"A Strangely Strong Novel
in a Queer Milieu"
Rare Book & Manuscript Library
University of Pennsylvania
An American Tragedy
New York: Boni & Liveright, 1925
Based on the widely publicized 1906 murder trial of Chester Gillette in upstate New York, An American Tragedy received excellent reviews, one even claiming that it was "the greatest American novel of our generation." In 1926 Boston's District Attorney banned the sale of the work in Boston, and Donald Friede of Boni & Liveright was found guilty of selling literature "manifestly tending to corrupt the morals of youth." The special edition of An American Tragedy was inscribed to Burton Rascoe, an admirer and supporter of Dreiser's work, who published a monograph on him in 1925.
Publicity still from the movie An American Tragedy
Dreiser was appalled by Samuel Hoffenstein's proposed screenplay for a film version of An American Tragedy. Despite his characterization of the script as "nothing less than an insult to the book," Dreiser lost his attempt to have the movie suppressed, and it was released in 1931. The film starred Phillips Holmes as Clyde Griffiths, Sylvia Sidney as Roberta Alden [both pictured here], and Frances Dee as Sondra Finchley.
Advertisement for the movie A Place in the Sun
Dreiser did not live to see the film remake of An American Tragedy. Director George Stevens decided to call his version A Place in the Sun, because the title had "more spiritual uplift" and signified the hero's goal: "the undying love of a beautiful and wealthy girl." Characters were renamed, and the script focused less on the social and familial interests that shaped George Eastman's character (Clyde in the novel) and more on the love story between George and Angela Vickers (Sondra in the novel). Montgomery Clift starred as George, Elizabeth Taylor as Angela, and Shelley Winters played Alice Tripp (Roberta in the novel). The movie had its premiere on 14 August 1951. Reviewers were mostly laudatory, and the film received six Academy Awards.
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