Day 13: SING SINNER SING (Howard Christie, USA, 1933)
The film itself never quite manages to live up to its sexy, attention-seeking title, but that isn’t uncommon with a number of these Pre-code, B-grade flicks churned out by the “Poverty Row” studios. Which isn’t a knock at all, especially since everything rolls along pleasantly enough as long as little attention is paid to the hackneyed plot, which was loosely inspired by a major contemporary scandal surrounding notorious torch singer Libby Holman and the mysterious death of a millionaire she had eloped with (two later films, including Jean Harlow’s Reckless, would be more directly based on the highly publicized incident). In the central role is the likable Leila Hyams, a top star of the early talkie era whose reputation now primarily rests on her appearance in several classic horror films, most particularly Tod Browning’s immortal Freaks; while she has an appealing screen presence it’s pretty obvious she lacks that indefinable “something” that launched some of her immediate contemporaries to screen immortality. She’s also given a somewhat tricky role, having to embody at once a seductive siren who men swarm despite themselves, but then seem believably virtuous once marriage transforms her into an honest woman and her reputation is at stake. Unfortunately Ruth Donnelly’s broad, vaudevillian humor wearies quickly; much more fun are the various spunky sexpots, all slinky garments and stylized voices, that regularly turn up as Hyams’s rivals (all are quickly disposed of though). Not an undiscovered treasure by any means, but enjoyable enough.
[Watch Sing Sinner Sing on Fandor here.]