Madame Satan

Overview

The second of Cecil B. DeMille's talkies as well as his second for MGM, Madam Satan is an exercise in incoherence, but this doesn't detract one iota from its entertainment value. Kay Johnson plays the sedate wife of philandering Reginald Denny, who is currently carrying on with "jazz baby" Lillian Roth. In a desperate effort to win back her husband, Johnson disguises herself as the alluring, provocatively clothed "Madame Satan." In this guise, she attends a lavish charity costume party being thrown by socialite ...
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Overview

The second of Cecil B. DeMille's talkies as well as his second for MGM, Madam Satan is an exercise in incoherence, but this doesn't detract one iota from its entertainment value. Kay Johnson plays the sedate wife of philandering Reginald Denny, who is currently carrying on with "jazz baby" Lillian Roth. In a desperate effort to win back her husband, Johnson disguises herself as the alluring, provocatively clothed "Madame Satan." In this guise, she attends a lavish charity costume party being thrown by socialite Roland Young on a dirigible moored high above New York Harbor. Failing to recognize his mousey little wife, Denny arranges for a rendezvous with Madame Satan. When she reveals her true identity, Denny is outraged and threatens divorce. Suddenly, the dirigible is struck by lightning; it breaks loose from its moorings, tossing its terrified passengers around and about. Denny behaves heroically in shepherding the passengers into their parachutes; meanwhile, Johnson gives up her own parachute to save Roth. Coming to the mutual realization that each is worthy of the other's love, Johnson and Denny are reunited. Though when taken out of context, the dirigible sequence appears to be the ultimate in campy melodrama, this scene and all the scenes that built up to it are played for laughs: DeMille didn't take this farrago any more seriously in 1930 than we do today. Highlights include several unexpected and charmingly innapropriate musical numbers, including a bizarre "Ballet Mechanique" featuring dancer Theodore Kosloff. Though DeMille carefully threw in every ingredient that he hoped would appeal to a mass audience, Madam Satan was one of his few box office flops.
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Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Craig Butler
Cecil B. DeMille tried to cover a few too many bases in Madame Satan, with his reach definitely exceeding his (considerable) grasp -- but that grasp was still strong enough to produce a film quite unlike any other. Chaotic and messy, this mélange of styles -- a musical comedy disaster romance epic, if you will -- never approaches coherence, but the second half of the film is fascinating. Of course, to get there one has to go through an awkward and often trying first half, during which song cues are not really set up and the dialogue scenes are played with little sense of style or humor. Once the film gets to the bizarre masquerade ball on the dirigible, however, things pick up; the latter half may not always convince as drama, but it's terrific entertainment. Visually, it's a sheer delight, with some truly incredible costumes and DeMille's practiced hand at crowd control very evident. The "Ballet Electrique" is the strange musical highlight, but Kay Johnson's "Meet Madame" is also noteworthy. The destruction of the dirigible is very well done, with special effects that stand up reasonably well today, and which builds very successfully to a satisfying conclusion. In addition, the humor that is missing (or unintentional) in the first half finds flower in the second, with some wry asides from Roland Young scoring particularly well. Ridiculous and campy at times, Madame Satan is still a one-of-a-kind experience.
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Product Details

  • Release Date: 11/9/2010
  • UPC: 883316287651
  • Original Release: 1930
  • Rating:

  • Source: Warner Archives
  • Presentation: Remastered / B&W / Pan & Scan
  • Time: 1:45:00
  • Format: DVD
  • Sales rank: 34,781

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Jack Byron
Mary Carlisle
Edwards Davis
Dorothy Dehn
Countess de Liguoro Spain
Katherine de Mille
Betty Francisco Little Rolls Riding Hood
Maine Geary
Kenneth Gibson
Vera Gordon
Ella Hall
Lorimer Johnston
Allan Lane
Wilfred Lucas A Roman Senator
Mary McAllister
June Nash
Louis Natheaux
Henry Stockbridge
Marie Valli Confusion
Natalie Visart
Kay Johnson Angela Brooks
Reginald Denny Bob Brooks
Lillian Roth Trixie
Roland Young Jimmy Wade
Else Petersen Martha
Tyler Brooke Romeo
Jack King Herman the Pianist
Eddie Prinz Biff
Boyd Irwin Captain
Wallace MacDonald First Mate
Ynez Seabury Babo
Theodore Kosloff Electricity
Julanne Johnston Miss Conning Tower
Martha Sleeper Fish Girl
Doris McMahon Water
Vera Marsh Call of the Wild
Albert Conti Empire Officer
Earl Askam Pirate
Lotus Thompson Eve
Technical Credits
Cecil B. DeMille Director, Producer
Adrian Costumes/Costume Designer
Anne Bauchens Editor
Cedric Gibbons Art Director
Clifford Grey Score Composer
Elsie Janis Screenwriter
Jack King Songwriter
Mitchell Leisen Asst. Director, Production Designer
Jeannie Macpherson Screenwriter
LeRoy J. Prinz Choreography
Harold Hal Rosson Cinematographer
Herbert Stothart Score Composer
Cullen Tate Asst. Director
Gladys Unger Screenwriter
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