The Scarlet Letter (September 18, 1934)
Released on September 18, 1934: Nathaniel Hawthorn's classic tale of adultery and mystery in puritan early America.
Directed by Robert G. Vignola
Written by Nthaniel-Hawthorne with screenplay by Leonard Fields and David Silverstein.
The Actors: Colleen Moore (Hester Prynne), Jardie Albright (Arthur Dimmesdale), Henry B. Walthall (Roger Chillingworth), Cora Sue Collins (Pearl), Alan Hale (Bartholomew Hockings), Virginia Howell (Abigail Clarkstone), William Kent (Sampson Goodfellow), William Farnum (Governor Bellingham), Betty Blythe (innkeeper), Al O. Henderson (Master Wilson), Jules Cowles (Beadle), Mickey Rentschler (Digerie Crakstone), Shirley Jean RIckert (Humility Crakstone), Tommy Bupp (marching boy), Iron Eyes Cody (Indian), Flora Finch (Faith Bartle, the gossip), Dorothea Wolbert (Mistress Allerton).
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Would you like to watch a classic tale from one of our leading authors about America in the 1700's? No? Too much like 'history school'? Ok, how about a story of debauchery and lies and deception between a married gal that has a baby with the local minister, and then her husband, who she thought was dead, comes back to town and rooms with the same minister that fathered her child. The poop will hit the fan, believe you me! The Housewives of New Jersey? They are rookies next to the sexual debauchery of this Puritan community.
I cannot tell a lie. No, not because I am so 'holy' or righteous, but because I just cannot get away with it. I know, I've tried many times. I am either blessed or cursed because of my childhood. It was drummed into me that even 'white' lies are lies, and sins, and will always be found out. So, as every little boy should, I believed. To this day if I try to even tell a lie about a hidden birthday present or other seemingly innnocent thing, my face will flush, I will stammer, and cough, oh, that cough . . . and I am convinced in my own mind that everyone around can see my lie, and so they do. This tale is about the secrets that three people keep, and the lies that they harbor, and how it all works out for them when the poop hits the fan.
So here we are in the early American colonies, in a Puritan village of Europeans who came to America to begin a new life. We watch as the local minister sentences a young woman who just had a baby out of wedlock. The minister sentences her to wear a large red letter 'A' on her chest for the rest of her life. Some in the audience think that the punishment is not harsh enough, but the minister prevails and she must wear the letter representing Adultery for the rest of her life. Then the community leaders beg her to tell them who the father is, so that he may be punished also. She refuses, and will not say who the father is. Next we meet a long-bearded stranger that comes to town. Who is he? Ha! He is the young girl's husband, who was presumed dead. When he hears about his young bride and her punishment, he is astounded, and uses a false name so that they will not know that he is her long, lost husband.
When her husband registers to join the community, it is learned that he is a doctor, and the town is happy to have a doctor in town, but alas, there is no where for the man to stay . . . except in a room next to the ministers . . . yup, the minister who fathered his wife's illegitimate child. Still got it straight? Ok, now we get messy. The doctor visits his young wife to aid her illnesses, and she just about falls off of her chair when she sees her long, lost husband! He tells her that he will keep his identity a secret, and because of her wickedness to sleep with another man and father his child, he will search for that father and exact revenge on him, no matter what happens. So this gal's husband and the father of her child are living together, and the three of them are all keeping deep dark secrets from each other and the community. Well, you just know that sooner or later all will become known. But don't think that adultery and debauchery are the only temptations to keep you occupied for the next hour. Alan Hale, father of movie and television star Alan Hale Jr., provides great comic relief as he and his assistant get into trouble with a certain widow lady. If you remember Alan Hale Jr., close your eyes while his dad is speaking, and you will hear the son.
So pop a big bowl of hot buttered popcorn and see what happens when three people all try to keep deep dark secrets about lust, lies and debauchery from each other and the world that they live in, right up to the crashingly excellent unexpected and surprising climax.