Madam Satan

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Madam Satan
Madame Satan lobby card.jpg
Lobby card
Directed by Cecil B. DeMille
Produced by Cecil B. DeMille
Written by Jeanie Macpherson
Gladys Unger
Starring Kay Johnson
Reginald Denny
Lillian Roth
Music by Clifford Grey
Elsie Janis
Herbert Stothart
("Ballet Mecanique", uncredited)
Cinematography Harold Rosson
Edited by Anne Bauchens
Distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release dates
  • 1930 (1930)
Running time
116 minutes
Country United States
Language English

Madam Satan is a 1930 American pre-Code musical romantic comedy film produced and directed by Cecil B. DeMille for MGM. It is one of the few films DeMille made for MGM. The film stars Kay Johnson, Reginald Denny and Lillian Roth.

Madam Satan has been called one of the oddest films DeMille made and certainly one of the oddest MGM made during its "golden age."[1] The film originally featured Technicolor sequences that are now lost.


Thematically, this marked an attempt by DeMille to return to the boudoir comedies genre that had brought him financial success about ten years earlier.[2]

Angela Brooks (Kay Johnson) discovers that her husband Bob (Reginald Denny) is cheating on her with another woman, Trixie (Lillian Roth).

Learning that her husband intends to go to a costume ball on a moored dirigible in New York City, Angela disguises herself and attempts to "vamp" her husband. During the ball there are a number of exotic musical numbers. A thunderstorm causes the dirigible to break apart and everyone is forced to parachute into the reservoir in Central Park.


DeMille's daughter, Katherine DeMille was an uncredited "Zeppelin Reveler".

Kosloff, a DeMille regular who was better known as a dance director, was originally hired by DeMille to do the film's choreography, but MGM insisted Leroy Prinz be used instead. However, some dance experts believe that Kosloff did choreograph the "Mechanical Ballet," as it seems more representative of his work than Prinz's.


  • "Live and Love Today" Sung by Elsa Petersen and Kay Johnson
  • "All I Know Is You're in My Arms" Sung by Reginald Denny and Kay Johnson
  • "This Is Love" Sung by Reginald Denny and Kay Johnson (Missing from extant prints; see below)
  • "Meet Madam" Sung by Kay Johnson
  • "Low Down" Sung by Lillian Roth
  • "The Cat Walk" Sung by Wallace MacDonald


The zeppelin sequences were originally filmed in Technicolor.[3][4] The film, however, was released in black-and-white due to the backlash against musicals which made the extra expense of color superfluous. The same thing occurred with another MGM musical, Children of Pleasure (1930), whose color sequences were similarly released in black and white. The original color sequences to Madame Satan no longer exist.

DeMille originally wanted writer Dorothy Parker to augment Jeanie MacPherson's original script. Learning that Parker was living in France, and that this would make collaboration too difficult, de Mille then sought vaudeville writer Elsie Janis.[5] She agreed to work on the project, but left amicably on March 24, 1930, due to creative differences. Janis reportedly did not like the direction the script was going.[6]

Hollywood censor Jason Joy worked with DeMille to minimize censorable elements in the potentially objectionable script. "They agreed to put less revealing costumes on the girls at the masquerade party. Body stockings, larger fig leaves and translucent fishnets took care of most of the nudity. The drinking scenes were toned down...", Angela's "Madam Satan" costume was also made less revealing. An entire scene where Angela confronts Trixie, and Trixie is shown wearing a sheer nightgown because she "has nothing to hide" was deleted.[7] The collaboration ended up being agreeable to both men. The notoriously finicky Ohio censor board passed the film without cuts.[8]

Thomas Meighan was sought for the lead role of Bob Brooks before Reginald Denny was cast on January 9, 1930.[5] DeMille wanted Gloria Swanson for the role of Angela, but her lover and business partner Joseph P. Kennedy reportedly persuaded her not to accept the role. Swanson was still trying to salvage her disastrous venture Queen Kelly and was advised not to appear in films not made by her own production company.[6] Originally scheduled to shoot for seventy days, it wrapped at a mere fifty-nine,[5] commencing on March 3 and ending on May 2, 1930.[9] Madam Satan was the most expensive film made by Metro in 1930, and would remain its most expensive musical until The Merry Widow (1934).[10]

The film was released at a time when American theaters had become saturated with musicals, and as a result it was a financial failure,[5][10][11] eventually showing a net loss of $390,000.[9] Today the film is regarded as an amusing oddity and an exercise in DeMille using "too much of everything just because he can."[12]


The original black-and-white release print still survives but seems to be missing at least one musical number. According to film reviews of 1930, Kay Johnson and Reginald Denny originally sang "This Is Love" in the movie, but in the currently circulating print this song is only heard playing in the background during a scene in which Kay Johnson is speaking to her maid.[13]

The original Technicolor sequences exist only in black-and-white. The movie is available on VHS [12] and, as of November 9, 2010, on DVD via the Warner Archive Collection made-to-order process.[14]


Abe Lyman, who can be seen in the film, was hired to play the music in this film. He recorded two numbers from the film for Brunswick Records. Live And Love Today and This Is Love were released on Brunswick's popular ten inch series as record number 4804.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Robert Osborne, introduction to telecast on Turner Classic Movies
  2. ^ Black, Gregory D.; Hollywood Censored: Morality Codes, Catholics, and the Movies; Cambridge University Press, New York, 1994; p. 57
  3. ^ Los Angeles Times (February 21, 1930) p. A-10
  4. ^ TCM Database entry
  5. ^ a b c d Birchard, Robert S.; Cecil B. DeMille's Hollywood; University of Kentucky Press, Lexington, 2004; p. 246
  6. ^ a b Birchard, Robert S.; Cecil B. DeMille's Hollywood; University of Kentucky Press, Lexington, 2004; p. 243
  7. ^ Black, Gregory D.; Hollywood Censored: Morality Codes, Catholics, and the Movies (Cambridge University Press, New York, 1994) p. 57-58
  8. ^ Black, Gregory D.; Hollywood Censored: Morality Codes, Catholics, and the Movies (Cambridge University Press, New York, 1994) p. 58
  9. ^ a b Birchard, Robert S.; Cecil B. DeMille's Hollywood; University of Kentucky Press, Lexington, 2004; p. 241
  10. ^ a b Barrios, Richard; A Song in the Dark: The Birth of the Musical Film; Oxford University Press, New York, 1995; p. 260
  11. ^ Higashi, Sumiko; Cecil B. DeMille and American culture: the silent era; University of California Press, Berkely and Los Angeles, 1994; p. 200
  12. ^ a b Nordin, Jonas. Madam Satan (1930)
  13. ^ Eagle - Sep. 27, 1930 - Page 24; See:,4805946&dq=madam+satan&hl=en
  14. ^ Madam Satan,

External links[edit]