The Revival of Dreiser
by Leda Bauer
A well written and acute review of two films based on An American Tragedy and Sister Carrie.
A few observations, comments of my own; and additions to the content of the review.
At the end of the film Carrie, Hurstwood (Laurence Olivier), down and out and desperate, waits for Carrie (Jennifer Jones) at the stage door and approaches her as she is leaving. Carrie, startled, is shocked by his bedraggled condition. She ushers the starving Hurstwood into her dressing room, has food ordered for him, and gives him a generous amount of money from her purse at his request. Shocked by Hurstwood’s condition, Carrie vows to take him home with her and says she wants to resume the relationship. Hurstwood is noncommittal
Carrie leaves the room for a minute to see if she can borrow more money for Hurstwood’s immediate needs. Hurstwood puts the money already given him by Carrie back into her purse, fiddles with a gas jet, turning it on for a minute and then off, and leaves. The film ends.
In the novel, Sister Carrie, the last encounter between Hurstwood and Carrie is in Chapter XLVI.
That night … she passed Hurstwood, waiting at the Casino, without observing him.
The next night, walking to the theatre, she encountered him face to face. He was waiting, more gaunt than ever, determined to see her, if he had to send in word. At first she did not recognise the shabby, baggy figure. He frightened her, edging so close, a seemingly hungry stranger.
“Carrie,” he half whispered, “can I have a few words with you?”
She turned and recognised him on the instant. If there ever had lurked any feeling in her heart against him, it deserted her now. Still, she remembered what Drouet said about his having stolen the money.
“Why, George,” she said; “what’s the matter with you?”
“I’ve been sick,” he answered. “I’ve just got out of the hospital. For God’s sake, let me have a little money, will you?”
“Of course,” said Carrie, her lip trembling in a strong effort to maintain her composure. “But what’s the matter with you, anyhow?”
She was opening her purse, and now pulled out all the bills in it–a five and two twos.
“I’ve been sick, I told you,” he said, peevishly, almost resenting her excessive pity. It came hard to him to receive it from such a source.
“Here,” she said. “It’s all I have with me.”
“All right,” he answered, softly. “I’ll give it back to you some day.”
Carrie looked at him, while pedestrians stared at her. She felt the strain of publicity. So did Hurstwood.
“Why don’t you tell me what’s the matter with you?” she asked, hardly knowing what to do. “Where are you living?”
“Oh, I’ve got a room down in the Bowery,” he answered. “There’s no use trying to tell you here. I’m all right now.”
He seemed in a way to resent her kindly inquiries–so much better had fate dealt with her.
“Better go on in,” he said. “I’m much obliged, but I won’t bother you any more.”
She tried to answer, but he turned away and shuffled off toward the east.
For days this apparition was a drag on her soul before it began to wear partially away.
Of the two films, A place in the Sun and Carrie, I think the latter is much more faithful to Dreiser’s novel. Also, the black and white film and period details, costumes, etc. make Carrie very effective in this respect; they evoke a quality of the novel that made it so telling.
Leda Bauer (born Leda Vesta Bauer-Berg; 1898-1975) was a New York-based film critic, motion picture story editor; and a girlfriend of H. L. Mencken.
— posted by Roger W. Smith