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The Sin Ship (1931)

Passed | | Drama | 18 April 1931 (USA)
A lecherous ship captain becomes spiritually changed by a female passenger, not realizing she and her "minister" husband are really bank robbers.



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Complete credited cast:
Frisco Kitty
Smiley Marsden
Russ Powell ...
Inspector Colby


A minister and his wife miss their steamer, so they manage to gain passage on the gruff, middle-aged Captain Sam McVey's ship. But McVey isn't willing to let them ride entirely for free and attempts to force himself on the minister's beautiful wife when he gets her alone in his cabin "for tea." The wife rebuffs his advances and her strong words cause a change to come over him, a desire to be decent. Little does McVey know that the seemingly decent couple are not who they seem. They're Smiley Marsden and Frisco Kitty, bank robbers on the run. But Frisco Kitty finds herself being changed by the captain as well, and becomes ashamed of her ways. What will happen when the truth comes out? Written by cupcakes

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


She Learned to Love From the Man She hated! (Print ad- Evening Leader, ((Corning, N. Y.)) 20 June 1931)




Passed | See all certifications »




Release Date:

18 April 1931 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

A Nau do Pecado  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(RCA Photophone System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?


When Frisco Kitty Mary Astor returns from a rough encounter with Captain Sam McVey Louis Wolheim, she tells her cohort Smiley Marsden Ian Keith that "McVey, our noble captain, just pulled a hairy ape gag on me," a reference to the brutish title character in the Eugene O'Neill play filmed as The Hairy Ape (1944).)

In O'Neill's original 1922 Broadway production, Wolheim became famous as the title character, a coaler on an ocean liner. See more »


Smiley Marsden: [to Frisco Kitty after hitting her] Now get this through your dumb nut - ya came here with me and your gonna stick with me, understand? I'm not gonna let any half-baked captain of a canoe take anything away from me. Whether I want it or not. And don't forget it.
See more »

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User Reviews

Profoundly sad....
5 June 2010 | by (Bradenton, Florida) – See all my reviews

Louis Wolheim was an incredibly magnetic actor. While his looks were about as far from a handsome leading man as you can get, he managed to carve out a nice niche for himself in films. Every time I've seen him in a film, he managed to brighten up the tale with his earthy good acting, incredibly ugly mug as well as vulnerability. He was one of the most memorable actors, if not THE most memorable actor, in "All Quiet on the Western Front". And, in smaller-scale productions like "Danger Lights" and "The Sin Ship", he managed to elevate mediocre stories to a much higher level. Someone must have noticed his talents, as with "The Sin Ship", the studios finally let him star in a film AND direct it as well. The only problem is, Wolheim was dead before the film debuted! He was dead from stomach cancer just shy of his 51st birthday...and since this was his last film, it made it just a little bit sad to watch.

Now I know that this film is very on believability. You just have to accept the film for what it is and if you do you will no doubt be rewarded. The film begins with the hard-living Wolheim and his buddy (Hugh Herbert--in a role that was VERY different from his usual screen persona) after they arrived back at port after a voyage. It seem that the Captain (Wolheim) is in the mood for 'dames and booze' but something distracts him on the way. A preacher and his pretty wife (Mary Astor) have missed their boat and were looking for passage on some other ship. Oddly, though, with Wolheim it was like love at first sight--he was totally captivated by Astor's beauty and sweet good looks. So, when the pair eventually check with Wolheim about using his boat, the gruff Captain was more than willing to accommodate them. In fact, he even agreed to cut their shore leave short and take them for free since it was 'God's work'.

On the voyage, Wolheim eventually shows his hand--coming on to Astor like a Moose in heat! However, she berates him--calling him an animal and shaming him. At this point, a profound change takes place. Wolheim realizes she's right--he IS like an animal and he wants better for himself. So, he quickly cleans himself off, demands that his men treat the passengers with the utmost civility and he turns over a new leaf. Surely this woman is NOT some dame but a lady! What Wolheim doesn't know is that Astor and her 'husband' are actually crooks on the run. They are about as far from the saintly couple they appear to be as possible--especially the no-account preacher. Yet, the more Wolheim treats Astor like a lady, the more guilty she feels for her lies. In other words, she starts to want to be the woman Wolheim thinks she is. It's all very sweet, actually, to see both characters change. But there is still the problem of the evil preacher and the fact that they are wanted by authorities in Seattle. How can all this be sorted out and work out by the end of the film? Well, while the ending is perhaps too perfect, it is very satisfying and sweet. Thanks, of course, to a dynamic performance by the late and exceptionally talented Wolheim. Who knows what further work he might have done...

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