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An American Tragedy
Directed by Josef von Sternberg • 1931 • United States
Starring Phillips Holmes, Sylvia Sidney, Frances Dee
Renowned director Josef von Sternberg adapts Theodore Dreiser’s overwhelmingly powerful novel about an ambitious young man (Phillips Holmes), in pursuit of wealth and position, who destroys his pauper girlfriend (Sylvia Sidney) after he discovers she is pregnant with his child. The original screen adaptation of this timeless comment on the American class system—later famously remade as A PLACE IN THE SUN—represents a fascinating meeting of the serious-minded Dreiser and the decadent aesthete Sternberg’s antithetical sensibilities.