Secret of Madame Blanche, The (1933): Pre-Code Mother-Son Melodrma, Starring Irene Dunne

Directed by Charles Brabin, and written by Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett, The Secret of Madame Blanche is a pre-Code mother-son melodrama, starring Irene Dunne.

MGM released the film on February 3, 1933.

Irene Dunne plays Sally Sanders, an American showgirl visiting London in 1898.  She then marries Leonard St. John (Phillips Holmes), to the displeasure of his wealthy snob father, Aubrey St. Johns(Lionel Atwill), who cuts off his son.

After moving to France, Leonard is unable to make a living and he goes back to his father. St. Johns suggests that his son divorce his wife and keep her as a mistress, while marrying within his own class. However, instead Leonard writes a suicide note and shoots himself.

When St. Johns discovers that Sally was bearing his grandson, he hires a private detective to find his heir.  Sally, saving to return to America, sings in a French bordello.  St. Johns obtains a court order and seizes the infant while Sally is at work.

Sally goes to St. Johns pleading for the return of her son, but is rudely rebuffed, banned from all contact with the family, and threatened with prison.

The story then jumps to 1915 and WWI, when Leonard Jr. (Douglas Walton) is a British serviceman, who visits the bordello with a date.  He meets Sally, but neither is aware of the other’s identity. When he becomes drunk, Sally takes care of him, learning his identity from his date, whom she sends home.

The two become acquainted, and Sally learns that her son despises women, including his mother, about whom he has heard that she is dead.  The enraged father of Leonard’s abandoned date arrives and forces his way in, intending to kill Leonard. In the ensuing struggle, Leonard kills the man with Sally’s gun. She sends him away and confesses to the killing, without revealing her true motives.

St. John encourages his grandson to go along with the lie, expecting blackmail, but at Sally’s trial, as she pleads self-defense, he recognizes her. The prosecutor then debunks Sally’s confession and reveals her identity.

Mother and son are joyfully reunited as Leonard confesses to being the shooter, angrily renouncing his grandfather.  He is sentenced to two years in jail, and when Sally visits, the two plan their long-delayed trip to America as mother and son.