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Sinners in Paradise (1938)

Passed | | Drama | 19 May 1938 (USA)
A seaplane departs for China. On board are a nurse escaping a loveless marriage to do work with refugees, a woman hoping to surprise her estranged son, a wealthy heiress trying to distance ... See full summary »



(screenplay), (screenplay) | 2 more credits »

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Complete credited cast:
Jim Taylor
Robert Malone
Marion Martin ...
Iris Compton
Senator Corey
Charlotte Wynters ...
Thelma Chase
Mrs. Franklin Sydney
Jessup (as Donald Barry)
Harrison Brand


A seaplane departs for China. On board are a nurse escaping a loveless marriage to do work with refugees, a woman hoping to surprise her estranged son, a wealthy heiress trying to distance herself from labor troubles, an oily politician, a moll and a mobster fleeing the wrath of the gangs they've double-crossed, two rival munitions salesmen out to cash in on the misery of war, and a fresh-faced young steward. Caught in a course-altering storm, a crash-landing destroys the plane, kills the plane's officers, and tosses the surviving passengers into the sea. They are washed ashore on an isolated island inhabited solely by mysteriously reclusive Mr. Taylor and his servant, Ping. Until Taylor decides if, how and when he will allow them to take his boat back to China for help, this disparate band must work together, change their self-centered ways, and examine their motives for wanting to escape from the island and their pasts. Written by Sister Grimm <srgrimm@teleport.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

island | china | storm | steward | servant | See All (94) »




Passed | See all certifications »




Release Date:

19 May 1938 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Secrets of a Sinner  »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


In Madge Evans' interview by Leonard Maltin in Film Fan Magazine (December 1972), the actress gave the following testimony about filming "Sinners in Paradise": "Well, this was not his (i.e. James Whale) kind of film. He was much too intelligent, much too good a director for this kind of nonsense which was all about people cast adrift on an island, a dreadful picture and he was much, much too good for it. He hated it, and also being a rather up-tight Englishman, he showed that he hated it. You could just see that every time he came to a scene, he was saying, 'Oh, my God,' and that doesn't make anybody feel either confident or happy." See more »


Malone: [flirting] My name is Malone.
Iris: [bored] Does it make you happy?
See more »

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User Reviews

Sundry characters thrown together far from civilization
23 March 2012 | by (Minnesota) – See all my reviews

An airplane sets out for China but doesn't make it: struck down in a storm, it crashes at sea and the passengers wash ashore on an apparently uninhabited island, where they are seemingly without hope of rescue or escape…until they discover John Boles, a mysterious American living on the island in relative luxury. He has a boat—but for reasons of his own, refuses to let the castaways use it to escape.

Boles is solid as the island's primary inhabitant; he has run away from a murder charge, accompanied by a servant (Willie Fung) whose loyalty is complete. His uninvited visitors are a diverse group of characters on this journey for a variety of reasons—some pursuing shady business deals, others running away from personal issues. On the island, events develop and allegiances form; we learn, in bits and pieces, the stories behind some of the main characters.

Boles strikes up a relationship with Madge Evans, an unhappy wife heading to China to escape via a nursing career. Gene Lockhart is a blustery senator and Charlotte Wynters is an heiress—these two stuck up characters are quickly elected by the others to perform the most menial chores.

Marion Martin gives the best performance as a tough young woman on the run from life. "This is pretty funny," she comments on reaching shore and looking around, "I was trying to run away from a nervous breakdown." She pairs up with Bruce Cabot, who has a stack of stolen money (useless on an island) and a pistol (that may come in handy).

The plane crash scene that opens the action is very well done—a great example of a director creating chaos and excitement despite obviously limited resources. Otherwise, the production is solid but nothing out of the ordinary...if there is such a thing as a run of the mill tropical island, this would be it.

Overall, it's entertaining if not great. The characters are interesting but never develop much; the performances are solid; the plot moves fast but rarely surprises.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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