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Sinners in Paradise (1938)

Passed | | Adventure, Drama, Romance | 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 »


James Whale


Lester Cole (screenplay), Harold Buckley (screenplay) | 2 more credits »


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Complete credited cast:
Madge Evans ... Anne Wesson
John Boles ... Jim Taylor
Bruce Cabot ... Robert Malone
Marion Martin ... Iris Compton
Gene Lockhart ... Sen. Corey
Charlotte Wynters ... Thelma Chase
Nana Bryant ... Mrs. Franklin Sydney
Milburn Stone ... Honeyman
Don 'Red' Barry ... Jessup (as Donald Barry)
Morgan Conway ... Harrison Brand
Willie Fung ... Ping


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


Passed | See all certifications »






Release Date:

19 May 1938 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Secrets of a Sinner See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Mirrophonic Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


In Madge Evans' interview with Leonard Maltin in "Film Fan Magazine" (December 1972), she gave the following testimony about making this film: "Well, this was not his 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 uptight 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 »


Although washed away on a deserted island, John Boles continually looks like he just stepped out of a Beverly Hills barber shop, and Marion Martin's bleached blonde hair remains styled and curled, with no dark roots, and she never abandons her false eyelashes and mascara makeup. See more »


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

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User Reviews

Not a hospitable host
27 April 2014 | by bkoganbingSee all my reviews

This film Sinners In Paradise was an interesting find. It's a combination of The Lost Horrizon, Stagecoach, The Admirable Crichton with a bit of Gilligan's Island thrown in.

An interesting mix of people are passengers on a sea plane bound for China which crashes in the Pacific and the surviving passengers plus a steward from the crew are tossed into the sea. They make it to a tropical island where John Boles and his servant Willie Fung have set up house. He's not a very hospitable host and forces these people to work for their keep. Some of them like Senator Gene Lockhart and heiress Charlotte Wynters are not used to manual labor. In this new society that is forming on the island they're at the bottom of the pecking order and resent it.

The rest of the survivors include steward Don Barry from the crew, recent divorcée Madge Evans bound for China to serve as a missionary, mob hit man Bruce Cabot, working class girl brassy Marion Martin, widow Nana Bryant looking to join her son in Shanghai, and a pair of munitions manufacturers Milburn Stone and Morgan Conway looking to make some money off the various wars going in China. It's quite an interesting group of castaways here on Boles' Island.

The iconoclastic Boles is a man of mystery. Their host has good and sufficient reason for not wanting to return to civilization. In point of fact those who want to get back the most are the ones that civilization could do without.

Lockhart is the most interesting character of the bunch. He can't figure out why a natural born 'leader' and man of the people isn't just handed responsibility to lead the castaways. He's not a great advertisement for our political leadership.

James Whale directed this film and it was a reunion of sorts with Boles who was in the cast of his most acclaimed work, the original Frankenstein. Although by now Whale was directing B films and Sinners In Paradise is definitely in that category, it's still an interesting piece of work and worthy of more than one look.

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