Hello, Sister! 1933. USA. Directed by Eric von Stroheim. With James Dunn, ZaSu Pitts, Boots Mallory. 61 min.
Begun by Erich von Stroheim under the title Walking Down Broadway (the title of its source material, an unproduced play by Dawn Powell), this 1932 production proved to be Stroheim’s last job in Hollywood as a director. What apparently began in Powell’s play as an urban romance along the lines of Lonesome or Bad Girl became what cowriter Leonard Spigelglass described as a “Viennese-oriented” study of the characters’ neuroses that ran far too long for commercial release. Fox fired Stroheim and brought on a team of directors to reshoot it (including Edwin Burke, Alfred Werker, and possibly Raoul Walsh), but the film that was eventually released as Hello, Sister! was estimated by Stroheim scholar Richard Koszarski to be 75 percent Stroheim’s work. Certainly his sensibility is unmistakable in the relentlessly sordid details (after witnessing a dog being run over by a car, heroine Boots Mallory promptly trips into a sewer), all of which belie the preposterously happy ending. 4K restoration from nitrate elements held by MoMA, funded by Twentieth Century Fox