Sunday, May 28, 2017

Laughing Sinners

Another movie I watched off my DVR because it's available on DVD courtesy of the Warner Archive Collection is Laughing Sinners.

Joan Crawford plays Ivy Stevens, whom we see at the beginning of the movie rushing to catch a train back to one of the midwestern big cities. She's got a job as the lead act in a nightclub. She's also catching the train because her boyfriend Howard (Neil Hamilton), nicknamed "Howdy", is on it. Howdy is a travelling salesman along with several of his friends like Fred (Roscoe Karns) and Cass (Guy Kibbee).

Anyhow, poor Ivy doesn't know that back in his hometown, Howdy has gotten engaged to a wealthy man's daughter, and that Howdy is planning to let her know that he's dumping her for the (only seen in a newspaper photo) rich woman. This devastates Ivy, to the point that she doesn't want to dance any longer despite attempts from her friend Ruby (Marjorie Rambeau) to change her attitude.

Eventually, Ivy decides she's going to end it all by jumping off a bridge, and we see a scene reminiscent of the one at the beginning of Mildred Pierce. Only this time, there's no cop to bank his nightstick against the railing. Instead, there's Carl (Clark Gable), a Salvation Army officer. He sees what Ivy is about to do, and convinces her not to do it. He also tells Ivy that the Salvation Army folks are holding a day out in the park for the disadvantaged kids, and he'd love it if she came along to help. We wouldn't have much of a movie if she didn't help out, and she finds that she likes what the Salvation Army is doing, to the point that she joins herself and starts going from town to town with Carl and the rest of his merry men and women.

Now that Ivy is an itinerant worker of sorts, we know that sooner or later, she's going to wind up in the same town as Howdy. And wow is Howdy a creep when he sees Ivy in the Salvation Army band. He hounds her in her hotel room until she joins him, and he tries to put the moves on her, convinced that she'll start being his mistress again if only she gives him another chance! And surprisingly, she gives in. Can Carl save her soul again?

Laughing Sinners is an odd little movie. Who would ever have expected either Clark Gable or Joan Crawford to play Salvation Army workers? And Neil Hamilton as a creep? Crawford is clearly more in her element when she's the dancer, even though she can't dance to save her or anybody's soul. But she tries, bless her heart, and her dance numbers in any film are worth it for that. This one has her in backless overalls, with detachable legs for the second half that's surprisingly revealing.

The film itself lurches from place to place and the pacing is all wrong, going from tedious to overwrought in the blink of an eye. If it weren't a Clark Gable/Joan Crawford movie, there would really be no reason to watch it. It's too bad that the movie only seems to be available on a standalone DVD as the Warner Archive DVDs are overpriced. This is another one that needs to be part of one of those four-movie sets along with some other dancing Joan Crawford pre-Codes.

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