(director: Stephen Roberts; screenwriters: Oliver H.P. Garrett /based on the novel Sanctuary by William Faulkner; cinematographer: Karl Struss; music: Karl Hajos/Bernhard Kaun; cast: Miriam Hopkins (Temple Drake), William Gargan (Stephen Benbow), Jack La Rue (Trigger), Florence Eldridge (Ruby Lemarr), Sir Guy Standing (Judge Drake), Irving Pichel (Lee Goodwin), Jobyna Howland (Miss Reba), William Collier, Jr. (Toddy Gowan), Elizabeth Patterson (Aunt Jennie), James Eagles (Tommy), Louise Beavers (Maid), Henry Hall (Judge); Runtime: 72; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Benjamin Glazer; Paramount; 1933)


“Dated melodrama.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Director Stephen Roberts (“If I Had A Million”/”The Man Who Broke the Bank at Monte Carlo”/”The Ex-Mrs. Bradford”) bases this sordid and dated melodrama on the 1931 best-selling shocking novelSanctuary by William Faulkner and manages to still make the “pre-code” film into pulp trash despite sanitizing it. It wasn’t until 1934 that Will Hayes and Joseph Breen brought their “production code” censure-ship to the industry, nevertheless censors insisted the title of the novel can’t be used, a brothel couldn’t be identified and that the rape scene was blacked out.Aside from its controversial aspects, there’s hardly anything else about the film to recommend it.It was remade by Tony Richardson in 1961 as Sanctuary, and avoided all controversy in the changing times of the 1960s.

In a small Southern town neurotic party girl elite, Temple Drake (Miriam Hopkins), who resides with her regal well-respected grand-dad judge (Sir Guy Standing), after the death of her parents, rejects the marriage proposal of decent reliable lawyer Stephen Benbow (William Gargan), saying she’s not good enough for him, and on a whim goes with nerdycollege student drunk Toddy Gowan (William Collier, Jr.) on a joy ride to a bootlegger and he smacks up the car on a deserted country road on the night of a thunderstorm. Unable to get away from nasty city gangster, Trigger (Jack La Rue), she’s forced to sleep in the barn of low-life redneck moonshiners Lee Goodwin (Irving Pichel) and his long-suffering wife Ruby (Florence Eldridge). The nerd is dumped in some nearby town by the bootleggers and Trigger kills Temple’s well-meaning dim-witted shotgun-armed guardian Tommy ((James Eagles) and then rapes Temple. The downtrodden and shamed Temple stays with Trigger in a city brothel, where she’s located by Benbow. He’s the court-appointed lawyer for Lee, who is wrongfully accused of Tommy’s murder but remains silent in fear the gang will kill him. To save Benbow from being gunned down by Trigger, Temple pretends she’s in love with the gangster. When a despondent Benbow leaves Reba’s brothel, Temple uses Trigger’s gun to kill him in order to escape and then must tell her sordid story in court to free Lee.

Of note, George Raft turned the LaRue part claiming playing such a vile character would be bad news for his career, and as a result the studio put him under suspension.