Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Madam Satan

I was going to mention "Madam Satan" when I posted about pre-code Hollywood last week, but because the film had come out in 1930 I figured the New Yorker would get to it soon enough. And here it is, in the June 26, 1930 issue, previewed in a short piece called "De Mille on the Flossy."
We await, with a kind of special breathlessness, the release of the new Cecil B. de Mille picture. Our eagerness is due to our knowing a little bit about the plot. It seems to us by far the finest plot we have ever heard. It is about a girl whose husband has been philandering, and the girl decides to be gay--abandoned, if you will. So she goes to a masquerade party aboard a dirigible (you can see that the thing is getting better already). The party, if we remember the story, winds up in a scene of great dissolution, in which the girl is sold on the auction block to the highest bidder, who is going to have his way with her. The highest bidder turns out to be her husband, but at that moment a Heaven-sent bold of lightning strikes the dirigible and all the guests have to make their escape in parachutes, including Ben Bernie and his orchestra, which has been playing for the dancing. The husband, floating gently earthward, lands in a bear's den in a zoo--and here we will leave him with the gentle reader.
If this EVER gets released on DVD then you really must see it. It's oddly-paced and hackneyed and meandering, but whenever it goes crazy it does so with huge spectacle, and the modern viewer can only sit in awed bafflement. It's nice to hear that the original audiences would have thought it equally fun and bizarre.

Amazingly there are no clips online of the more memorable "Madam Satan" moments -- the parade of showgirls singing "Doin' the Catwalk, Meooow!", the dance sequence meant to evoke modern machinery, the really spectacular blimp disaster -- but here's one of the sweet songs, "All I Know," featuring the two protagonists mentioned in the New Yorker writeup.


Brian Busby said...

Wow, wow and wow.

Thanks for pointing this out.

In gratitude, I present links to the zeppelin disaster (which is indeed spectacular... and accomplished):
Part 1
Part 2

Adam Thornton said...

Aha, thanks Brian! I can finally relive this without needing to hook up my dusty VCR.