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""Laughing Sinners" was good for me - I danced well, acted well, and hit off a few sparks, on screen and off,
with and up-and-coming young actor named Clark Gable." -Joan Crawford

"Laughing Sinners" 1931

Cast: Cast: Joan Crawford (as Ivy 'Bunny' Stevens), Neil Hamilton, Clark Gable, Marjorie Rambeau, Guy Kibbee, Cliff Edwards, Roscoe Karns, Gertrude Short,
George Cooper, George F. Marion, Bert Woodruff.

Release date - May 30, 1931

Running time - 71 minutes (8 reels)

Directed by - Harry Beaumont

Writing Credits - Edith Fitzgerald (additional dialogue), Martin Flavin (dialogue), Bess Meredyth and Kenyon Nicholson (for the play, Torch Song)

Producer - Unknown

Cinematographers - Charles Rosher, George Nogle, Roy Noble (Asst. cam)
and Harry Marble (Asst. cam)

Costumes - Adrian

Studio - MGM

Production Began - Early February, 1931


Movie Synopsis

Ivy "Bunny" Stevens (Joan) is a chorus girl, who falls for the sleazy salesman, Howard "Howdy" Palmer (Neil Hamilton). After dumping her in order to marry his bosses daughter, Ivy (Joan) decides to end it all by jumping from a bridge. She is saved in the nick of time by kind hearted Salvation Army Officer, Carl Loomis (Clark Gable) and begins to rebuild her life with him, taking comfort that she is helping others.

When she does run into Howard again, all of her old emotions resurface, and once again she gives in to her desires, she even considers, albeit briefly, giving up her new life, for him. In a blatantly moralistic good vs evil tale, Laughing Sinners showed the audiences of the day, that good girls finish first.


Interesting Trivia

The original title of the film was, "Complete Surrender."

Johnny Mack Brown was originally cast and completed all of his scenes as the Salvation Army Officer who saves Joan's life. All of his scenes were cut and reshot with Clark Gable in his role. Modern sources state that a preview of the film had such a bad reception that M-G-M production head Irving Thalberg decided to re-shoot part of the picture, replace Brown with Clark Gable, and release it as Laughing Sinners. This film was one of three in which Gable and Crawford co-starred in 1931, establishing them as a popular romantic "team," during much of the 1930s. One of the few times we see a clean shaven Clark Gable on screen. [www.imdb.com].

Clara Blandick was listed in a news item as being in the cast, but, her participation in the completed film has not been determined.

Songs: "Brighten the Corner Where You Are" words and music by Charles H. Gabriel and Ina D. Ogden; "What Can I Do?--I Love That Man," words and music by Martin Broones.

Cost: $338K/Domestic Studio Gross: $624K/Foreign Studio Gross: $141K/ Profit:$156K

Box Office Receipts: $10,486,136.84.

Inflation Value in 2007: $15,819,780.60


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Reviewer, writerdonna7, says...

This is probably the weakest of the Crawford-Gable pairings, but it's still fun to watch. Joan Crawford plays Ivy "Bunny" Stevens, a vivacious chorus girl working in a two-bit hotel and having a heavy romance with Howard Palmer (Neil Hamilton), a "heel" who plans - unbeknownst to Ivy - to drop her and marry the boss' daughter. When Palmer leaves "Bunny" a goodbye note after she sings a "torch song" to him and does a spirited dance, she is crestfallen and tries to commit suicide by jumping off a bridge (shades of "Mildred Pierce"). But Clark Gable, woefully miscast as a pious Salvation Army preacher named Carl Loomis, comes to the rescue and gets her to don the cloak and take to a life of good deeds for the misfortunate.

Oh, this is creaky, but still a hoot. It's worthwhile just to see the very young Gable (struggling with some terribly sincere dialogue) and Crawford, here a beautiful blonde -- a mere girl really. It's fun to see her dance with that cheeky, total abandon; she's full of energy. There are patches of dreadful acting, but the real fun comes at the end when sincere Ivy runs across her old flame who convinces her to have a one night stand (very pre-Code). The poor kid is so ashamed afterwards of her transgression with this man she once loved that she takes a few nips and dances on top of a table for a room full of men. Delicious fun! Then, even better, Gable comes to the rescue, willing to fight for Ivy's virtue. He assures Ivy that her one mistake is no reason to shed the cloak and happiness is restored! Ivy realizes that her former lover is a selfish cad and that she has more self esteem, enough to put him behind her forever. She walks to the horizon, arm in arm, with Gable.

To see Joan, very young and a real cutie, laughing recklessly in the table scene, and Gable, slightly uncomfortable in his role but rather endearing -- well, it's priceless. That's what makes these old movies such treasures! That and the cheap, but effective sentiment -- effective because it's so damn innocent and somehow sincere. Creaky and not essential, but still fun

Three Stars

Other Reviews

A. D. S. of the "New York Times" had this to say, "Miss Crawford has seldom looked so radiantly alive and beautiful; she has tempered the intense and not a little self-conscious quality of her acting without hurting her vibrant and breath-catching spirit. In the cabaret scene she gets through her dancing scenes in excellent fashion and even manages a torch song called 'What Can I Do? - I Love That Man!' very commendably."

TV Guide says, "LAUGHING SINNERS had already finished shooting when the studio bosses saw the response to Gable as Crawford's man in DANCE, FOOLS, DANCE, so they cut all the already-shot footage with Johnny Mack Brown and reshot the scenes with Gable, who was billed under Neil Hamilton. Crawford is a nightclub thrush who gets tossed aside by a shifty traveling salesman, Hamilton, whom she thinks the sun rises and falls upon. When he dumps her, she thinks there's nothing left to live for so she takes a dive off a bridge into the local river. Gable, a Salvation Army worker, saves her and begins to redo her life. Under his tutelage, she forswears the nightery existence and begins to work next to him in his evangelistic occupation. Soon enough, she's also in uniform, pounding the tambourine on street corners. All is well until she again meets Hamilton at a local hotel and her passion for him outstrips her good sense. It isn't long before she's in Hamilton's power. Gable breaks in on the two of them, knocks Hamilton for a loop, then says he's willing to take Crawford back into his life if she's willing to try it again. Crawford understands that a life with Hamilton would be likely to put her back in the river she'd been rescued from in reel one, so she tosses him aside and goes off with Gable. The picture was originally released as COMPLETE SURRENDER before Thalberg saw sparks in the Crawford-Gable combination and ordered the new scenes. The two were having an off-screen romance at the time and that could readily be recognized on the screen. Crawford was a blonde for LAUGHING SINNERS and, as a woman of easy morals, was in training for the part that would make her an international star in RAIN, the following year. "What Can I Do? I Love That Man" is sung well by Crawford, who was a musical performer before giving her vocal cords a rest as a dramatic actress. The play upon which this was based was not a hit, so one wonders why they chose to make it as a film." - 2 stars

crazy4cinema.com says, "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."

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