ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

The Scarlet Letter - an Old American Classic

Updated on May 28, 2018
Dusty Grady profile image

Dusty is an avid classic movie fan who wants to share movie stories and evoke conversation about them.

The Players

The Scarlet Letter

1 hr 9 min Drama/Romance 1934 5.3 stars

Director: Robert Vignola

Cast: Colleen Moore - Hester Prynne

Hardie Albright - Arthur Dimmesdale

Henry B. Walthall - Roger Chillingworth

Cora Sue Collins - Pearl

Alan Hale - Bartholomew Hockings

Virginia Howell - Abigail Crackstone

William Kent - Sampson Goodfellow

Lobby Card for the Movie

A Summary of the Plot

This movie adaptation of Hawthorne’s great American classic is better the second time you see it. I’ve never read the book so I’m commenting on just the movie and the story it portrays. Having seen the movie I would like to read the book and since I have an interest in both history and theology there is plenty in here which commends itself to me.

The movie was made in 1934 but it depicts a time in the 1640s. It’s 1934 history showing 1640s history. It stars Colleen Moore as Hester Prynne. This was her last movie. Her daughter in the movie, Pearl, was played by Cora Sue Collins. The lead male roles are played by Hardie Albright as Arthur Dimmesdale and Henry Walhall as Roger Chillingworth.

The story takes place in Puritan Massachusetts and opens with a sentencing scene. A young woman with a newborn baby stands before the whole town while a sentence is given – the charge is adultery. This young woman, Hester Prynne, has been widowed for two years. The town council is really trying to determine who the father is, but Hester is keeping the father’s identity a secret. Why? Because the father is the town minister, the Reverend Dimmesdale. He is well beloved by the townsfolk who really look up to him for spiritual guidance. If that isn’t enough of a plot a stranger comes into town right during the sentencing. He identifies himself as Roger Chillingworth, but he keeps his true identity a secret from everyone in town except Hester. He is none other than Hester’s husband, Roger Prynne. Hester was not a widow after all. Her husband had been lost at sea and presumed dead, but he had survived somehow, had come ashore and was living with Indians during the intervening years. He is a doctor and decides to stay in town as the local physician. He also wants to know who the father of the baby is, but Hester will not say. He declares that he will study the townsfolk and draw the man’s identity out. He takes a room coincidently next door to Reverend Dimmesdale and they become friends. Reverend Dimmesdale appears to me as a weak man. He wants it to be known by the congregation that he is the child’s father but he does not have the strength to make that confession for to do so would subject him to punishment and he would be defrocked. Worst of all, he fears, is that this town would suffer irreparably with the falling of their spiritual leader. He truly cares for them more than for his position. As a result he is an internally tortured man whose inner turmoil comes out in several expressive confessive scenes. He laments over his sin and plays the “chiefest of sinners” role before his congregation constantly. In his one sermon depicted in the movie he cries out the words of Psalm 51.

After a period of several years we see the baby, young Pearl, grow from an infant to a child of about 4 years. Her mother, Hester, is shunned in the community and Pearl is mocked terribly by the other children. As time goes on however Hester nurses a sick older woman in the town till she is restored to health. She bears no grudge against this woman who has shunned her, but instead demonstrates the love of Christ towards this, her enemy. The older woman, Mrs. Allerton, realizes this and she asks Hester’s forgiveness. Hester grows saintly but Reverend Dimmesdale continues to writhe in guilt. His anguish leads to physical manifestations and he often clutches his heart or stomach. Roger notices this and eventually concludes that the Reverend is the father, and he adds to the Reverend’s torture by what he says and does.

Some Observations

The Reverend Dimmesdale is the father of Pearl, and he adds to the his torture by what he says and does. He embodies the man who cannot confess his sin and trust God to work out the details. His guilt eats him alive and is his undoing. His name, Dimmesdale is suggestive of his being a fading, dimming light.

Hester embodies the forgiven sinner, “for all have sinned” Romans 3:23, and she is on the road to redemption in the eyes of the community.

Roger Chillingworth is the embodiment of jealousy and vengeance. As a Puritan one would expect the capacity to forgive but he has no spirit within him for such a virtue. He has been wronged, yes, but he freely admits in an earlier scene with Hester that he understands that he had been presumed dead and that the age difference between him and Hester had always been unfair to her (he being considerably older). Roger lives for vengeance upon the father. His name, Chillingworth is suggestive of his chilling ways in which he psychologically tortures his friend, the Reverend.

Pearl is the innocent victim of a town which shuns her and circumstances that she has no way of understanding. But by the godly example of her mother and the Biblical education given to her by the Reverend, who she does not know is her father, she grows up right. Her name is suggestive of the beauty of a pearl which is produced by an oyster that has been annoyed by a difficulty, a grain of sand.

Hester Prynne is a proper woman in a town which exacts a lasting punishment. Her name is suggestive of “prim” which means straight-laced or puritanical.

Each character’s character determines how they fare in the end.

There is also comic relief added in the characters of Bartholomew, played by Alan Hale, Sampson, played by William Kent and Abigail Crackstone, played by Virginia Howell.

Diminutive Sampson enlists virile Bartholomew’s help to win his love, Abigail’s heart. But Abigail is interested in Bartholomew who has no interest in her. Sampson and Bartholomew are completely separate from the central focus of the story, but they do give the audience a comical glimpse of the culture of the times. It is very different from ours today and their story line is helpful in getting our thoughts into that time.

Abigail Crackstone does come into the central story as she is one of the main shunners and she rents the rooms to both Reverend Dimmesdale and Roger Chillingworth.

The movie is old and the quality of the footage is much less than what we expect today. But the story is intriguing and the acting is pretty good, although Albright’s acting is a bit overblown and he clutches his heart well below where his heart is – it causes me to wonder if he’s clutching his heart or his stomach.

The funny guys

These guys added comic relief
These guys added comic relief | Source

Full Movie

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • Gina42 profile image

      Gina R 

      4 months ago from Philadelphia PA

      Dusty gets it exactly right by describing this as "It’s 1934 history showing 1640s history" Very interesting in view of today's enlightened society.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)