Actors and Sin (1952) Poster

User Reviews

Review this title
7 Reviews
Sort by:
Filter by Rating:
Vanity, thy name is Ben Hecht!
MartinHafer12 August 2009
Warning: Spoilers
Ben Hecht was an amazingly good writer, there's no doubt about it. With such wonderful screenplays such as THE FRONT PAGE and NOTHING SACRED, he really had a way with dialog and wit. On a few rare occasions, he also directed or produced films--so it's obvious he was talented. However, with ACTOR'S AND SIN, he tried to do it all, as he wrote, produced and co-directed the film. In addition, he even had his very young daughter star in the film! Talk about a vanity project! And, unfortunately, this vanity project turned out to be horrible--absolutely horrible. He just apparently bit off more than he could chew. The film is made up of two short films. Both are absolutely dreadful but for different reasons.

The first part stars Edward G. Robinson and Marsha Hunt. He plays her father and they are both Broadway actors. He is an old hand at acting and has played a variety of parts, big and small. Hunt is a woman on the cusp of greatness. She is about to become one of the greatest stars on the stage. However, she cannot handle it, and soon the fame goes to her head. She is the worst sort of prima donna--treating those around her with contempt, drinking heavily and having a variety of affairs just out of sheer boredom and willfulness. As a result, though she is talented, her reputation soon precedes her and she becomes a bit of a joke. Then, her talent begins to slip as well and she is on the verge of becoming a has-been. During all this time, her father defends her and cannot allow himself to admit she is an awful person. To him, she is the greatest actress alive. Eventually, she is murdered but it's a lot like MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS--practically everyone who knew her could have easily done it! In the end, in a rather contrived moment you see who the real murderer is...or at least who the exposition say is the murderer, as he is now dead and can't say whether or not he actually did it!!

What was so bad about this segment was not so much the acting but the direction. While Robinson and Hunt are fine actors, here they are over-acting repeatedly--like all their scenes are on stage in front of an audience. They are loud and over-emote repeatedly and it's rather embarrassing. It is the job of the director to get good performances out of actors and give them guidance--in this case, it was all wrong. As for the writing, the idea was excellent (though a lot like ALL ABOUT EVE) but the execution was dull--especially the contrived ending.

The second segment is incredibly bad though a bit more enjoyable at times. Ben Hecht's very untalented and shrill daughter played the lead and that is a serious problem. With no discernible acting ability and little experience, having the film hinge on her was simply insane. To make matters worse, another young actor was used as well and he was even worse--looking the wrong direction when he gave his lines as well as looking as if he's struggling to read the cue cards.

The plot is really silly and impossible to believe. Eddie Albert plays a Hollywood agent who is pretty crafty (i.e., he's a born liar). By mistake, a terrible screenplay that was sent to him was forwarded to a Hollywood big-shot, J.B. Cobb (Alan Reed). Oddly, Cobb loved the script and wanted it at any cost. But, in a kooky twist, it turns out that this sexy love story was written by a small child (Jenny Hecht). While the script says she's 9 and she was about 10 when she made the film, she looked and talked like a 6 year-old. But, talent-wise, you'd have thought she was a toddler...with colic! She simply had no discernible talent at all--none. She also had zero charisma and was as pleasant as a boil--and this made the job of all the adult actors very difficult. After all, how do you try to overcome a boorish kid who is in many of the scenes and who is loud and woefully unlikable? The end result is sort of like a migraine that won't go away!

Surprisingly, Jenny did have a career in film after this, though not surprisingly, her father was never allowed such latitude on a project--no more directing or producing after this debacle! In fact, this movie was pretty much hidden until very recently when it was released on DVD. After seeing it, I can understand exactly why you wouldn't see this film on TV or in video stores all these years!

Overall, a truly awful film in most every way. Rarely have I seen such big-name actors and a famous writer involved with such a bad project.
6 out of 9 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Two unrelated short stories by Ben Hecht - "Actor's Blood" and "Concerning A Woman Of Sin".
greenf7411 December 2011
There is no apostrophe in the title of this film! Repeat: NO apostrophe! Of course there isn't. That would be illiterate. I have attempted to corrected this elementary error, but the IMDb has informed me that the title is locked. However, any other source - whether it be Halliwell's Film Guide or Leonard Maltin's guide or Richard Corliss's book about Hollywood screenwriters or any of the books about Ben Hecht or Wikipedia - will confirm what I say. And I've seen the film, too.

It's a rather enjoyable movie, although the low budget is obvious. Ben Hecht's directing efforts are all fairly odd, and this is simply a portmanteau movie, telling two short stories instead of one long one. The first story, "Actor's Blood" is dramatic and sentimental and features a fine performance by Edward G. Robinson as a tragic character. The second is raucously comic, although it worked better on the page than it does on the screen. Eddie Albert is pretty funny as an outrageous agent promoting an idiotic novel. Hecht's daughter Jenny plays an annoying child, and is herself annoying.
3 out of 6 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Two short films, one excellent, the other terrible
clanciai5 February 2019
This was the first film Ben Hecht made in six years after "The Specter of the Rose", an ambitious ballet psychological thriller, and you recognize the high strung and exaggerated drama from that extreme melodrama, and Edward G. Robinson is the right character for this almost freak show. "Actor's Blood" however is only 45 minutes, and it will not disappoint you, but it is followed by another 45 minutes feature called "Woman of Sin" which is supposed to be a comedy but isn't funny at all. It's about a child star, apparently the director's own daughter, who is allowed to steal the show with disastrous consequences - this is a terrble film, intended as a satire of the film industry in Hollywood and how it works with the producers, but it is not worth spending your time. If you happen to this film, enjoy the "Actor's Blood", be prepeared that it 's ony 45 minutes, and then turn off before the other film begins, and you will be spared the worst.
0 out of 0 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Actor's and Sin by Ben Hecht
garth15531 October 2018
Firstly, there absolutely IS an apostrophe in the title of this film! The title is shown on screen as 'Actor's Blood and Woman of Sin' with the words 'Actor's', 'And' and 'Sin' in bold, while the other words are in grey; the title is therefore meant to be 'Actor's and Sin'. I agree that some posters and references miss out the apostrophe, but it's there in the film!

As regards the film itself, it is far from being alone as a portmanteau production, and the two parts are meant to complement each other. The first story - 'Actor's Blood' - is a melodramatic tale about the theatre which is very theatrically staged. The actors play it very straight. Edward G. Robinson, in particular, is very stilted and stagy in his performance; there again, he is playing a former 'ham' actor whose reviews said as much, so his take on the role is fitting. The story is no match for Conan Doyle, but is an entertaining enough whodunit with an implausible but acceptable twist at the end. Marsha Hunt and Dan O'Herlihy are reliable, as always. The second story, 'Woman of Sin' is a farcical skit on contemporary Hollywood. The plot doesn't bear analysis, but that's not the point. I found it funny and witty (not the same things!). Eddie Albert, Tracey Roberts and Alan Reed deliver fluent, satisfying performances which drive the narrative forward convincingly. Ben Hecht's daughter Jenny plays Daisy as a precocious yet amusingly infantile nine-year-old. She made me laugh, anyway, especially near the end when she is unseen, in the taxi, answering Higgins's orders with 'Check... check...'. The only weak link was Alan Mendez as Daisy's friend, Capt. Moriarty. He IS only a kid though! I enjoyed this film though I recognise it's no 'Citizen Kane'. There again, it wasn't trying to be.
0 out of 0 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Oh the egos of the stage and cinema, as deliciously documented by one of the great writers of our time.
mark.waltz24 May 2018
Warning: Spoilers
Two different stories of differing moods with completely different casts show the shallowness of both the stage in New York and the cinema in Los Angeles and indicate that in this dog-eat-dog world, only the top breeds will come out on top, and not necessarily with their souls intact. The first part focuses on Broadway leading lady Marsha Hunt who is the daughter of a famous character actor (Edward G. Robinson), showing her rise from wide-eyed ingenue to much hated diva. Her ego gets the best of her as she goes from much praised newcomer to over-the-top critically maligned star. It starts with her dead body being found (surrounded by her pet cockatoos) and the questioning of various suspects in her supposed murder. A melodramatic monologue by Robinson clears everything up with a couple of surprises and an interesting twist. Hunt doesn't really get the opportunity to make a well rounded character here, yet Robinson gives many layers in his performance as the father who basically fueled her ego and helped turn her into the monster she became. Some great shots of Broadway theater marquees of the time adds a realistic touch to this expose on the backstage drama on the great white way.

Then comes the Hollywood segment, a deliciously funny comedy about writing agent Eddie Albert's involvement with a mysterious writer who has written something he considers just dreadful but sends out as a gag to a Hollywood studio head that ends up as the most anticipated new movie since "Gone With the Wind". Albert is seen talking to this helium voiced writer on the phone, making it obvious to the audience what is going on, and when the writer (Jenny Hecht) does appear, the set is staged for a lampoon of Hollywood ego that will keep you in stitches. Of the supporting cast in both parts, the only actor I recognized was portly Jody Gilbert in a very funny performance as Hecht's mother. Critics of the time found Hecht to be like fingernails down a chalkboard, but I found her acting style appropriate for the character she was playing, filled with witty observations about the ridiculousness of movie making that hold true to this day.

Ironically, Hecht is the daughter of the film's writer and director (Ben Hecht) who utilized his knowledge and wry wit to lampoon an industry he loved but couldn't deny the truth about. He takes extremism to its heights in making fun of every image of actor, writer, director and producer, as well as the hangers on who have no real liking of the Broadway and Hollywood types other than to be a part of its supposed glory. It's the type of thing that future comedy writers like Woody Allen, Mel Brooks and Neil Simon specialized in, but had only been attacked with dramatic tones before with subtlety in "All About Eve" (for the stage) and "Sunset Blvd." (for the screen). For me, the two different segments contrast each other in moods, but together make a satisfying double bill of two soul destroying industries where one's inner strength must overcome one's desire to be immortal.
0 out of 0 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Two Movies in One
zeemanguy11 April 2003
The first half is a 43 minute film called Actor's Blood. Edward G. Robinson plays an older actor whose daughter is a current star but troubled. She dies at the start and the rest of the film is a who done it. This part is pretty good. The second film stars Eddie Albert and is a fairly silly story about a nine year old female author that writes adult love stories. This one is called Woman Of Sin.
3 out of 12 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Is this the original Grindhouse?
film-critic11 November 2007
"Actor's and Sin" had heart and soul seeping from every corner, but what it lacked was that standard to bring it out of the "made-for-TV" category. While this film was a feature in its own right, it had a feel of simplicity that one could not shake. Shakespeare it was not, but this little film could have put more "humph" into its life and fought for a possible cult-classic nomination.

"Actor's and Sin" was very entertaining, and for the time of its release, it would have been a fun way to spend a rainy afternoon. It begins with a drama of sorts. Marsha Hunt plays an actress who is about to strike it rich on Broadway. As she follows the path of fame and fortune, the path becomes a crooked one with each performance suddenly bubbling with more villains. Eventually, she is found dead – possible suicide – one could guess all day until Daddy-dearest decides to play "Clue" and unmask the real killer. Entitled "Actor's Blood", this was the weaker of the two. It was heavy, dull, overly dramatic, and our characters seemed like they were lifted from Cracker Jack boxes than film school. While the cinematography was simple enough with decent lighting and impressive cut scenes, what brought this opener down was two parts, the first is the story and the second were the actors. "Actor's Blood" was a 43-minute short that could have been about 20-minutes shorter. Too many characters were introduced in such a short amount of time that not enough time was devoted to development. It was tough to follow some and to fully understand their roles in the climaxing moment. If "Actor's Blood" would have been a feature film, it still would have only had about 20-minutes of good meat, with the rest just fatty tissue. The actors were laughable at best. Edward G. Robinson loved his fatherly character so much that he decided to bore us with long monologues, pompous entrances, and a finale that cried melodrama. It was pointless and at times certain to be "MST3K-ed" by a group of college freshman. This opening film had everything we didn't want to begin with, but thankfully our desserts were enough to bring this film from horrid to mediocre.

The second part of "Actor's and Sin" is entitled "Woman of Sin", in which a slimy Hollywood agent unknowingly options a script for a 9-year old bratty girl (insert laughter here or loud "ZOING"). This second segment seemed to pull everything that went wrong with the first, transform it into greatness, and insert it back into the film. The characters were strong and had an honest humor to them, the concept was fun – albeit maybe dated – but fun, and the beats seemed to gel well with the length of this film. Eddie Albert played Orlando Higgins with so much pizazz and energy; it is hard to keep your eyes on anyone else but him during the short. Those with an infatuation with "The Flintstones" should watch "Woman of Sin" to see Alan Reed – Mr. Fred Flintstone himself – as well as hear him as the big shot executive caught in the shuffle. This is a great parody of Hollywood, which takes the dirtiness of Ari Gold from "Entourage" and brings him into a Preston Sturges-esquire film. Watch when you meet the child's mother for the first time, the entire scene is reminiscent of Lynch or Aronofsky, very surreal, very eerie, very dark – but it counters the tone of the film very well. Our young writer, Daisy Marcher (played by the director/producer's daughter Jenny) is very good at her performance. She is feisty, cruel, and exactly what you would not think of a young girl writing about a woman and sin. This second half was phenomenal. It brought together the zaniness of working in the film business with the sleaze of truth. It was funny and upbeat with pacing that made you wish it was another hour long. Nearly the direct opposite of "Actor's Blood", "Woman of Sin" pulls out as the obvious winner and my vote for viewing this film at least once.

Overall, this was a mediocre entry into the world of cinema. There was a level of annoyance with "Actor's Blood", with the wooden overly dramatic performances and the trite story that could have been shortened another twenty minutes. Yet, this film was saved by its second half. "Woman of Sin" reminded me of a Preston Sturges film, with the symbolism, energy, and audacity coming through every scene. It was (unlike the first) original and a definite suggestion to friends. Alas, I cannot suggest this entire film. It is a self-produced independent film that is a unique idea, but developed incorrectly. One could tell that there was more passion and enjoyment in the second half than the first – perhaps with a change of directors this happened, but there was no consistency or cohesiveness. For "Actor's and Sin" to work the two films had to connect at some level. It needed to be one film to the viewer, but two films on the VHS box. There was nothing to make these two short films fit together, thus they suffered by merely working solo, with an obvious lack in the front, and a bit too bottom heavy. I liked, but not loved. This film did raise itself above the one-star rating with its "Woman of Sin", but not too much further. Watch once, repeat viewings are not necessary.

Grade: *** out of *****
2 out of 9 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.

See also

Awards | FAQ | User Ratings | External Reviews | Metacritic Reviews

Recently Viewed