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The Seventh Sin (1957)

| Drama | 1958 (Argentina)
In post-WWII Hong Kong, unhappily married Carol has an affair with a married man. Her husband discovers it and presents her with a choice: travel with him to a remote mainland village or face the scandal of a very public divorce.


Ronald Neame, Vincente Minnelli (uncredited)


Karl Tunberg (screenplay), W. Somerset Maugham (novel)


Airs Wed. Jun. 26, 7:00 AM on TCM


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Complete credited cast:
Eleanor Parker ... Carolyn Carwin
Bill Travers ... Walter Carwin
George Sanders ... Tim Waddington
Jean-Pierre Aumont ... Paul Duvel
Françoise Rosay ... Mother Superior (as Francoise Rosay)
Ellen Corby ... Sister Saint Joseph


1949 Hong Kong. Married to other people, American Carolyn Carwin and French shipping executive Paul Duvel are having an affair. Carolyn admits that she never loved or has even really got to know her British medical doctor turned bacteriologist husband Walter Carwin, she having accepted his marriage proposal solely to stoke what was her damaged ego at the time. Walter, in turn, has always loved Carolyn despite being aware of her vanity and general narcissism. Carolyn suspects that Walter knows about the affair, a suspicion that is ultimately confirmed when he confronts her about it. In an ultimatum by Walter concerning the infidelity, Carolyn feels she has no other option but to agree to move to rural May Tan Fu on the Chinese mainland with him, there where a cholera outbreak has occurred. She has no desire to live in a remote backwater, let alone one where disease is running rampant. The health crisis, to which Walter feels his background is well suited in assisting, is something on ... Written by Huggo

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Any Sin But This One Could Be Forgiven!




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Release Date:

1958 (Argentina) See more »

Also Known As:

Hongkong war ihr Schicksal See more »

Filming Locations:

Hong Kong, China

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Sound Mix:

4-Track Stereo (Westrex Recording System)

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


Director Ronald Neame felt star Eleanor Parker was wrong for the part and consequently the actress was unhappy. Neame was fired by MGM ad replaced with Vincente Minelli although he refused to take any credit. As he was packing, Neame was very grateful for a sympathetic call he received from George Cukor, who told the director that he was fired from "Gone with the Wind" but was sure Neame would bounce back too. See more »


While the picture takes place between 1949-1950 in mainland China (see the Republic flag in the hospital), the clothes (dresses, shoes and hairdo) that Eleanor Parker wears are contemporary to when the picture was made in the mid-1950s. See more »


Tim Waddington: [watching her take some salad] Dear girl, you can't eat salad. Uncooked greens are dangerous at any time. But now it's practically sure death, isn't that right, Doctor?
Doctor Walter Carwin: Yes.
Carol Carwin: I thought that was the general idea.
Doctor Walter Carwin: My wife likes salad. So do I.
[he puts some on his plate]
Tim Waddington: I say, what's going on between you two? I know that it's very bad form to ask, but what is this - a suicide pact?
Doctor Walter Carwin: Don't be so melodramatic, Mr Waddington. After all, we've both been inoculated.
Tim Waddington: Yes, well, Watson was inoculated. I'll...
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Remade as The Painted Veil (2006) See more »

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User Reviews

Absolving the Sin after the Seventh Veil drops
23 March 2004 | by gleywongSee all my reviews

Somerset Maugham's taste for exotic locales is used to good purpose in this story of how a doctor's wife "finds" herself after an extramarital affair. I happened to catch this film half-way through (missed Parker's affair with Aumont), however, the Chinese locale and the level of acting kept me watching until the end, especially as I had just seen John Ford's "Seven Women" recently on the TCM channel. The question is, why did Ford's movie fail (for me), and this one succeed? Both were shepherded by distinguished directors, and the casting in both is impressive --so should we fault the script? In fact, one might say that the Neame & Minnelli team elicted better performances than did Ford in his China setting. Despite the impressive cast and Bancroft's intensity, everything about Ford's film seemed "wrong," and the setting in China was totally incidental to the struggle between the two leading ladies. In "Seventh Sin," however, Parker's struggle seemed very real, despite her cool demeanor (what would Deborah Kerr have done with this role?), and her inter-action, and later friendship with the Mother Superior appears honestly won.

Unlike another reviewer, I did not think that Bill Travers' performance was wooden. His reticent honesty works well here. It is a decided contrast to the stagy performance he gave with Jenifer Jones in "Barretts of Wimpole Street," where he seemed to shout through his role (this movie failed for me on other counts, too). In "Seventh Sin," the casting of George Sanders as the sympathetic local who marries a Chinese works quite well as a foil to the bluff but kind Travers, and for once, Sanders acts against type and gives a commendable, unmannered performance. In fact he is quite likable and also mastered some Chinese for the role. His Chinese wife is not credited, but I found her acting to be stiff and lacking in warmth or charm; her accent and the year 1957 when the movie was filmed made it likely that she was had spent at least a decade in Taiwan, rather than being born in the "imperial" family that Sanders claims and escaping to Hongkong.

As for the Chinese/Hong Kong setting, one wonders whether it could have been interchangeable with Algeria, or Africa. Was it incidental to the plot, as one could argue with "Seven Women"? No, I don't think so.

A character like the one Parker portrays had to discover her inner resources in a foreign country, and among persons who were less than amenable to her -- the Chinese, whose language she didn't understand, and the sisters of the convent -- definitely an essential feature of the Maugham original. Francoise Rosay is particularly convincing as the Mother Superior; this is a role that cuts to the heart of the character (unlike Margaret Leighton's role vis a vis Anne Bancroft's in "Seven Women"). The Mother Superior is not a one-dimensional person, but someone who has lived and who ultimately is the one who understands Travers' final words. She is able to interpret them correctly for the Parker, thereby absolving the guilty wife of her personal anguish. This is a very moving way to end the story, and contrasts with the heroic but blatant staging of Bancroft's suicide in "Seven Women." These parallels may not seem obvious to others, but they kept cropping up for me as I watched it.

I think for those who are interested in how China/Hong Kong is presented in Western film (compare for example, with "Love is a Many Splendored Thing" or "Sand Pebbles"), and for the rendering of stories by literary authors such as Maugham, "Seventh Sin" carries a sincerity of tone which makes it notable. Also, anything directed by Ronald Neame ("Blithe Spririt," "Major Barbara," "This Happy Breed" and other distinguished films), not to mention Vincenti Minnelli, makes it is definitely worth a look.

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