer:

Cedric Gibbons

Production Company:

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp.
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HISTORY

This film, which was initially entitled Lullaby and reviewed as such in Photo , HR and MPH , marked the sound screen debut of Helen Hayes. A HR pre-release news item notes that in the rewrite stage of the film, Alan Hale's role was developed into one of the leading characters. The file for the film in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library contains a studio cast sheet dated 15 Jun 1931, which lists the following actors in the cast: William Bakewell as "Jacques"[the original first name of the "Dr. Claudet" character]; Aileen Pringle as "Suzette"; Bradley Page as "Salignac"; Claire McDowell as "Angeline"; Lloyd Ingraham as "Claudet"; Margaret Seddon as "Grandmother"; and Tenen Holtz as "Emil." Although the HR review also listed these actors in the cast, they did not appear in the released film because much of the film was rewritten and reshot. A Sep 1931 "revised" version of the studio cast sheet does not include their names in the cast.
       According to a biography of Hayes and her husband, Charles MacArthur, Kay Francis was one of a number of actors who were offered the title role. Francis reportedly rejected the offer, stating "I would have to be out of my mind to play that silly French prostitute. Why that dumb little bunny actually walked the streets so that she could buy clothes for her son. Phooey! How can you generate sympathy for such a shallow woman?" The Hayes biography also states that after a disasterous first preview, the film was shelved and not revived until head of ... More Less

This film, which was initially entitled Lullaby and reviewed as such in Photo , HR and MPH , marked the sound screen debut of Helen Hayes. A HR pre-release news item notes that in the rewrite stage of the film, Alan Hale's role was developed into one of the leading characters. The file for the film in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library contains a studio cast sheet dated 15 Jun 1931, which lists the following actors in the cast: William Bakewell as "Jacques"[the original first name of the "Dr. Claudet" character]; Aileen Pringle as "Suzette"; Bradley Page as "Salignac"; Claire McDowell as "Angeline"; Lloyd Ingraham as "Claudet"; Margaret Seddon as "Grandmother"; and Tenen Holtz as "Emil." Although the HR review also listed these actors in the cast, they did not appear in the released film because much of the film was rewritten and reshot. A Sep 1931 "revised" version of the studio cast sheet does not include their names in the cast.
       According to a biography of Hayes and her husband, Charles MacArthur, Kay Francis was one of a number of actors who were offered the title role. Francis reportedly rejected the offer, stating "I would have to be out of my mind to play that silly French prostitute. Why that dumb little bunny actually walked the streets so that she could buy clothes for her son. Phooey! How can you generate sympathy for such a shallow woman?" The Hayes biography also states that after a disasterous first preview, the film was shelved and not revived until head of production Irving Thalberg returned from his trip to Europe. After examining the film, Thalberg was convinced that all the film needed was some minor changes, and he instructed MacArthur to rewrite the script. In addition, the biography points out that although Hayes was on loan to Samuel Goldwyn and was filming Arrowsmith at the time Lullaby went back into production, she secretly spent her one day off, Sunday, working on the film. When Goldwyn found out about her moonlighting, he demanded that she stop working on this film until she completed her work on his film.
       Although the film encountered few censorship problems at the time of its release, in 1936 a PCA official wrote that its chances for re-issue certification were "doubtful primarily because of prostitute theme and details." Hayes received an Academy Award for Best Actress for her portrayal of the title role. The film was also voted one of the ten best pictures by the FD nationwide poll.
More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Film Daily
1 Nov 31
p. 10.
HF
30 May 31
p. 24.
Hollywood Reporter
11 Aug 31
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
14 Jul 31
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
14 Sep 31
p. 2.
International Photographer
31 Dec 31
p. 28.
Motion Picture Herald
3 Oct 31
p. 29, 32
New York Times
31 Oct 31
p. 22.
Variety
3 Nov 31
p. 17.
DETAILS
Alternate Title:
Lullaby
Release Date:
24 October 1931
Premiere Information:
New Orleans premiere: 23 October 1931
Production Date:
29 May--25 June 1931
retakes completed 11 September 1931
Copyright Claimant:
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Distributing Corp.
Copyright Date:
21 October 1931
Copyright Number:
LP2566
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Sound System
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
73-74
Length(in reels):
8
Country:
United States
Passed by NBR:
Yes
SYNOPSIS

In Paris, Alice Claudet, the wife of Dr. Lawrence Claudet, tells her friend, Dr. Dulac, that she is leaving her husband because he pays more attention to his charity patients than to her. Dulac, an old friend of Larry's, knows that the young woman has made many sacrifices for her husband, but he also knows that another woman, Larry's mother, Madelon Claudet, has made even larger sacrifices for him. Hoping to inspire Alice, Dulac tells her the story of Madelon Claudet: Many years earlier in rural France, Madelon's father owns a farm located near a medical school, which attracts many students, including a young man named Larry, an American with whom Madelon falls in love. Soon after they decide to marry, Larry receives a cablegram from home advising him to return immediately because his father has suffered a stroke. Though Larry longs for Madelon following his departure, he accepts the will of his parents, who arrange for him to marry an American girl. Meanwhile in France, Madelon gives birth to Larry's baby, and though she initially does not want to look at the infant, she soon grows to love the boy. Without any means by which to support the child, Madelon accepts money and jewels from the wealthy Carlo Boretti, who makes Madelon his mistress. When Madelon's father arranges for her to marry Hubert, a Normandy farmer, she readily accepts, though she is immediately rejected by the man when he learns that she has a child whom she refuses to give up. After placing the boy, now called Larry, in the custody of her friends, Victor and Rosalie, Madelon continues her relationship with Carlo and ... +


In Paris, Alice Claudet, the wife of Dr. Lawrence Claudet, tells her friend, Dr. Dulac, that she is leaving her husband because he pays more attention to his charity patients than to her. Dulac, an old friend of Larry's, knows that the young woman has made many sacrifices for her husband, but he also knows that another woman, Larry's mother, Madelon Claudet, has made even larger sacrifices for him. Hoping to inspire Alice, Dulac tells her the story of Madelon Claudet: Many years earlier in rural France, Madelon's father owns a farm located near a medical school, which attracts many students, including a young man named Larry, an American with whom Madelon falls in love. Soon after they decide to marry, Larry receives a cablegram from home advising him to return immediately because his father has suffered a stroke. Though Larry longs for Madelon following his departure, he accepts the will of his parents, who arrange for him to marry an American girl. Meanwhile in France, Madelon gives birth to Larry's baby, and though she initially does not want to look at the infant, she soon grows to love the boy. Without any means by which to support the child, Madelon accepts money and jewels from the wealthy Carlo Boretti, who makes Madelon his mistress. When Madelon's father arranges for her to marry Hubert, a Normandy farmer, she readily accepts, though she is immediately rejected by the man when he learns that she has a child whom she refuses to give up. After placing the boy, now called Larry, in the custody of her friends, Victor and Rosalie, Madelon continues her relationship with Carlo and sends them money to support the child. One day, when Rosalie asks Madelon for more money, which she needs because Victor has gambled away their farm, Madelon gives her a valuable ring that Carlo had given her as a gift. The ring, however, is soon discovered to be stolen property when Carlo is arrested on charges of theft. He admits that the ring and all his other jewels were stolen, and while being dragged off by the police, commits suicide. Though innocent, Madelon is put on trial for Carlo's crimes; she is found guilty of being his accomplice and is sentenced to ten years in prison. In 1919, ten years later, Madelon is released. She tries to take her son of out the state boarding school, where he has been kept after Victor was killed. However, Madelon is told that they will not release him until she can prove that she can support him. Years pass and, unknown to Larry, Madelon has become a prostitute in order to put him through medical school. When Larry finally becomes a successful physician, the old and destitute Madelon visits him at his home but does not tell him who she is. Dulac ends the story by telling Alice that he met the frail but proud Madelon on the street in front of her son's house and arranged to have Larry support her without her or his knowledge. Having been shown how selfish she has been, Alice promises to reform, and then suggests that Dulac bring Madelon to live with them so she will be reminded of how lucky she is to have Larry. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.