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Film / The Story of Temple Drake

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The Story of Temple Drake is a 1933 film directed by Stephen Roberts.

Temple Drake (Miriam Hopkins) is the hell-raising, fun-loving granddaughter of Judge Drake, the preeminent man in some Mississippi town. The judge would like Temple to marry Stephen Benbow, a handsome, gentlemanly attorney, but Temple won't do it, because she is too busy drinking and partying. She specializes in flirting with young men but never actually putting out, much to their annoyance.

All the drinking and debauchery leads Temple to disaster one night, when she leaves a party at Judge Drake's house with Toddy, one of her drunken admirers. Toddy promptly runs the car off the road and crashes it. They make their way to the decaying ruins of a mansion, which, to their great misfortune, is occupied by some creepy moonshine-making hillbillies and their scary bootlegger boss, a gangster called "Trigger".

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All the various creeps and reprobates in the gang start circling around Temple, except for Tommy, the dumbest hillbilly, who undertakes to protect her. For his trouble he's shot and killed by Trigger, who promptly rapes Temple. Trigger whisks a shell-shocked Temple to the big city, and more traumas follow.

Based on William Faulkner's most controversial novel, Sanctuary. Featuring winking sex talk, rape, murder, Miriam Hopkins in a slip, and strongly implied prostitution, this is a typical product of The Pre-Code Era.


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Tropes:

  • Adaptational Heroism: In the novel, Temple perjures herself, and the innocent man is killed by a lynch mob. In this movie, she confesses.
  • All Girls Want Bad Boys: Clearly the reason why Temple wants to drink and party with a bunch of reprobates rather than marry pleasant but unexciting Stephen.
  • Artistic License – Law: Stephen flinches at the moment and withdraws Temple as a witness—but she says no, she wants to talk. And the judge lets her.
  • Chiaroscuro: Most of the scenes in the dark old rotting mansion, which is only lit by the occasional candle or gas lamp. Most dramatically, in one scene Trigger enters Temple's bedroom and shuts the door, and until someone finds a lamp, all we can see is the light of Trigger's cigarette bobbing around.
  • Defiled Forever: Presumably the reason that Temple is content to be a prostitute in Miss Rose's brothel after she's raped by Trigger.
  • Fanservice: Temple stripping down to a slip and stockings; Temple lounging around the whorehouse in lingerie.
  • Gilligan Cut: Judge Drake insists "She's a good girl, Stephen." Cut to Temple getting a guy all horny at the front door to her bedroom.
  • Miss Kitty: Miss Reba, the proprietor of the brothel where Temple lives for a while.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: Either that, or "Trigger" is actually named Trigger, which is probably what led him to a life of crime.
  • Rape Discretion Shot: Trigger has made his way into Temple's hiding place in the barn. He approaches her. There's a shot of Trigger bearing down on her. Temple's face appears big in the frame. There's a freeze-frame as she screams. Cut to the next morning and Trigger driving away with a dazed, staring Temple.
  • Slut-Shaming: Pretty much the whole moral of the movie. Temple's debasement and suffering are presented as the consequences for her living the life of The Tease instead of marrying Stephen.
  • Southern Gothic: Temple and Toddy blunder into a typical Southern Gothic setting, namely, a ruined, decaying old mansion currently occupied by creepy gap-toothed hillbillies.
  • The Tease: How Temple gets her rocks off, by luring all the bachelors in town to spend time and money on her, and letting them feel her up, but never actually having sex with them. One annoyed suitor says "You always do that. Fire a man up and then poof, put him out." Someone else writes on a bathroom wall, "Temple Drake is just a fake/She wants to have and eat her cake."
  • Thousand-Yard Stare: Temple is staring vacantly and semi-catatonic the morning after Trigger rapes her.
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