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Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) presents "LAUGHING SINNERS" (1931) (72 min/B&W) -- Starring: Joan Crawford, Neil Hamilton, Clark Gable, Marjorie Rambeau, Guy Kibbee, Cliff Edwards, Roscoe Karns
Directed by Harry Beaumont
The plot is as follows: -- Club entertainer Ivy is desperately in love with her man Howard. Howard has plans to marry for money, however. Unable to tell Ivy to her face, he runs out on her leaving a goodbye note. Ivy is crushed. That night she is stopped from jumping off a bridge by Salvation Army man Carl. As she joins Carl with some of his work, she leaves the fast life and becomes truly happy helping others. Later the restless traveling salesman Howard runs into Ivy again. He tries his best to get her to be his mistress. Will Ivy revert back to her old life and return to Howard, or will she continue straight with Carl?
Crawford and Gable -- she already a star, he a rising actor -- coming together and making early music to the viewer's eyes. Before Hepburn and Tracy, these were the ones the public wanted to see together even if the film in itself was less than memorable, and MGM gave it to them 8 times -- and the rest is history!
Also a feature where one can get to see Crawford dance, sing, and indirectly, essay what would become a breakout role in RAIN only a year later.
Special footnote: -- Most of the film was shot with Johnny Mack Brown in the role of Carl when it was decided to drop this footage and reshoot it with Clark Gable.
BIOS: 1. Harry Beaumont (Director) Date of Birth: 10 February 1888 - Abilene, Kansas Date of Death: 22 December 1966 - Santa Monica, California
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
sweet 'n low18 Mar. 2006
- Published on Amazon.com
This is my FAVORITE Joan Crawford / Clark Gable picture because both characters are so raw and come alive with emotion.
Clark Gable plays Carl Loomis, a Salvation Army worker trying to save the "lost souls." And boy, does Joan's soul need saving in this 1930's Metro classic. Miss Crawford plays Ivy Stevens, a party-girl that likes to drink, dance, and run around with cheap men that don't know how to treat a lady with respect.
When Ivy meets Carl on the streets in a depressed stooper I think it's love at first sight. Carl tries to reform this "laughing sinner." And soon, you'll hear the beat of the Salvation tambourine as Ivy has joined the cause with Carl.
Ivy's lecherous ex-boyfriend is reunited with her and it's a question to see if Ivy will go back to her past life or stay with her new love, Carl and the Army?
Everyone always talks about Joan Crawford. But what about Clark Gable? I think I read somewhere that this was his first picture. And he looks so young and innocent (no mustache) and a lot like Joan's third husband, B-movie actor Phillip Terry.
In my humble opinion, this is one of Joan's best pictures from the 30's because her natural abilities come to life. Perhaps this character was so real to watch because Ivy was a lot like the real Joan Crawford?
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
Laughing Sinners: The Only Sin is Feeling Sorry for Yourself4 Aug. 2003
- Published on Amazon.com
By 1931, Joan Crawford had established herself as a serious actress who could play it straight as the heroine in need of being saved or as the hard-edged bitter woman who had others needing being saved from her. In LAUGHING SINNERS, Crawford is the former who has to hit bottom before she can pull her life together. Director Harry Beaumont gives us Crawford as Ivy Stevens, a chorus girl who is so in love with a caddish Howard Palmer (Neil Hamilton) that she cannot see that being the mistress of a travelling salesman can promise nothing but heartbreak. The first third of the film sets up their basic characters. Crawford simply oozes blind emotion for a man of whom she knows surprisingly little. She ignores the warning signs that such a transient relation keeps pointing to. Crawford even treats Howard to an extended dance routine that looks as if it could have been choreographed today. Here she shows the dancing talent that allowed her to win several real life contests that attracted directors like Beaumont to her in the first place. Neil Hamilton as Howard keeps feeding her lines of dismissal that must have caused audiences of all generations to shout at the screen for her to wake up. His oily manner steals more than a few scenes as he stands as a dramatic counterpoint to Crawford's love-struck myopia. He dumps her using a "Dear Ivy" note. She is shattered and attempts suicide but is saved by a Salvation Army officer Carl (Clark Gable). As soon as he saves her body, he tries to save her soul. Despite his unwillingness to take advantage of her vulnerability, the smoky chemistry between them becomes clear enough, rivalling the real life affair that they were sharing. The most emotionally satisfying parts of the film center around his attempts to help Ivy regain her moral balance. Audiences with a long memory will appreciate the brief appearance of the then Little Rascals star Mary Ann Jackson, who, as Betty, helps Ivy to learn that the attempt to help others often results in helping yourself. Howard makes a predictable return, forcing Ivy to put her new-found inner strength to the test. What Ivy learns is that initial failure is no sin, and her joining the ranks of the Salvation Army proves that the only sin is permitting yourself to be used by others. LAUGHING SINNERS is an entertaining film that underscores this often unappreciated truism.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
this modern age15 Aug. 2009
- Published on Amazon.com
"Laughing Sinners" has always been one of my very favorite movies that Joan made. Joan was perfect in this film because she was believable and her character was complete and able to show her entire aura on screen. I love this movie because it has a great plot and such a strong cast and includes a meaningful storyline as well as a happy ending. The picture starts out the same way that "Mildred Pierce" did, with Joan's character (Ivy) attempting to jump off a bridge. But her knight in shinning armor came to her rescue in the form of a kind-hearted salvation army worker (Clark Gable playing the role of Carl). Throughout the film Ivy has somewhat of an identity crisis as she battles her wanton side and her newfound and more righteous outlook. The scene in the hotel when Bunny (Ivy's pet-name) is reunited with her ex (Neil Hamilton as Howdy) is especially touching because it shows yet another dimension of her. "Laughing Sinners" is also unique because it's one of the only movies that Joan and Clark Gable made together which was not essentially a love story; it's almost a precursor to "Rain" that Joan made the following year. Carl did not do anything for Ivy that he would not have done for anyone else. He cared for her because she was a lost soul in need of love and understanding. Ivy was just another casualty in this world that swallows up its victims whole. But Ivy found solace and happiness which is a lot more than a lot of Joan's other film characters ever found.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
A Blonde Halo8 Feb. 2006
- Published on Amazon.com
This pre-code Crawford/Gable pairing concerns Ivy "Bunny" Stevens (Joan Crawford), a dancer in a cheap nightclub whose relationship with "Howdy" (Neil Hamilton) turns sour when he steps out on her. She is absolutely devastated and contemplates suicide until a Salvation Army man (Clark Gable) saves not only her life but her soul. She joins him, but finds herself stumbling when she runs into her ex.
There are plenty of things in this film that were restricted from films only a few years later including nude silhouettes, changing scenes, unmarried couples living together, marital infidelity, and excessive use of alcohol during Prohibition.
Crawford is the shining star of this film. We get to see why she was so popular in nightclubs with her frantic dancing and charming singing. We do hear her utilizing the round vowel speech patterns of early talkies, but she is wonderful in her emotional scenes.
Gable is not at his most attractive; his teeth do not seem to have been fixed yet and his character is softer than his later masculine roles, but his gaze is paralyzing.
Guy Kibbee makes an impression in his small role as the voice of reason despite his drunkenness. His scenes are beautifully sincere.
Little Rascals fans will enjoy a small cameo of Mary Ann Jackson.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Crawford And Gable In An Unusual Early Screen Teaming9 Feb. 2005
- Published on Amazon.com
MGM legends Joan Crawford and Clark Gable always created magic on screen together in their 8 teamings from 1931 to 1940, often regardless of the artistic merits of the films as a whole. 1931's "Laughing Sinners", which was their second time together on screen was probably one of their more unusual efforts and only came about because of their dynamic work together in Joan's previous starring effort "Dance, Fools, Dance". In that gangster effort the pair made a potent combination in their scenes together despite Gable appearing only in a small supporting role. Their obvious electricity together made MGM decide to scrap most of the footage from Joan's next effort titled "Complete Surrender", which had Johnny Mack Brown starring with Joan and largely refilm the whole effort with Clark Gable taking over the part of the saintly Salvation Army Worker who rescues Joan's character from the seamy side of life not once but twice. While it certainly lacks the punch of their sterling work together in their next effort the same year in "Possessed", taken on its own level "Laughing Sinner", is a interesting snapshot of both performers still "creating", themselves and the personas that movie audiences would clamour to see in the succeeding years when the Crawford/Gable combination spelt big box Office for MGM and turned both performers into Hollywood icons.
Based on the stage play "Torch Song", by Kenyon Nicholson the story of "Laughing Sinners", opens with good time girl Ivy Stevens (Joan Crawford),known as "Bunny", to her friends working as a singer/dancer in a cafe and having an all consuming relationship; most of the time unfortunately long distance, with travelling salesman Howard Palmer (Neil Hamilton), who spends his life travelling the country , staying in flea bitten hotels and often sampling the local ladies on his stopovers. Despite the unsatisfactory nature of the relationship Ivy loves him totally and when Howard decides to settle down and marry the "respectable",girl back home Ivy's whole purpose for living come scrashing down. She attempts to end her life by jumping off a bridge only to be rescued by a Salvation Army Officer named Carl Loomis(Clark Gable). At first cynical of his purpose in "rescuing", her Ivy begins to see the good in Carl and the great purpose in his work and before too long she joins the Salvation Army. All goes well for some time until one evening while conducting one of their group meetings on a street corner Ivy happens to be spotted by Howard who is back in town on another of his trips. By this time unhappily married Howard is anxious to rekindle something with Ivy and doesn't for one minute believe her sincerity in getting involved in Carl's work. Ivy finds herself falling yet again for Howard's rather questionable charm despite herself which results in her getting drunk and spending the night with him. At this moment Carl comes to see her and an angry confrontation occurs between Howard and Carl after which Carl shows his sincere regard and indeed love for Ivy by urging her to try again despite her "lapse", in living a decent life that has a future. Realising the two bit, undesirable life she has mistakenly fallen back into with Howard who will never change, Ivy returns to Carl and the work of the Salvation Army which holds the promise of the kind of inclusive and caring future that Ivy now realises she wants above all else.
"Laughing Sinners", could be viewed as preposterous hokum however it is the playing of the three leads that really holds the film together. Much discussion has been made of Clark Gable seemingly being miscast however one must remember that the "Clark Gable Persona", that movie goers and film buffs know so well now looking back was of course definately still on the drawing board in 1931 when Gable did many varied types of roles before he settled into the "Rhett Butler" image for which he is so famous. It is hard to piture him as a Salvation Army evangelist however he is sincere in his playing and teams as always very well with Joan Crawford. Joan's famous shopgirl image was also only being formed around this time and interestingly "Laughing Sinners", captures her during her brief "blonde phase", when the blonde look was hugely popular on screen in the early thirties. Joan as always gives her all in the role of Ivy and while she seems more at home in the scenes as the part time girlfriend of Neil Hamilton's character she does display a simple sincerity in those scenes when she joins the Salvation Army and shares scenes with Clark Gable. Neil Hamilton who of course much later won fame for playing Commissioner Gordon on the television classic "Batman" in the 1960's does very well as the no good rogue Howard who drives Ivy to attempt suicide and then expects her to come back to him when things dont work out for him on the homefront. His is really the male role with the most dramatic weight to it and he makes an interesting contrast to Gable's character which personifies the basic good that was a requirement in most pictures around this time. The raw and often sordid life of the 1930's travelling saleman and the women who "wait", for them at each of their stops is perhaps the most vivid image to come out of "Laughing Sinners", and admittedly the story doesn't hold back from painting a rather unsavoury look at life on the road and the booze, one night stands, and seedy hotels inhabited by men who lead these rather aimless lives with no firm roots anywhere.
While no great classic "Laughing Sinners" is also not your typical glamourous Crawford/Gable picture either. I does reveals the great combination of Crawford and Gable as a work in progress, still looking for its successful formula. These early 30's film efforts I find have a refreshing ability to show the underbelly of life at that time which often doesn't make a very pretty picture. Certainly "Laughing Sinners", has its share of unsavoury and unlikeable characters that while not always terribly realistic do give the film that slight hard edge typical of the early 30's. It also however paints a picture of hope in some scenes which helps make it an interesting viewing experience. Definately required viewing for all Joan Crawford and Clark Gable fans.