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I admit to confusing scenes from this picture with those that are really from Red Dust (1932) and Possessed (1931) and for what are probably obvious reasons: the time, the themes, and the association with Joan Crawford,* when she was really really good ("before her shoulders went to her head," as my grandmother used to say).
Here's what else I forgot about Rain until we watched it again a couple of days ago:
This is the situation: A ship bound for Samoa becomes delayed on Pago Pago when it is discovered that some of the passengers have contracted cholera. In the two weeks it will take for the threat to pass, several of the ship's company bunk down at ex-pat Joe Horn (Guy Kibbee)'s store and hotel. These are an arrogant missionary named Davidson (Walter Huston), his wife (Bondi), their friends Doctor and Mrs. MacPhail, and a prostitute (not their friend) called Sadie Thompson (Joan Crawford).
Nobody is happy with the living arrangements (except possibly Joe Horn) and there is much sniffing and harrumphing on the first class passenger side at Sadie's record-playing, heel-kicking, good-time having with local marines.
Sadie is a "go-with-the-flow-live-and-let-live" kind of gal. She's been around the block and doesn't expect too much out of life, but figures why not have some fun? This attitude infuriates the Davidsons, particularly Reverend Davidson, whose frequent steely, disapproving glares send shivers up Sadie's spine.
And for good reason. Davidson has taken it upon himself to redeem Sadie by skipping (as gravely as possible) off to the governor's office to see what can be done about getting Sadie deported. He figures if she goes back to San Francisco, whence the ship came, and takes the rap for some crime she is on the run from -- and which she swears she didn't commit -- that'll help her find Jesus or something.
For most of the picture, she is rightly mystified and indignant about this meddling, but somehow (and this is were the story loses me) she slowly comes around to Rev. Davidson's way of thinking. Maybe it's the drums. Maybe it's the incessant rain, rain, RAIN. But eventually, Sadie agrees to go back to California to face (someone else's) music and renounce her sinful ways.
Davidson is ecstatic at the news.
But the drums. The rain.
At the moment of his triumph, Davidson gives in to his baser instincts and forces himself on Sadie. The next morning, he is found dead, an apparent suicide, and Sadie is back to her normal, understandably jaded self. She decides not to go back to San Francisco after all, but runs off with one of the handsome marines to Australia to start afresh.
As much as I love Walter Huston, I was thoroughly unconvinced of his sudden desire for Joan Crawford. Maybe if there had been more of a build up; some struggling with desire at any other point in the picture, but nah. After all his pontificating and her repetitious repenting speeches, it did seem to come out of nowhere.
Still. It was nice to see her back in the checkered dress. All in all, a happy ending.
* Now before anyone gets upset, I know Crawford was not in Red Dust, but she was supposed to be until MGM got wind of her affair with Clark Gable and cast Jean Harlow instead. It was a Crawford-y picture, though.