Written by acclaimed playwright and journalist Sophie Treadwell, Machinal (released in 1928) was inspired by the real-life case of a woman named Ruth Snyder, who brutally murdered - along with her lover Henry Gray - her husband. Machinal, though, tells the story of a young woman who works as a stenographer and lives with her mother. Although she acts in a way one would expect for a woman (she even marries her boss, whom she hates), she is deeply unhappy. When she has an affair with a younger man who she actually loves, she decides that she should marry her husband, which she does, is subsequently caught, and ultimately is sentenced to death by electrocution.
Considered one of the best and most important expressionist plays in theater, Machinal received good reviews when it was released. Perriton Maxwell of Theater Magazine called Machinal "the most enthralling play of the year," also saying that "Machinal transcends the drab drama of the police court; it has a quality one finds it difficult to define, a beauty that cannot be conveyed in words, an aliveness and reality tinctured with poetic pathos which lift it to the realm of great art, greatly conceived and greatly presented."