MAN, WOMAN AND SIN (MGM, 1927), starring John Gilbert, Jeanne Eagels, and Gladys Brockwell.
This following scenes are movie stills from MAN, WOMAN AND SIN, in which “Al” (played by John Gilbert) works for a newspaper. No doubt some of these scenes were inspired by John Gilbert’s real-life experiences. When he was in his teens, he supported himself for awhile by working for a newspaper before he went to Inceville and got a job as an extra in films.
Al starts from the bottom up in the news industry. All he needs is a break to prove that he can write. Enter “Vera” (played by Jeanne Eagles), who writes a social column, and the boss, “Mr. Bancroft.” Mr. Bancroft directs Al to accompany Vera to the Presidental Ball in Washington, D.C., to cover the event. [I assume that the President referred to here is Calvin Coolidge, who was President in 1927 when the film was made.] Not only do they see the President at the ball, but Al and Vera also encounter Mr. Bancroft and his wife. The tension mounts as the four of them exchange looks, but Al has no clue that Vera is the boss’s mistress.
After the ball, Al takes Vera home. She invites him in and tells him to wait while she slips into something comfortable–as the saying goes. Vera quickly returns wearing the equivalent of a negligee and stretches out on the couch, claiming to have a headache. She plans to seduce him, but Al, who is naiveto a fault, misinterprets her motives and slips out quietly, thinking she wants to rest.
Al returns to the newsroom the same night and writes an article describing the event. His article is a hit, so much so that Al gets a promotion. All is well until Al pays Vera a visit at her apartment and encounters the boss. A fight ensues and Al kills Mr. Bancroft in self-defense. Al is tried for murder.
Up to this moment, I haven’t mentioned Al’s mother, whom he adores. His wholesome relationship with his mother renders him blind to the Jezebels of the world. His mother is his model of womanhood–a devout, virtuous woman who dotes on her son while striving to make ends meet. With sacrificial, unconditional love, she stands with him throughout the trial.
Will he be found guilty or innocent? Since I don’t want to spoil the ending, I will only say that the film ends differently from the book-length poem, THE WIDOW IN THE BYE STREET, upon which the movie is based. To compare and contrast MAN, WOMAN and SIN with John Masefield’s WIDOW IN THE BYE STREET is a worthwhile effort.
Of note, is the fact that the film was shot on location in Washington, DC. One scene even depicts Jack visiting the Washington National Zoo.
MAN, WOMAN AND SIN is mentioned in Chapter 15 of THE PRINCE IN THE TOWER, Like “Masks of the Devil,” “Man, Woman and Sin” is one of Rev. Baldwin’s sermon titles.
I regret to inform you that you have the sequence of the seduction scene out of order with the actual film. After the ball, both Vera (Eagels) and Al (Gilbert) return to work back at the newspaper in order to get their stories out for the next day’s edition. Al’s reporting leads to a step up the ladder. Later in the movie he asks Vera to go out with him one Sunday, which is unusual for him because up to this time he spends every day off with his mother. She accepts only after she learns that her sugar-daddy has other plans for that day, and it seems, as a form of revenge on his rejection of her. Al & Vera walk and talk through the zoo and/or park. She seems bored, and he’s concerned he isn’t good company. They go back to her pad, where she tries the seduction act- lying down on there divan, and claiming a headache. He quietly leaves, much to her surprise. They are then scene on opposite sides of the door after he leaves, he yearning for her, and she looking sad and tragic now that he’s gone. Maybe she is falling for him after all?