Synopsis by Hal Erickson
The second of Cecil B. DeMille's talkies (as well as his second for MGM), Madam Satan is an exercise in incoherence, but this doesn't detract one iota from its entertainment value. Kay Johnson plays the sedate wife of philandering Reginald Denny, who is currently carrying on with "jazz baby" Lillian Roth. In a desperate effort to win back her husband, Johnson disguises herself as the alluring, provocatively clothed "Madame Satan." In this guise, she attends a lavish charity costume party being thrown by socialite Roland Young on a dirigible moored high above New York Harbor. Failing to recognize his mousey little wife, Denny arranges for a rendezvous with Madame Satan. When she reveals her true identity, Denny is outraged and threatens divorce. Suddenly, the dirigible is struck by lightning; it breaks loose from its moorings, tossing its terrified passengers around and about. Denny behaves heroically in shepherding the passengers into their parachutes; meanwhile, Johnson gives up her own parachute to save Roth. Coming to the mutual realization that each is worthy of the other's love, Johnson and Denny are reunited. Though when taken out of context, the dirigible sequence appears to be the ultimate in campy melodrama, this scene and all the scenes that built up to it are played for laughs: DeMille didn't take this farrago any more seriously in 1930 than we do today. Highlights include several unexpected and charmingly innapropriate musical numbers, including a bizarre "Ballet Mechanique" featuring dancer Theodore Kosloff. Though DeMille carefully threw in every ingredient that he hoped would appeal to a mass audience, Madam Satan was one of his few box office flops.
costume-party, deception, dirigible, disaster, extramarital-affair, husband-and-wife, sacrifice