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Sing, Sinner, Sing1933

  • 3.3
This lively Pre-Code mix of music and melodrama crams a lot, stretching from gambling-ship revelry to Death Row, into its short feature runtime. Lela Larson (Leila Hyams) is the star blonde torch singer on Queen of Joy, "the floating Monte Carlo." When she witnesses a shipboard murder her thuggish boyfriend (Paul Lukas) is mixed up in, she impulsively accepts a tipsy patron's offer to whisk her ashore, thus becoming the wife of a dipsomaniac millionaire. But her not-entirely-respectable past comes back to haunt her. SING, SINNER, SING was clearly inspired by a scandal that shocked the nation one year prior, when the tobacco-heir husband of famed real-life "torchy" Libby Holman was shot dead during a party under murky circumstances (murder? suicide? a marital spat?) that are still debated today. It was one of the best productions from short-lived Majestic Pictures, a "Poverty Row" outfit whose efforts often looked anything but cheap thanks to their policy of renting expensive sets and costumes from better-funded studios (and, in 1935, Majestic would be absorbed into "mini-major" Republic Pictures). It was, oddly, the sole feature directed by Howard Christie (and thus justifying the need to offer this soft transfer from a well-worn theatrical print) who, after World War II, would become one of Hollywood's most prolific producers of B-grade features and television western series. Leading lady Hyams is little-remembered today but was an attractive, versatile and natural performer for about a decade, with prominent roles in such classics as RUGGLES OF RED GAP, FREAKS and ISLAND OF LOST SOULS. She turned down the role of Jane opposite Johnny Weissmuller in TARZAN. In 1936, Hyams retired from acting altogether, becoming one of Hollywood's most popular socialite hostesses in a fifty-year marriage to agent Phil Berg. - Dennis Harvey

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Member Reviews (2)

This film really doesn't know exactly what it is. At times it comes across as a musical, a gangster film, a romance, a melodrama, and then a courtroom drama. It throws too many things at you way too quickly and expects you to hold on to it all. Characters phase in and out of the storyline for no good reason or another, and outside of the simplistic love triangle plot (that is the main plot), the other arcs are pretty much incomprehensible. A good number of the actors are either bad or flat-out annoying, and the sound balance is not good, with the music obscuring the dialogue a fair amount of the time (I realize this is the beginning of talkies, but surely some restoration could be done to clean up the audio). The music was good, but not memorable. 2 stars for the pre-code humor, which was raunchy and funny (when you can catch it through the music).

1 member likes this review

Goodtime classic.