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Seven Sinners (1940)



Seven Sinners was made by Universal and draws on Wayne's image in Stagecoach as a figure of simple gallantry and transparent honesty. The film was essentially a lively concoction designed to show off the talents of Marlene Dietrich following her spectacular comeback in Destry Rides Again (1939) after being branded as "box-office poison." There as here, she played an entertainer of dubious background. This time the setting was switched from the Old West to the South Sea Islands and she appears as Bijou, a torch singer who collects deportation orders as regularly as she draws pay when the menfolk riot over her café appearances.

She is the woman of the world who is attracted by the naive charm and good manners of the spruce navy lieutenant Dan Brent (John Wayne) as a relief from the eager lust she more commonly encounters. Having heard her perform at the Seven Sinners Café, he presents her with a bunch of orchids and invites her to sing aboard his ship. His superior officers are concerned by his passionate interest in the "lady" and, though she falls deeply in love with him, she knows that his navy record is in danger and gives him up just as he is ready to abandon the navy for her. She also makes the sacrifice to save him from the murderous jealousy of her knife-wielding admirer Antro (Oscar Homolka) but the film arranges a splendid fight with Wayne taking off his jacket and striding into the café to take on Antro and a dozen heavies, hugely enjoying himself with navy support arriving to give him a helping hand. When Wayne is knocked out at the end of the battle, this gives Bijou the chance to slip out of his life.

The film relates far more to Dietrich's career than it does to Wayne's, being built to the formula of Dietrich's total capitulation to a man—the right man—as established in Morocco and Destry among others, but here treated in much lighter fashion. Wayne's part was reportedly written for Tyrone Power though Wayne probably handles it in a lazier, more suitable manner than Power would have done.

This film was directed by Tay Garnett, who also directed John Wayne in a radio program in 1942 called Three Sheets To The Wind.

Cast
Lt. Dan Brent John Wayne
Bijou Marlene Dietrich
Dr. Martin Albert Dekker
Little Ned Broderick Crawford
Dorothy Henderson Anna Lee
Sasha Mischa Auer
Tony Billy Gilbert
Governor Samuel S. Hinds
Antro Oscar Homolka
Capt. Church Reginald Denny
Ensign James Craig
Ensign William Bakewell
First Mate Herbert Rawlinson
Rubio Antonio Moreno

Shooting in August 1940. Released October 25, 1940 (US), April 28, 1941 (Great Britain).
Reissued in 1947 in Great Britain under the title Café of the Seven Sinners.
A new screenplay from the same story was filmed as South Sea Sinner (1949), released in Great Britain as East of Java.



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