Year of Release: 1946
Runtime: 60 mins/65 mins.
Black & White
Studio: Sack Amusement Enterprises
Producer: Alfred N. Sack & Bert Goldberg
Director: Spencer Williams
Francine Everett (Gertie LaRue)
Don Wilson (Diamond Joe)
Kathrine Moore (Stella Van Johnson)
Alfred Hawkins (Jonathan Christian)
Boykin (Ezra Crumm)
Piano Frank (Larry)
John King (Al)
Shelly Ross (Big Boy)
Hugh Watson (Tight Pants)
Don Gilbert (Manager)
Spencer Williams (Old Hager)
When famous Harlem dancer Gertie LaRue arrives on the island of Rinidad, she is given celebrity treatment and taken to the Paradise Hotel, where she and her assistant, Stella Van Johnson, are placed in the posh bridal suite. The hotel’s proprietor, Diamond Joe, is smitten with Gertie, but Gertie ignores Stella’s suggestion that she take an interest in him. Meanwhile members of Gertie’s troupe discuss Gertie’s past relationship with a generous man named Al, who Gertie treated poorly and deserted. Gertie has earned the nickname “Dirty Gertie” for the casual nature in which she entices and then humiliates men.
Also staying at the hotel is the pious Mr. Jonathan Christian and his assistant Ezra Crumm, two missionaries who have come to the island to lecture about sin. Having witnessed Gertie’s flirtatious behavior on the boat, Mr. Christian tells Ezra that she is a “painted trollop.” Gertie remains true to her reputation as a gregarious flirt when she joins a sailor named Tight Pants and a soldier named Big Boy for a drink at the Diamond Palace lounge. The bar’s piano player recognizes Gertie and plays a tune intended to stir memories of her troubled past in Harlem and her relationship with his friend Al. When Gertie returns to the hotel drunk and in the company of the two military men, Mr. Christian watches in horror as she kisses both of them. Gertie faints when Mr. Christian emerges from the shadows. When she regains consciousness, she misinterprets his actions and accuses him of trying to take advantage of her.
Later that day, Gertie, having been spooked by bad omens since her arrival on the island, goes to a fortune teller, an old woman named Old Hager. The old woman looks into her crystal ball and sees Gertie’s misdeeds and has a vision of a man coming after her. However, neither the medium’s predictions nor Mr. Christian’s best efforts to have the Diamond Palace shut down prevent Gertie from taking the stage and performing her striptease.
Alone in her room, Gertie is unhappy with the image of herself in the mirror. At that moment Al bursts into the room and shoots her. When Stella and the police rush into the room, Al tells them that he killed her because he loved her.
As noted by modern sources, the storyline of the film is loosely based on W. Somerset Maugham’s 1921 short story “Miss Thompson.” The story was adapted for the stage by John Colton and Clemence Randolph as Rain in 1922, and for motion pictures several times including Miss Sadie Thompson in 1928 starring Gloria Swanson and the 1932 Rain starring Joan Crawford.
TCM; William Jones: Black Cinema Treasures Lost and Found; Blaxploitation Pride.