The Man that Corrupted Hadleyburg
Hadleyburg has a reputation for unshakable honesty. The smug townspeople are proud of this virtue and keep themselves honest by simply avoiding temptation. That is, until The Man That Corrupted Hadleyburg arrives in town. Robert Preston stars as the stranger who plots revenge on the hypocritical residents by promising a fortune to the citizens who once showed him charity many years before. One by one the stranger tempts the leading citizens to scheme for the money—until Hadleyburg’s honest reputation is mud before the world. Based on one of Mark Twain’s best-known short stories, “The Man that Corrupted Hadleyburg” is a cynical, yet humorous, view of life in America’s small towns—a life that the acerbic Mr. Twain knew only too well.
“The Man that Corrupted Hadleyburg” shows what can happen when normally good people are tempted by the promise of wealth. In this case, some people lie in order to gain a lot of money. The film features top acting talent in Robert Preston and Fred Gwynne. Preston plays a stranger who shows up in Hadleyburg with a sack he claims contains 99 pounds and 4 ounces of gold, totaling $40,000 at the time. He says he once met a stranger when he was in need and the stranger gave him $20 and made a remark to him. The person who hands a letter to Rev. Burgess (Gwynne) with that remark written on it will gain the money as a “repayment” for his kindness now that the stranger is rich.
The townsfolk devise plots to win the big prize, including guessing at what the person told the stranger. As the big day arrives Rev. Burgess, not well liked in the town for outspokenness, is custodian of the sack and leads the meeting that is to decide who wins the sack of money. As he begins talking, one man comments to his friend, “Why are we listening to him?” “He’s got the money,” replies the friend.
The movie has a twist and makes a point: temptation and greed are pitfalls to avoid. Although this film is not intended for young children, it is wholesome enough to earn our Dove “Family-Approved” Seal for all ages. What will happen to Hadleyburg? You’ll have to watch to find out.