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One woman who would not be up for Mother of the Year is Madame X. Based on the 1910 play by Alexandre Bisson, Madame X (1937) tells the story of Jacqueline Fleuriot, a woman who leaves her husband and young son to run away with another man. She later tries to return to her family, but her husband, Bernard, refuses saying he told their son she was dead. This sends Jacqueline on a downward spiral toward alcoholism. Years later, in order to keep her son from learning the truth about her past, Jacqueline kills a blackmailer. By this time, her son, Raymond, is an adult and has become a lawyer. He is appointed to defend the mysterious Madame X not knowing she is his mother.
Alexander Bisson's sentimental tearjerker was made into a movie six times between 1915 and 1966. In 1937 some already saw the story as outdated. Variety stated, "Time has dulled the poignancy of Jacqueline Fleuriot's sin, suffering, grief, and sacrifice." By the 1960s, moral values had changed dramatically and the story needed to be considerably reworked. Writer Jean Holloway was given the task of updating the story for actress Lana Turner. Holloway found the job difficult, "In studying the original play, I discovered that all I could really use from it was the basic premise the woman loving her husband and child, making a mistake, and sacrificing herself to protect them."
Madame X director Sam Wood got his start as an assistant to Cecil B. DeMille in 1915, but by the 1920s he was directing Gloria Swanson films for Paramount. In the 1930s Wood illustrated his versatility directing both the Marx Brothers comedy A Night at the Opera (1935) and the drama Goodbye Mr. Chips (1939), for which he received an Academy Award nomination.
Director: Sam Wood
Producer: James Kevin McGuinness
Screenplay: John Meehan, based on play by Alexandre Bisson.
Cinematography: John F. Seitz
Art Direction: Cedric Gibbons, Urie McCleary, Edwin B. Willis
Music: David Snell
Cast: Gladys George (Jacqueline Fleuriot), John Beal (Raymond Fleuriot), Warren William (Bernard Fleuriot), Reginald Owen (Maurice Dourel), William Henry (Hugh Fairman, Jr.), Henry Daniell (LeRocle), Ruth Hussey (Annette).
by Deborah Looney