An American Tragedy - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

An American Tragedy Reviews

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Antonius Block
Super Reviewer
September 11, 2017
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.
½ July 25, 2017
Sylvia Sidney gives a fine performance in Josef von Sternberg's adaptation of the Dreiser tale; unfortunately, the lead actor (Phillip Holmes) and a lengthy, slow-moving trial slow the film down considerably.
February 11, 2007
Would love to see another film with phillips Holmes in.
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