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Torch Singer (1933)

Passed | | Drama, Musical, Romance | 8 September 1933 (USA)
When she can't support her illegitimate child, an abandoned young woman puts her up for adoption and pursues a career as a torch singer.


(story "Mike"), (screenplay) (as Lenore Coffee) | 1 more credit »

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Complete credited cast:
Sally Trent, aka Mimi Benton
Michael 'Mike' Gardner
Dora Nichols
Bobby, Dora's Baby at 1 Year (as Baby Le Roy)
Andrew 'Juddy' Judson
Sam Godfrey ...
Harry, Radio Announcer
Florence Roberts ...
Mother Angelica
Virginia Hammond ...
Mrs. Julia Judson
Mildred Washington ...
Carrie, Mimi's Maid
Sally at 5 Years
Miss Spaulding
Albert Conti ...
Agatha Alden


Sally Trent has an illegitimate child, but cannot support her and gives the baby up for adoption. The father, Michael Gardner, leaves for China not knowing about the baby, and she assumes he has abandoned her for life. She gets a job as a torch singer, changes her name to Mimi Benton, and becomes notorious for her drinking and philadering. Mimi fills in on a children's radio program as the character "Aunt Jenny," singing and telling bedtime stories, and eventually uses the airtime to find her long lost daughter, part with her wild lifestyle, and reunite with Michael. Written by sarasdano

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


The worst woman in New York...sang the best love songs! Lips that had kissed more men than she could remember ...crooned lullabies no one could forget!


Drama | Musical | Romance


Passed | See all certifications »




Release Date:

8 September 1933 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Broadway Singer  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Noiseless Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


One of over 700 Paramount Productions, filmed between 1929 and 1949, which were sold to MCA/Universal in 1958 for television distribution, and have been owned and controlled by Universal ever since. See more »


Mimi Benton: [to her newborn daughter] Why couldn't you have been a boy? This world's such a tough place for a girl to come to.
See more »


Featured in Complicated Women (2003) See more »


Give Me Liberty or Give Me Love
Music by Ralph Rainger
Lyric by Leo Robin
Played during the opening credits and at the end
Sung by Claudette Colbert at a nightclub
Reprised by Claudette Colbert at a nightclub
See more »

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User Reviews

Colbert is great, the movie a clumsy production (there were even two directors)
24 September 2011 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

Torch Singer (1933)

A hobbled movie if you expect something naturalistic and moving, but Claudette Colbert is so convincing and terrific she almost compensates. A Depression-era tale of an affair that produced a baby, and then the mother having to struggle alone trying and failing to raise it. It takes off from there, as Colbert as the mother makes good with her life in other ways. The baby of course is still in the back of her mind, and causes a couple of dramatic twists later on.

The plot is a huge contrivance, and so you have to jump in and see it as a kind of morality tale, packaged a little too neatly and with some comic and tragic episodes almost too forcefully inserted. It's all interesting and fun, though, and Colbert really is a versatile and heartfelt actress here.

The one thing she may not do so well for modern audiences is sing so well, and as the title suggests, this is a key part of the middle of the movie. The orchestras are great, and the parade of side characters rather convincing as we go along, however. The sudden reappearance of the father, and the rather neat coincidences that follow, were way too much for me to swallow, however, especially the patched-on ten second last scene, which could have at least had some honest drama to it. You'll see.

It's probably the ending most people wanted to see, however, and a justification of what had happened earlier (all of which is a kind of taboo just a year later when the Hays Code would have made an out-of-wedlock birth a more serious offense). I think it's handled here in a believable way, however, at first, so thank goodness it was finished before the artifice of the later 1930s took over these kinds of themes.

The movie also has some nice (if neatly packaged) insights to the crude beginnings of commercial radio, which was always live, and which amounted to some people standing in front of a microphone. This was much like television was in its first years after WWII, with live broadcasts the necessity. And Colbert sings her own songs in this movie, for better or for worse. A total period effort, in tone and in content.

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