|George Brent, Loretta Young, and David Manners star in They Call It Sin (1932).|
I think I can safely say that this is one of the only pre-codes I've seen that totally threw me for a loop come its end scene. I was literally sitting in front of the screen, mouthing "what the actual fuck just happened?"
Don't get me wrong, the movie itself was actually quite enjoyable - I chalk this up to the presence of both Loretta Young and Una Merkel - it was just the ending that soured me. They Call It Sin was released by Warner Brothers in November 1932 and I'm wondering if the audience disliked the ending as much as I did, even back then.
Let's get into the story: Jimmy Decker (David Manners) is a wealthy businessman from New York who works for his fiance's father. Jimmy is sent away on business to a tiny town down South where everyone - and I do mean everyone - attends church on Sundays and drinks sodas at the local drugstore for fun. Jimmy meets church organist and all around brilliant musician Marion Cullen (Loretta Young) and immediately falls in love with her - who wouldn't? It's Loretta Young!
Despite the fact he's engaged to someone else, Jimmy woos Marion and spends an awful lot of time with her in rowboats and convertible cars. When it's time for Jimmy to head back to New York tears are shed and Marion is left heart-broken. She eventually leaves her home for a new life in New York where she can pursue a career in music and hopefully reignite the passion she shared with Jimmy. She hunts him down at his ritzy apartment and meets Jimmy's best friend - and doctor, how awkward is that? - Dr. Travers (George Brent). Travers takes an immediate liking to Marion and offers to drop her at a hotel somewhere in the city before Jimmy's fiance arrives at the apartment for dinner. Looks like Marion decided to drop in on Jimmy at the worst possible time, but how was she to know? At this point she doesn't even know that Jimmy is engaged to someone else. Poor girl.
|David Manners and Loretta Young make an unbelievably attractive couple, don't they?|
When Marion does eventually find out that Jimmy's been two-timing her, she does what any jilted girl would do: cuts her hair, starts smoking, starts drinking, starts partying, moves in with a chorus girl - Dixie Dare (Una Merkel) - and gets involved with a seedy Broadway producer called Ford Humphries (Louis Calhern). When Humphries unceremoniously fires Marion (because she refused to sleep with him) and threatens to use her music in his next show without crediting her, things get ugly and downright pre-code-ish!
WARNING! SPOILERS AHEAD!
Jimmy never stops caring for Marion despite the fact he's gone and married his stuffy, snooty, high society fiance so when he learns of Marion's woes, he resolves to help her. He pays a visit to Humphries' apartment and an argument ensues between the two love-struck men. Humphries, drunk as a skunk, trips and falls backwards off of his balcony. Knowing that Jimmy went over to Humphries' place that night to confront him, Marion tries to protect Jimmy and goes and turns herself into police, telling them that she pushed Humphries off the balcony because he had stolen her music.
Neither the police nor Dr. Travers buy Marion's story. Dr. Travers steps into the fray and demands to examine Humphries who hasn't actually died (yet); he's just been lying unconscious in the hospital since his nasty fall. Somehow, using his own form of witchcraft (I jest), Dr. Travers manages to awaken Humphries long enough to reveal who his "killer" really is: Jimmy Decker. DUN DUN DUN! There is one thing that the sleazy Humphries does before he dies that sort of redeems him in the eyes of the audience; yes, he reveals that Jimmy was the one with him when he fell, but that Jimmy was not to blame for Humphries' injuries. Jimmy was indeed innocent. After having provided this valuable piece of information, Humphries finally does succumb to his injuries and dies right then and there on the operating table.
Jimmy is cleared by the police and so is Marion. Now, just when you think there's going to be a happy ending between the two lovebirds, in pops Dr. Travers (for God's sake, really?!). Since Travers was the one who helped to clear Marion's name and save his best friend from a murder conviction, Marion gives herself to the good doctor and abandons all thoughts of shacking up with Jimmy. Wait, what??
And that, ladies and gentlemen, was the biggest cop-out of an ending I've ever seen. David Manners and Loretta Young had an awful lot of chemistry in this film and that's one of the reasons why I was so disappointed when she ran off with Geroge Brent's character in the final reel. Brent hardly even had any screen time in They Call It Sin! Granted, it was a fairly short film clocking in at only 63 minutes long, but still. You'd think that the writers would have found some way of pairing Jimmy and Marion up at the end - get rid of his snobby wife and let the two besotted adults find happiness together! Lord knows she's not going to be happy with Dr. Travers (who came off somewhat stiff and conservative in the film).
Has anyone else seen They Call It Sin? What did you think of that ending?
They Call It Sin can be found on Warner Archive's Forbidden Hollywood Collection Vol 4 [here]