Time: 72 mins.
Rating: Not Rated
This rather obvious tale of redemption would have disappeared long ago if it weren't for the big name talent involved. Crawford gives an engaging performance as a simple chorus girl who tries to end her life after her salesman boyfriend Howard (Hamilton) gives her the old heave-ho to marry his boss's daughter. Ivy (Crawford) is devastated by his desertion and saved from mortal harm by a passing gentleman. Carl (Gable) is a Salvation Army preacher who gives her something deeper to live for. Espousing her old life of wanton sex, cheap booze and sleazy dance halls, she becomes a do-gooder, using her energy to help those less fortunate than herself. She finds comfort and satisfaction in her work until she runs into Howard, who is stunned at the change in her lifestyle. She tries to ignore him, but eventually succumbs to his advances, wanting to feel desired and loved again.
She initially agrees to chuck her new life for a return to Howard's arms, but Carl's unwavering, yet platonic, love quickly snaps her back to reality. With her head out of the clouds, she sees what a selfish bastard her lover is, wanting her to accommodate his schedule and desires, giving no thought to her future or feelings. While constantly being a good girl can be boring, being someone's plaything is no longer an acceptable option to her. She's found acceptance and self-worth and no one, even the love of her life, is going to take that away from her. While a positive message, the execution is highly heavy-handed and clearly meant to convince the young women of the day to stay on the straight and narrow. Crawford gives an admirable performance, strongly portraying both sides of the lifestyle coin. She's just hampered by the film's blatant moralistic stamp.
Ultimately, her conversion from bad to good lacks the conviction needed to turn this tale of redemption into something with true depth and honesty. She isn't a total slut in the beginning, just a girl who was sleeping with the man she loved. Granted they weren't married, but that's not much of a social faux pas to modern audiences, which is why the story often seems strident and preachy. Her transformation into a god-fearing woman is handled with simplicity and conviction, her about-face back into a wanton woman less so. Apparently, the filmmakers thought we needed one more look at sexy Joan. Audiences weren't paying to see her be demure. In the end, what saves this film from obscurity is Crawford's energy and earnestness.
If you blink, you'll miss Gable. His is the voice of reason in this tale and through he's successful in saving Crawford, I almost wish he wasn't. His character is awfully one-dimensional, too simple-minded in his devotion to others to be believed. He's like the good angel sitting on her shoulder and his constant piety got on my nerves. This has to be one of his few true nice guy roles and now I know why. I like my Gable characters to be charming and a bit sleazy. Here he's just a good-hearted nerd. Thankfully, the film industry quickly found better uses for his talent. SINNERS is a mediocre melodrama that won't bring new fans to either stars' fold nor convince many viewers to watch more early cinema.