Friday, June 23, 2017

Movie Missionary Month: Shanghai Surprise

I was sure I knew what the surprise would be. It would turn out that Miss Tatlock, who claims to be a missionary, really isn’t a missionary -- especially since Miss Tatlock was played by Madonna. Surely she couldn’t really be a missionary. And yet she was.

The film is set in 1937 Shanghai during the Japanese occupation. The film was made five years after Raiders of the Lost Ark and two years after the first Indy sequel. It’s obvious the makers were trying to capture the sense of adventure found in those period films. Sean Penn plays a character who’s supposed to be a lovable rogue, Glendon Wasey. He’s unshaven like Indy, but any resemblance pretty much ends there.

Miss Tatlock works for the The Helping Hand Mission along with another missionary, Mr. Burns.  We first see Tatlock and Burns walking the streets of Shanghai soliciting funds for their mission, calling out, “help a weary traveler!” It’s rather bizarre to see Western missionaries begging for funds on the mission field. Though neither of them apparently have any medical skills, theirs is a medical mission. All they need for their medical mission, apparently, is opium.

There is a legend of Faraday's Flowers, a secret stash of opium, and the missionaries are in search of this “treasure.” Sadly, they can’t speak the native tongue (or as Mr. Burns refers to it, “that Chinese gibberish”), which hampers their inquiries. So they hire Wasey as their translator. Wasey is not an archaeologist nor a mercenary nor any traditional kind of adventurer. He is a tie salesman.
Wasey is also a sinner, a foul mouthed, drinking fornacator; and Tatlock is quick to judge him for his vices. She tells him, “I do not approve of drinking.” When she gives Wasey money for food and he buys a drink, she says, “I do not intend to be made a fool of.”

Wasey says of Tetlock, “Now I know why cannibals like to barbeque missionaries.”

When Burns and Tatlock first hire Wasey, they lie, saying they need his help to locate the father of a wounded soldier. That lie falls apart fairly quickly.

When Wasey learns they’re actually looking for opium, he says they should give up on that and go back to “saving souls,”  but neither Burns or Tatlock ever talks about saving souls. We never hear them mention prayer or salvation or God or Jesus. The closest Tatlock ever comes to talking about her calling is when she says, “I could have married an Ivy League banker, but I wanted to be something useful.”

They come upon a clue, information about the opium, they learn that the smuggler Faraday had a mistress named China Doll. Tatlock arranges for Wasey to meet her. Wasey learns that China Doll is working as a prostitute and he partakes of her services -- which never seems to bother Tatlock in the least.

And when Wasey returns from China Doll, unsure whether he wants to help Miss Tetlock (who Wasey calls “Reverend Lady) anymore, Miss Tetlock strips down and sleeps with Wasey. She says she does so to make him “obligated” to her. After going to bed with Wasey, Tetlock takes a good stiff drink That’s when I felt sure we’d find out that Miss Tetlock was actually a drug runner or working for an intelligence agency or a reporter investigating a story. But no, she really was a missionary.

And Wasey agrees to continue working for Tetlock to find the opium. He calls her an “angel.” She asks how he can call her that. “Angel? I just blackmailed you shamelessly.” But he forgives her. And they go on with their adventure. She justifies her hunt for opium by explaining, “Guns cause pain, opium eases pain.” Quite the sophisticated understanding of the workings of opiates.
Spoilers follow for those who might want to watch this film -- which was nominated for six Razzie Awards (Worst Film, Worst Actor, Worst Director, Worst Screenplay, Worst Song, and “winning” for Worst Actress).

It turns out, in quite the Shanghai surprise, that Burns is not really a missionary but is Faraday the drug runner in disguise, trying to track down his lost treasure of opium. The real Missionary Burns turns up and seems to be a hopeless doofus, but at least he doesn’t call the Chinese language gibberish.

In end, Miss Tetlock shares her first name with Wasey, Gloria. They decide to stay together. And they get the opium, which I hope will be used for needy patients. And that it doesn’t make them addicts.

End spoilers.

Tetlock is a missionary who seems to have no interest in sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ. There is no evidence she knows anything about theology or Scripture. At one point in the film, Wasley says to her,  “I wish you’d give up on this opium business and go back to saving souls. This is no church picnic.”  

She responds, “You’ve never been to a church picnic in all you life!” It does seem that one church picnic may be the extent of her church experience.

But since she really seems to want to help people, even though there’s no evidence she ever does, I’m giving missionary Gloria Tetlock the Movie Church rating of Two Steeples.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Missionary Movie Churches: Of Gods and Men

Des hommes et des dieux (Of Gods and Men),2010
Can Christians and Muslims get along? According to that COEXIST bumper sticker, this should be easy, but one does wonder whether it is really possible. In this French film, based on real events from the 1996 Algerian Civil War, we do see Trappist Monks living peaceably, happily, with Muslim locals; sadly, they are not left alone. The film opens with a passage of Scripture, Psalm 82: 6 - 7: “I said, ‘You are ‘gods’; you are all sons of the Most High.’ But you will die like mere mortals; you will fall like every other ruler.” It’s those rulers, the men who think they’re gods, that are the problem.

The film shows us the monks caring for the local people, providing for educational and medical needs. The monks are invited to parties and celebrations in the community. The monks help the locals with bureaucratic issues, like getting passports. The film shows a tender scene when a young Muslim woman comes to a monk asking how one can know when you’re in love. The monk answers, “I was in love, several times, but then I encountered another, greater love and gave over to it. That was over fifty years ago.”

But the Civil War comes to Atlas Abbey of Tibhirine near Médéa, Algeria. Someone tells the monks about a granddaughter who was killed for reading. They promise to pray for the family. At a nearby construction site, Muslim rebels kill all the Croatians, letting other locals, Muslims, go free.

The military offers the monastery protection from the terrorists, but the monks refuse protection. They do not want soldiers with guns on the grounds.  “In this time of violence… Let us turn to the man of sorrows.” When the military leaves, the monks celebrate Mass.

The local authorities suggest they should leave and Christian, the leader of the monastery concurs.

One of the monks responds, “Christian, we didn’t hire you to make decisions on your own.”

Another says, “We were called to live here.” So they remain.

Soon after that, Muslim terrorists do come to the monastery. One of the terrorists asks, “Where is the Pope?”

“There is no pope here.”

“Your leader?”

They meet Brother Christian, who won’t allow them to bring guns into the monastery (“This is a house of peace”) and amazingly, they comply. The terrorists have a wounded compatriot who needs medical attention. And the monks provide it.

Word of the incident reaches the authorities. “You’re very indulgent with the terrorists. Rumor has it you are shielding them in the monastery.” The Trappists refuse to take sides.

Violence increases in the area. One of the monks suggests, “We could go to a safer place in Africa.”

Christian responds, “And leave the villagers to terrorists? A shepherd does not leave his sheep. Help will come from the Lord who made heaven and earth.”

The monks discuss the increasing dangers among themselves. “Dying for my faith shouldn’t keep me up all night.”  

“Staying here is as mad as becoming a monk.”

“Why be martyrs? Out of love. But in the end, we try to avoid it. But after is eternal hope.”

The monks take a vote about whether to stay or leave. Christian says, “Our mission here is not finished. God set his table here for His friends and his enemies.” All vote to remain.

In the end, terrorists abduct the monks. It is not known who, exactly took the men away in a midnight raid. They face death, believing they have chosen eternal life.

four steeples for these movie monks
Like last week’s film, The Mission, Of Gods and Men competed at the Cannes Film Festival, taking home the Grand Prix (second place prize). But for their devotion to God and their neighbors, Movie Churches is awarding the Trappist monks of this film Four Steeples.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Missionary Movie Churches: The Mission

The Mission (1986)
One of the great iconic images of English literature is from John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress: the protagonist, Christian, finally drops his great burden at the Cross. That image is reimagined in the 1986 film, The Mission. The film is set the 1740’s in the jungles of South America, and in the role of Christian is Rodrigo Mendoza (Robert De Niro), a mercenary working for slavers.

When Rodrigo kills his brother but isn’t criminally prosecuted, he is wracked with guilt. (His brother is played by Adrian Quinn, so apparently killing the star of Reckless is not considered a crime.) Rodrigo’s suicidal guilt leads him to Jesuit missionary priest Father Gabriel (Jeremy Irons). Gabriel loads Rodrigo’s own armor and weapons onto the man’s back and, with him, hikes into the jungles. They eventually climb up the Iguazu Falls (on the border between Argentina and Brazil). Other Jesuit priests argue it is too much, but Rodrigo doesn’t think so -- so neither does Gabriel (“How long must he carry the burden?” a priest asks. “God knows,” Gabriel replies). No one is allowed to cut off the burden, until Rodrigo reaches the top of the falls. And then, the indigenous people whom Rodrigo had enslaved are the ones who cut the burden from his back.

It’s a powerful scene, encapsulating together repentance and grace.

The film is full of beautiful images and thoughtful dialogue that deal with complex issues of religion, politics, and culture. The film took the highest prize (the Palme d'Or) at the Cannes Film Festival and the Oscar for Best Cinematography. Some of the credit goes to the director, Roland Joffé, but even more credit goes to the great screenwriter Robert Bolt (A Man for All Seasons and Lawrence of Arabia) for the original story as well.

Bolt takes complex issues and allows them to be complex, allows different positions to be argued well. For instance, he takes on the issue of pacifism and allows for two different Christian perspectives on the issue, as Jesus did when he said both to both to turn the other cheek and to bring a sword.

Many spoilers ahead

In the third act of the film, the abolitionist government cedes land to the Portuguese, who still profit from making the native South Americans into slaves. The Catholic missionaries are caught in the middle of the political intrigue, and (spoiler) the Catholic hierarchy orders the Jesuits to withdraw from their missions. Neither Rodrigo (now a member of the order) or Father Gabriel are willing to do so.

Gabriel decides to stay with the Guarani, the people he’s been working and living among, in their mission, on their land, and with them, to face the Portuguese armies and mercenaries without resistance. Rodrigo decides to resist violently. Rodrigo asks for Father Gabriel’s blessing before he goes to battle. Gabriel refuses, saying, “If you’re right you’ll have God’s blessing. If you’re wrong, my blessing won’t mean anything.” So Rodrigo leads an army and Gabriel leads a choir. From an earthly perspective, both men lose. But perhaps from a heavenly perspective, both men are victorious.

After the mission is destroyed and the people are again enslaved, two church bureaucrats discuss the tragedy. One says, “We must work in the world as it is, and the world is thus.”  The other responds, “No, thus we have made the world.”

The Mission is a four steeple film at
If, for this movie, I were rating men like these representatives of the Vatican, I’d have a much lower Steeple rating, but I’m giving Father Gabriel, Rodrigo, the men of the Jesuit order at the mission, and the people of their congregation Four Steeples.

Friday, June 2, 2017

Missionary Movie Churches: Keys of the Kingdom

The Keys of the Kingdom (1944)
I should admit a prejudice of mine before I talk about this film. I really don’t care much for the star of the film, Gregory Peck. He was an Oscar winner and starred in many films counted as classics (some of which I like very much, such as Roman Holiday and To Kill a Mockingbird).  But sometimes he was greatly miscast (as in Moby Dick, where he played Captain Ahab) and he was a part of what made The Paradine Case one of Alfred Hitchcock’s most boring films. Peck always seems to be sanctimonious.

That self-righteous quality comes through in spades as Peck portrays a Catholic missionary priest in 1944’s The Keys of the Kingdom. The film is based on a 1941 novel by A. J. Cronin with a screenplay by Joseph Mankiewicz (All About Eve) and Nunnally Johnson (The Three Faces of Eve). It tells the story of a Scottish priest, Father Francis Chisholm, who spends decades as a missionary in China in the first half of the 20th Century.

The film opens with Chisholm (Peck in not very convincing old age make-up) returning to Scotland after decades of service overseas. His ministry is under scrutiny for remarks he’s made in sermons such as; “All atheists are not godless men, I know one I hope, maybe, to be in heaven,”  “The good Christian is a good man, but I have found the good Confucianist has a better sense of humor,” and “Eat less, the gates of paradise are narrow.”

Then we see flashbacks of his life. He was raised in Tweedside, Scotland by a Catholic father and a Protestant mother. (Roddy McDowall plays Chisholm as a boy.) His father was once beaten by townspeople for his Catholic faith. Chisholm went to a Catholic school and admired the priests, but he also develops a relationship with a woman, Nora, and they consider a future together. Nora, though, discerns he has a different future. “You’re going to become a priest, aren’t you, Francis?”

He responds, “Of course not, Nora, I love you.”

Chisholm has questions about his faith, wondering, for instance, whether his faith is not simply an accident of birth. But a priest, Father McNabb (Edmund Gwynne), takes him fishing and discusses issues of faith. Chisholm decides to go to seminary, leaving a distraught Nora behind.

After seminary, Chisholm pastors a church in Scotland. There he commits very controversial acts such as establishing a Community Dance Hall and befriending an atheist. These things come to the attention of the church hierarchy, who determine that he might not be suitable as a parish priest. Even Chisholm says of himself, “I’ve tried so hard, but failed so miserably as a priest.” So he is sent to be a missionary in China. (In ways, it’s a quite amazing choice. The challenges of cross cultural ministry can be seen as much greater than serving in one’s homeland. Still, it’s a sad truth in many denominations that sometimes ministers with lesser gifts were that ones sent to the mission field.)

When Chisholm arrives at his mission, St. Andrews, in China, he finds it in disrepair. The only people attending the church were paid to serve at the church. (These people are referred to as “rice Christians” because they only attend to be fed.) The priest says, “I can not pay you any money. I have no interest in rice Christians.” Chisholm drives them off with indignation (which Peck does quite convincingly because of that sanctimony I mentioned earlier).

He befriends a Mandarin, the man with greatest influence in the area. Mr. Chia comes to him and asks about joining the church, thinking that will help Chisholm gain acceptance in the area. Chisholm flatly refuses, because he believes Chia’s motive are wrong. He doesn’t say anything like, “Let’s take time to meet together and talk through issues of faith,” he just says, “My acceptance of you would be forgery for God.” But when Chia offers land and workman to rebuild the mission, Chia accepts that.

Things turn around for Chisholm when a gift of medical supplies arrive from his atheist doctor friend in Scotland. He opens a clinic and cares for people (“It’s amazing how religious you can make people feel by curing their belly ache”). A group of nuns come to the mission and open a school. (Chisholm has a difficult time getting along with the mother superior. She’s offended when the priest first greets her wearing dirty work boots.)

After decades of service in China, Chisholm returns to Scotland and wants to serve in the church in his hometown of Tweedside.  But the Bishop (Vincent Price) is concerned that Chisholm is not orthodox enough for the job, concerned he “went native” in China. After the Bishop reads Chisholm’s diary through the night, he gives him another chance.

I guess Father Chisholm does do worthwhile things as a missionary -- if he just wasn’t so smug about it most of the time! I’m giving Father Chisholm and St. Andrew’s Mission Three Steeples.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Missionary Month

It’s Missionary Month at Movie Churches
One of the most ubiquitous images of missionaries in popular culture is a man in a cannibal’s stew pot -- though the image is less common now because many see the image as, well, racist. It used to be acceptable to portray the missionary as the civilized Westerner going out to live with savages, but modern audiences are much less comfortable with Kipling’s idea of “the White Man’s Burden.”

There was a time when missionaries were portrayed as heroes. Dr. David Livingstone, missionary to Africa in the 1860’s, was revered in America and England, and reporter Henry Stanley’s search for him was the stuff of legend. (The two men were portrayed by Spencer Tracy and Cedric Hardwicke in a 1939 film.) “Dr. Livingstone, I presume” was a catchphrase before anyone talked about catchphrases. A person who braved the jungles to save the natives who lived there was universally admired.

But the image of the missionary has changed greatly in popular culture. 1998’s bestselling novel The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver portrayed missionaries as less admirable than the people they went to serve. The Price family left Georgia for the Congo to bring not the hope of the Gospel but judgment, sanctimony, and perhaps even madness and evil.

The missionary is no longer assumed to be a hero. A Westerner bringing hang-ups from civilization to the free residents of nature is assumed to be a villain.

But the life of a missionary is a fascinating one, and missionaries continue to be the subject of films, so this month we’ll look at films about missionaries -- starting tomorrow with an MGM film the Golden Age of cinema, 1941’s Keys of the Kingdom. We’ll finish the month with a film released last year from one of our greatest filmmakers, Martin Scorsese -- Silence. There’ll be some very interesting films in between, too!

Friday, May 26, 2017

Silent Movie Churches -- The Scarlet Letter

The Scarlet Letter (1926)
Many parents puzzle over what they should share with their children about their own past behavior, particularly in such matters as sex and drugs. They struggle with two conflicting values: the desire to keep their kids safe and the desire to be honest. If, as a teenager, you did some underage drinking, you wonder if it would be better to let your teen know about this, as a warning, or keep it on the downlow. (It’s an even tougher challenge if you look back on some of those experiences fondly.)

Pastors face a similar problem. Should they share their sin and weakness with their congregations? Do such confessions give people in their congregation license to sin as well? Or will hiding sin lead accusations of hypocrisy, with even more harmful results in the long run?

For a sermon illustration, a pastor doesn’t think anything about mentioning the temptation to scarf a second muffin or snap at the children, but the clerical sins of Pastor Arthur Dimmesdale in The Scarlet Letter aren’t the “little sins” of say, gluttony or pride. No, as some of you remember from high school English (when you were assigned Nathaniel Hawthorne’s classic novel in high school -- whether you read the book as assigned or read the Cliff Notes or read the quiz on a neighbor’s desk), the Rev. Dimmesdale had an affair with a married woman and fathered her child. This was something he decided to keep quiet.

There have been a number of screen adaptations of The Scarlet Letter (including the 1995 Demi Moore version that is completely nuts), but since this is Silent Movie Month at Movie Churches, we’re looking at the 1926 MGM adaptation which starred Lillian Gish (sister of Dorthy Gish) as Hester Prynne. (Gish was, at the time, one of the biggest stars of the silver screen.)

The film takes some liberties with the novel, which opens with Hester receiving her punishment for adultery. In the novel, the father of Hester’s child is a mystery revealed much later in the story. The 1926 movie version opens with a focus on Reverend Dimmesdale as a greatly beloved minister jn his church and community. He is renowned for his compassion for others, particularly for sinners. We see him talking with a man forced to wear a sign marking him as a heretic. The pastor says to the man,  “I pray that God will help me to explain the point which thou hast disputed with the Elder on Lecture Day, and make thee one with us again in Spirit.”

Congregants give Dimmesdale a gift of money, saying, “We thank God everyday for your ministry.”

Actually, the film opens with a title card reading, “Here is recorded a stark episode in the lives of a stern and unforgiving people, a story of bigotry uncurbed and a tale of sorrow, shame and tragedy.” Perhaps, though, their time was unique -- our day and age would never be so judgemental. If someone made, say, an indiscreet remark on Twitter, everyone would treat them with sweetness and light in these enlightened days, of course.

In the movie, though, we see people walking by Hester Prynne’s home. An old biddy takes offense at Hester’s pet, “Hester’s bird singing on the Sabbath! What is Boston coming to?” Even worse, the woman spies Hester at play on the Sabbath. “Tis a law against running and skipping on the Sabbath. The Minister must be told.”

And Rev. Dimmesdale is told. He calls Hester to the front of the church to rebuke her, “Thou hast profaned God’s Holy Day!” But it’s the local governor who puts Hester in a pillory in the town square. Dimmesdale comes to release her, saying, “Hester, I hope thou hast learned a great lesson,” and their friendship begins.

We see Hester and Dimmesdale taking long walks in the woods. We see them kiss. We assume more happened.

Dimmesdale is called by the governor to take a mission to England. When the Reverend returns, the film has reached the beginning of the novel, with Hester being punished for adultery (she’s had a baby daughter, but she has no husband) and forced to wear the Scarlet Letter of the title.

In spite of her punishment, Hester will not reveal the name of the father, even when Dimmesdale urges her to. “Thou shalt not be branded alone. Together we shall stand, thou & I. I am the guilty one!” But Hester will have none of it, “And make me suffer doubly? To know that I helped destroy thee? Thou hast no right to tear down the ideals of thy followers who look to thee for guidance. Atone! Atone for both of us with thy good works. We shall never see each other again, but I will have comfort in betolking (sic) until thy life of devotion and service.” (The card was a little blurry. Maybe she meant "beholding").

So the Reverend Dimmesdale reminds silent about fathering the child, Pearl. And goes on ministering to the adoration of the congregation. But the Reverend’s health takes a dark turn, as guilt builds in his soul.

He preaches one last time to his congregation. He proclaims, “Purge yourselves of intolerance for only God can see the heart of a sinner.”

A congregant exclaims, “An inspired sermon, never before has he spoken so eloquently.”

Dimmesdale’s imminent death seems to be what allows him to speak so freely. In death, he finally confesses to the congregation. He opens his shirt to reveal he has marked his own chest with a scarlet “A.”  The Reverend proclaims before the people of Boston, “People of New England, at last I stand where I should have stood five years ago with Hester Prynne.”

And then he dies.

So, were those five years of ministry worth Dimmesdale’s secret and suffering?  Or were those years of ministry made invalid because of Dimmesdale’s lies and hypocrisy?

I don’t really know. And I don’t know whether a parent should share what happened at that party or on prom night back in the day.

Still, relying on the opinion of those in his congregation, I’m giving the Reverend Dimmesdale and his church 2 steeples, in consideration of the difficulty of his circumstances.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Silent Movie Churches -- Sadie Thompson

Sadie Thompson (1928)
One of the most interesting things about 1928’s Sadie Thompson is the two words that aren’t used in the film: “prostitute” and “missionary.”

There have been three film adaptations of Somerset Maugham’s short story “Miss Thompson” (which was renamed “Rain” for a short story collection; it appeared first in a literary magazine, The Smart Set). In 1932, Joan Crawford starred in an adaptation called Rain, and in 1953 Rita Hayworth starred in an adaptation entitled Miss Sadie Thompson. But since it’s Silent Movie Month at Movie Churches, we’re looking at the first big screen version of the story.

The credits for the film are extremely impressive, with a number of names that would continue to achieve great things in the sound era: Gloria Swanson starred but also produced, the film’s director Raoul Walsh (White Heat, High Sierra) also plays the film’s male romantic lead, Lionel Barrymore practices the villainy he’ll use later in It’s a Wonderful Life, and the art director is William Cameron Menzies who served the same role on Gone With the Wind.

I don’t know whether the 1932 or 1953 versions use the words “prostitute” or “missionary,” but I do know that Maugham’s short story uses the latter but not the former. In the story, Sadie comes from Honolulu to Pago Pago. She is never directly called a “whore” or a “hooker” or any other direct term for women who practice the world’s oldest profession, but it is said she used to work in the “red light district” -- which is about as direct a way as calling her a prostitute as can be done without using that term. While in Pago Pago, she asks not to be disturbed during “business hours” and there is no doubt she is still working as a prostitute.

In the 1928 film, Sadie says she came from the district in San Francisco where they “hang the red lanterns.” Her shady past is implied, but she just says, “I had a singing job. But my pipes got rusty.” In the film, though, It’s clear that she’s trying to make a change in her life. Sure, she parties with Marines from the local base, but it’s all fairly wholesome fun. She falls for Sergeant Timothy O’Hara (Walsh), who knows of her past but tells her, “Them that kick the highest settle down the hardest.”

As for that second word, “missionary,” it is used in the short story. Alfred Davidson and his wife are called missionaries. The story presents them as servants of the Lord who have been serving in the islands for years. The 1928 film calls Davidson (Barrymore) and his wife “reformers.” (Davidson says, “The knife of reform is the only hope of a sin sick world.”) It never calls them “missionaries,” but that seems to be the work Davidson does. He says, “I’ve been talking to the natives -- they’re so depraved I actually have to teach them what sin is.” But the film avoids ever calling Davidson a missionary.

Davidson is forced to stay in the same boarding house as Sadie, which greatly disturbs him. He is sure she is a practicing prostitute, saying, “I’m never mistaken. She’s here to carry out her shameful trade. I refuse to have this house turned into a brothel.”

But the film avoids calling Davidson a clergyman. In fact, Sadie says to him, *”You reformers don’t fool me… You ain’t a minister!”

Still, in both the short story and in the film, Davidson does his best to bring Sadie to “salvation.” He tries to drive her off the island, with the help of the island’s governor. He tells Sadie he’ll send her back to San Francisco. The idea of going back to San Francisco horrifies Sadie, which seems strange (What frightens her? The seals at the wharf? The cable cars? The lack of public toilets?) until we learn that if she goes back to San Francisco, she’ll go to prison. But that is where, with the governor’s help, Davidson is going to send her.

Sadie strikes out against Davidson saying, “What right do you have to judge me? You Psalm singing louse! You’d tear out your mother’s heart and call it saving her soul! You don’t know what I’ve suffered and you don’t care -- and you call yourself a Christian!”

Eventually, though, Sadie feels she has nowhere to turn but to Davidson. He tells her,
“Sadie, you are an evil woman! Kneel and repent!” and he offers her eternal salvation. Sadie does begin to pray and repent. She spends three days locked in a room, “Three lonely days of loneliness, repentance and redemption!”

Davidson spends all those three days with her. (Well, he does take a break to go down to the beach and tell the natives to stop dancing.)

Sadie says that she’s changed. She has come to God and is willing to go to prison in San Francisco. “Can’t you see? I’ve been saved! You’re trying to send me to hell! I’ve been born again and I have to pay for it.”

O’Hara offers escape on another boat off the island, but she refuses. Davidson commends her for resisting the temptations of Satan.

Davidson claims he is upset to send Sadie to prison, “I’ll suffer all the time she suffers.”  But Davidson becomes a little too close to Sadie and apparently makes sexual advances. In the film it isn’t clear how she responds to those advances, but in both the film and the short story Sadie says, “You men are all alike! Pigs, pigs!”

And in both the short story and film, Davidson cannot deal with his own sexual weakness and commits suicide.

So how can we give a Steeple rating for this film? The short story clearly had a clergyman, but the film has a “reformer” who talks about sin, God, and the blood of the Lamb. I guess instead of steeples, this week I’ll give “Reformer” Davidson a low rating of two grass huts.