Madame X (1928): Melodrama of Mother-Son, Starring Oscar Nominee Ruth Chatterton

Alexandre Brisson’s sentimental melodrama of 1906 had been filmed three times, when the 1929 talkie Madame X (“Absinte”) was made by MGM.

In an Oscar-nominated turn, Ruth Chatterton stars as Jacqueline Fleuriot, the working class wife of a socialite, whose aristocratic in-laws kick her out when she gives birth to a baby of dubious parentage.

The boy, who was told his his mother had died, grows up to become an attorney (Raymond Hackett). Meanwhile, his mother takes to the streets, but continues to watch her son from afar.

When Jacqueline is accused of murder, her defense attorney is none other than her son. She refuses to tell him the truth about their relationship, even though that information may make the difference.

Madame X” would be remade three more times, including a glitzy and very popular 1966 version, starring Lana Turner.

Ruth Chatterton had impressive credits on Broadway, including ”Daddy Long Legs.” In 1928, she was lured to Hollywood by Paramount, which used his dramatic chops and eloquent diction in soupy melodramas about suffering women of one kind or another.

In his first directing assignment, actor Lionel Barrymore helmed the renowned stage actress. He thus became the first filmmaker to utilize the mike boom, a microphone on a pole over the actors’ heads, allowing them to move around more freely while delivering their lines.

Oscar Nominations: 2

Director: Lionel Barrymore
Actress: Ruth Chatterton

Oscar Awards: None

Oscar Context:
The winners of the Best Actress Oscar was a more popular performer, Mary Pickford, for “Coquette.”
Frank Lloyd won the Directing Oscar for “The Divine Lady.”

Ruth Chatterton as Jacqueline Fleuriot
Lewis Stone as Floriot
Raymond Hackett as Raymond Fleuriot
Holmes Herbert as Noel
John P. Edington as Doctor
Ullrich Haupt Sr. as Larocque

Running time: 90 Minutes.
Directed by Lionel Barrymore
Released: August 17, 1929.