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Film / Sadie McKee

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Sadie McKee (1934) is a pre-Code romantic drama film directed by Clarence Brown, starring Joan Crawford, Gene Raymond, Franchot Tone, Edward Arnold, and Jean Dixon.

The film follows the life and times of the eponymous Sadie McKee (Crawford), a working girl in the millionaire Alderson household. She is currently dating Tommy Wallace (Raymond), who was fired by Michael Alderson (Tone) for allegedly stealing from the law firm they both worked at. Michael clearly has always had a crush on Sadie and shows his anger when she defends Tommy.

Tommy and Sadie run away penniless to New York City, but, like a cad, Tommy's hooked by a blonde and runs away to sing in her vaudeville act. Abandoned, Sadie works at a nightclub and meets millionaire Brennan. Constantly drunk, Brennan decides to marry her, and Sadie agrees — not because she loves him, but she wants comfort. Michael is Brennan’s lawyer and knows Sadie is only marrying Brennan for his money. Sadie takes this opportunity to prove Michael wrong by being a true wife to Brennan and helps him with his alcoholism. But a chance encounter with Tommy brings back all those former feelings, and she decides to leave the now sober Brennan. Understanding and kind, Brennan lets her go to find Tommy. He, now in a sanitarium, is dying. After his death, she becomes an honest working girl again while its clear Michael is in love with her still.


The film shows the following tropes:

  • The Alcoholic: A rare serious treatment of the disease in a 1930s film. Although some laughs are mined from Brennan, his condition is taken seriously. He does, however, get over the addiction quite easily.
  • Broken Bird: Sadie when Tommy leaves her. But she rallies again with Brennan fairly quickly
  • Gold Digger: The film makes it clear that Sadie marries Brennan for security.
  • Incurable Cough of Death: Tommy has a cold he can't get rid off. As it turns out, it's probably tuberculosis (although the film is not explicit).
  • Lovable Rogue: Brennan while drunk.
  • Money to Throw Away: Brennan is so rich that he can afford champagne for the entire nightclub.
  • Opportunistic Bastard: Michael assumes that Sadie married Brennan for his money (which she most definitely did) but is also planning to let his alcoholism kill him so she can have his millions and Tommy too.
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  • The Teetotaler: Brennan finally becomes this after becoming completely dry.
  • Would Hit a Girl: While going through withdrawal, Brennan hits Sadie as she tries to prevent him from leaving his room.