The Story of Temple Drake (1933)


In a small town in the American South, a spoiled rich girl, played by Miriam Hopkins (These Three), is forced into prostitution by her rapist.

Reaction & Thoughts:

“You can’t be arrested for dreaming.”

Sordid, nasty, totally off-the-wall Pre-Code melodrama that needs to be seen to be believed. The Story of Temple Drake is one of the films responsible for the implementation of The Hays (Moral) Code — conservative groups decried the movie as sinful thus making it of great interest to modern eyes.

The Story of Temple Drake is based upon William Faulkner’s 1931 novel Sanctuary, but at times it feels like a Jacqueline Susann (Valley of the Dolls) potboiler. It also feels like a ’70s grindhouse — it’s a grungy and very, very odd movie.

Like David Lynch’s legendary 1986 thriller Blue Velvet, The Story of Temple Drake does a good job suggesting the depraved underbelly of small-town life. People always talk about the sins of urban areas, but as a man who has lived in both big cities and sleepy small towns, I’m here to tell you that there is more crazy stuff happening in rural America than inside the so-called concrete jungle — this film tells it like it is!

Miriam Hopkins is fantastic here. She has the arduous task of suggesting things that you can’t mention and/or show. The words “rape” and “prostitution” are never used, so it is up to Hopkins to convey ideas through sheer force of acting. It’s a no-holds-barred, impressive performance, one of Hopkins’s very best.

Also in the excellent cast are William Gargan (Cheers for Miss Bishop) as a lawyer, Jack La Rue (Three on a Match) as a gangster and Irving Pichel (Fog Over Frisco) as a petty criminal. Florence Eldridge (Inherit the Wind), who usually plays ladies, is surprisingly effective as a disgusting hick. Karl Struss’s (Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans and The Great Dictator) brilliant camera work is a big plus (the movie looks great!).

Conclusions & Final Thoughts:

The Story of Temple Drake is like a surreal version of Thornton Wilder’s Our Town. You won’t believe your eyes. It’s a must-see film for fans of Pre-Code Hollywood. The 1961 remake with Lee Remick (The Omen) is more candid, but not nearly as much fun as the original. Highly recommended! B&W, 70 minutes, Not Rated.

14 responses to “The Story of Temple Drake (1933)

  1. This one looks like a must-see movie, I have put it on my list. Big Miriam Hopkins fan. These pre code films, like Barbara Stanwyck in Baby Face, are so timeless and modern in their frank treatment of the human condition.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Sorry Eric with so many articles going up I can’t always get to all off them but you always pull out such interesting titles. I’m very naive to the pre-code era, mainly put on to them through Gary’s Cracked Rear Viewer page. They all sound so bonkers and this one you post seems another piece of madness I need to see. So many films and never enough time but I have noted this one and will be keeping a keen eye for it. At a 70 min runtime, looks like a great film to squeeze in on a “school” night 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Great post 🙂 Can’t go wrong with the legendary Miriam Hopkins. I also agree with you about the 1961 version. As much as I love Lee Remick, nobody can do justice to either Hopkins or this 1933 version. Anyway, keep up the great work as always and I love this site 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Dear Eric,

    You really conveyed the feeling of this film. I have read a lot about this film, but I haven’t seen. I thought you described it very well. You are a good writer!

    By the way, I would like to invite you to join “The Second Annual Great Breening Blogathon.” This blogathon, which will be taking place on October 12-17, is a celebration of the Code, its Era, and its enforcer, Joseph I. Breen. We are using this blogathon to honor Joseph Breen on his 130th birthday, which would have been on October 14. However, we are extending the blogathon to October 17 to celebrate the second anniversary of PEPS, which was founded on October 17, 2016. You can participate by breening a film that is not from the Breen Era (1934-1954) or by analyzing a Code films. You can also discuss an aspect of the Code, its influence on Hollywood, or Mr. Breen itself. You can find out more and join here:

    I would also like to invite you to join a blogathon which my sister, Rebekah, is hosting in November. On November 9-11, PEPS is hosting the Claude Rains Blogathon in honor of this marvelous actor’s 129th birthday on November 10. You can read the announcements and sign up here:

    I hope that you’ll be able to join! We could really use your talents.

    Yours Hopefully,

    Tiffany Brannan

    Liked by 1 person

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