An American Tragedy (1931) - Rotten Tomatoes

An American Tragedy (1931)





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Movie Info

Given a cushy company job by wealthy relatives and about to romance their lovely daughter, a misguided young man accidentally kills a co-worker he's impregnated, spurned by all but the girl he loves when he is tried for murder. An adaptation of Theodore Dreiser's fact-based novel of crime and tragedy.


Phillips Holmes
as Clyde Griffiths
Frances Dee
as Sondra Finchley
Sylvia Sidney
as Roberta Alden
Irving Pichel
as Orville Mason
Frederick Burton
as Samuel Griffiths
Claire McDowell
as Mrs. Samuel Griffiths
Wallace Middleton
as Gilbert Griffiths
Vivian Winston
as Myra Griffiths
Claire Dodd
as Grace Warren
Lucille La Verne
as Mrs. Asa Griffiths
George Irving
as Finchley
Albert Hart
as Titus Alden
Fanny Midgley
as Mrs. Alden
Arline Judge
as Bella Griffiths
Evelyn Pierce
as Bertine Cranson
Elizabeth Forrester
as Jill Trumbell
Imboden Parrish
as Earl Newcomb
Russell Powell
as Fred Heit, coroner
Russ Powell
as Coroner Fred Heit
Dick Cramer
as Deputy Sheriff Kraut
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Critic Reviews for An American Tragedy

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Audience Reviews for An American Tragedy

Based on the 1925 Theodore Dreiser novel of the same name, 'An American Tragedy' tells the tale of a young man (Phillips Holmes) who is nice enough on the surface, but is in reality slimy and weak. He's not a likeable figure, and despite an upbringing from virtuous parents, lacks a moral compass. He flees the scene of a fatal hit-and-run early on in the film, and then uses a young factory worker (Sylvia Sidney), getting her pregnant. He lies to her about marrying her while pursuing an affluent woman (Frances Dee). It's a love triangle where we clearly feel empathy and attraction for the two women, and dislike for the man. The film is strongest in the scenes with Sidney or Dee, both of whom are beautiful and turn in strong performances, perfectly tuned to their characters. Where the film falls down is in its last 30 minutes, where the trial is far too long and has few moments of real interest. It's meant to be riveting as the District Attorney (Irving Pichel) and defense attorney (Emmett Corrigan) raise their voices dramatically, but instead it's tedious and dated. One wonders if the trial scenes were elongated following a successful lawsuit brought by Dreiser, one which distressed Director Josef von Sternberg so much that he disowned the picture. It's certainly the weakest part of the film, which is a shame given Sidney and Dee's performances.

Antonius Block
Antonius Block

Super Reviewer

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