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The Sin of Madelon Claudet

Released Oct 24, 1931 1h 13m Drama List
Reviews 65% Audience Score 100+ Ratings
French farm girl Madelon Claudet (Helen Hayes) falls in love with Larry (Neil Hamilton), an American artist. But, when his parents demand he return to the United States, she is left pregnant and alone. Desperate to provide for her son, Madelon takes up with Carlo (Lewis Stone), who provides her with money and jewels, but the jewelry turns out to be stolen, and Madelon is imprisoned. After she gets out she undergoes further degradation to support the child -- who does not even know who she is. Read More Read Less

Critics Reviews

View All (2) Critics Reviews
Emanuel Levy EmanuelLevy.Com Helen Hayes won her first Oscar for playing a self-sacrificing mother in this MGM soap opera, scripted by husband Charles MacArthur, which was part of femme-driven film cycle that included the Oscar-nominated Madame X and Sarah and Son. Rated: B- Dec 30, 2007 Full Review Michael W. Phillips, Jr. Goatdog's Movies [Hayes] flogs her big moments until they're dead. Rated: 2.5/5 Jul 18, 2007 Full Review Read all reviews

Audience Reviews

View All (15) audience reviews
Audience Member This is an outdated movie about a woman sacrificing everything for her son. The thing is the son doesn't know she's alive. She had to give him up because she was abandoned by his father as he was wrongfully thrown in jail. She secretly supports him by becoming a prostitute. It's as bad as it sounds. It plays like a bad play but Helen Hayes saves it. She overdoes it occasionally but won a well deserved Oscar for this. The story was difficult to buy and too old fashioned to be taken seriously. But it move very quickly and is worth seeing for Hayes alone. Rated 3.5 out of 5 stars 02/08/23 Full Review Audience Member Helen Hayes won an early Best Actress Oscar for this 1931 classic. It's the early days of talking cinema, but this has a story sophistication that rises about some of the other movies of that era. This pre-code gem hints at what stories could have been like had the powers that be had not come in and white-washed everything. The best of all is Hayes herself. It is a performance that transcends and inspires. She is just as capable at conveying desperate ugliness as she is at uptown glamour. It is thrilling to watch her. Rated 4 out of 5 stars 02/09/23 Full Review steve d Too dramatic to be taken seriously. Rated 2 out of 5 stars 03/30/23 Full Review Audience Member Watching a film from 1931 is difficult because it is often hard to remain engaged in drama that feels like it is set up for the stage and not the screen. This is a film with exactly that problem because we see legendary theatre actress Helen Hayes, who would later become a wonderful screen actress, struggle to acclimate to performing for cameras and several awkwardly staged scenes. I appreciated the fact that the film attempts to tackle controversial subject matter but it did this with so little sensitivity that it was hard to find the admirableness in sympathetically portraying the qualms of a fallen woman. If you were to watch any film from this time period I would recommend seeing Grand Hotel (1932) before this one because it has aged far better and still serves as a compelling melodrama. Madelon Claudet, Helen Hayes, falls for the wealthy Larry Maynard, Neil Hamilton, who agrees to marry her despite their class difference but who later succumbs to pressure from his parents and marries another wealthy girl, abandoning the pregnant Madelon. Madelon has her child and is financially supported by the criminal Carlo Boretti, Lewis Stone, after breaking off an engagement to Hubert, Alan Hale, due to her refusal to give up her child to adoption. She is punished when the police discover Boretti's criminal activities and spends ten years in prison before discovering that her teenage son does not know her when she returns to normal life. She becomes a prostitute to pay for her son's education and is happy to see him successful before she chooses to commit herself to state charity. The classic trope of the hooker with a heart of gold has been seen on screen many times from Pretty Woman (1990) to Mighty Aphrodite (1995) but here we get a very early 1930s treatment as the scenes of suffering feel very much like a pantomime. It was had to take the plight of our put upon main character very seriously when so much gets piled onto her but the filmmakers are clearly attempting to show more realism than the average filmmaker of that time. I only wish that all of these good intentions had been put to better use as the film seems to skirt the issues it really should be about. As for Hayes' acclaimed performance I realize that it must be considered that films from this time do not necessarily hold up to today's high standards and that comparing Hayes to Geraldine Page or Judy Davis is simply unfair. Despite having been fairly critical of her earlier in the review I do think that when compared to other performances from this time period Hayes is giving a sophisticated embodiment of her character. She is held back by the obvious failings of the film but you can see what made her such an acclaimed performer at the time and her influence on future actresses. It is because of this that I think she is deserving of the Academy Award she won and she certainly gives a better performance than Sandra Bullock in The Blind Side (2009) or Jodie Foster in The Silence of the Lambs (1991). You look for that something special in a performance that has received so much recognition and if Hayes being Hayes was the criteria for winning this award I do believe it is enough. You can see when watching it why the rest of the film received considerably less praise as the direction, supporting performances and story are all less than stellar. This film reminded me of The Divorcee (1930) in many ways because while it's lead performance feels spirited and alive the rest of the film fails to meet the high standard that Norma Shearer or in this case Hayes sets. It is unfortunate that the whole film could not have truly centered around some very committed work from one of the greats but Airport (1970), A Farewell To Arms (1932) and Vanessa: Her Love Story (1935) exist therefore some of Hayes' classic performances are still accessible today. I hope that seeing this disappointment does not put me off films from the early 1930s in the future because I had previously found that they could be quite rewarding if you applied a little patience when watching them. Rated 2 out of 5 stars 02/01/23 Full Review david l The Sin of Madelon Claudet is a theatrical and highly implausible melodrama which literally is a soap opera in its silly, unbelievable plot point after plot point. The third act is very effective though and Helen Hayes really delivered a strong performance which was important as the entire movie rested squarely on her shoulders. But it was still an obvious Oscar-bait role, and expectedly so it got her the award. Rated 3 out of 5 stars 03/31/23 Full Review Audience Member Helen Hayes is well worthy of the Oscar she won for her performance in this one. The role required her to play a young lover, single mother, wealthy socialite, prisoner, prostitute, and beaten-down old woman, and she did so brilliantly. I found her beautiful and a great actor, particularly at a time when overacting was the norm. The scene where she responds with a humorous puffy facial expression to a question about what someone is like is priceless. Her suggestions of lasciviousness using only her eyes are also great; while the movie is pre-Code and has a suggestive title, it's quite tame. We're all rooting for because she's been driven to such depths quite unfairly, and because she's made the incredible sacrifice of separating herself from her son, so that he can pursue being a doctor, unencumbered by her shame, which back then would have stopped him. It leads to a pretty syrupy ending, but was balanced for the most part, and the supporting cast is also strong. Rated 4 out of 5 stars 01/13/23 Full Review Read all reviews
The Sin of Madelon Claudet

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Movie Info

Synopsis French farm girl Madelon Claudet (Helen Hayes) falls in love with Larry (Neil Hamilton), an American artist. But, when his parents demand he return to the United States, she is left pregnant and alone. Desperate to provide for her son, Madelon takes up with Carlo (Lewis Stone), who provides her with money and jewels, but the jewelry turns out to be stolen, and Madelon is imprisoned. After she gets out she undergoes further degradation to support the child -- who does not even know who she is.
Director
Edgar Selwyn
Distributor
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Production Co
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Genre
Drama
Original Language
English
Release Date (Theaters)
Oct 24, 1931, Original
Release Date (DVD)
Jun 21, 2011
Runtime
1h 13m