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The Seventh Sin (1957) is the second of three film versions of a 1925 novel by British writer W. Somerset Maugham. The story of the redemption of an adulterous wife during a cholera epidemic in China was first brought to the screen under the novels original title, The Painted Veil (1934) starring Greta Garbo as the wife, Herbert Marshall as the doctor husband, and George Brent as the lover. The 2006 remake of the same name, filmed on location in China, starred Naomi Watts, Edward Norton, and Liev Schreiber.
Star Eleanor Parker was at the peak of her career when she appeared in The Seventh Sin, having recently earned her third Oscar nomination as Best Actress for her performance in Interrupted Melody (1955). She had also won critical acclaim for two subsequent performances, the embittered invalid wife in The Man with the Golden Arm (1955), and a woman with split personalities in Lizzie (1957). English actor Bill Travers, who had recently made an impact in Bhowani Junction (1956), plays the cuckolded husband, and French actor Jean-Pierre Aumont the lover. George Sanders is third-billed in one of his trademark charming scoundrel roles, this time a more likeable rogue than usual, and one with a serious side. The Seventh Sin was the first American film helmed by British director Ronald Neame. In spite of all the talent involved, The Seventh Sin was a troubled production that Neame later described as a desperately unhappy venture.
Neame had begun his career as an assistant cameraman on the first British sound film, Blackmail (1929), directed by Alfred Hitchcock. Neame had worked as a cinematographer, producer, and screenwriter in British films before turning to directing in 1947. In his autobiography, he wrote that he had his doubts about The Seventh Sin: I dont think it was the ideal vehicle to launch a career in America in the fifties, but I was anxious to make a film here and the script was sent to me. Neame should have trusted his instincts. It was a time of turmoil at MGM. A few weeks into production, studio head Dore Schary was ousted, and according to Neame, the new regime didnt seem to be interested in the project. Along with producer David Lewis, Neame quit the film shortly before production finished, and was replaced by Vincente Minnelli. Neame later recalled that he received a call from director George Cukor, who assured him that the fiasco would not adversely affect his career. I speak with authority, so please believe me, Cukor said. I was the director who was taken off Gone With the Wind (1939), and Im still working.
Minnelli found a production in chaos. The enterprise was sour from the beginning, he recalled in his autobiography. The company didnt get along with each other and the producer and the director were having battles royal with the front office. Theyd struggled through most of the filming when matters finally became untenable. Minnelli did what he could, and refused to take any credit on The Seventh Sin. He only had to re-shoot some scenes and shoot a few new ones. Nevertheless, Minnelli biographer Mark Griffin sees some distinctive Minnelli flourishes in the finished film: The opening scene begins with ravenous close-ups of shoes, silk stockings, and jewelry--all obviously shed in the midst of an adulterous interlude. When the nervous loversare first glimpsed together, theyre posed before the inevitable Minnelli mirror. A later sequence features a sweeping boom maneuver; the camera sails up to Parkers bungalow and then right through the open window. Composer Miklos Rozsa recycled one of his trademark musical themes from a Minnelli film for The Seventh Sin: the waltz from Madame Bovary (1949), another story of an adulterous wife.
When The Seventh Sin was released, several critics found the Maugham story dated, and some of the acting unconvincing. It has the old-fashioned style of dramas of women suffering in the vintages of Madame X, according to the New York World Telegram critic. Frank Quinn of the New York Daily Mirror wrote that It has many crises but fails to stir the emotions, and that Travers gives his role a single dimension. But The Seventh Sin also received several admiring reviews. Hank Grant of the Hollywood Reporter called it A fascinating and absorbing picture, and praised Parker as Simply greatleaves no doubt as to every emotion she feels, yet never spilling over into maudlin pathos. Howard Thompson of the New York Times agreed. Miss Parker makes a sincere, even moving heroineIts a tough part; Miss Parker tackles it like a professional. Showmens Trade Review called Parker and Travers most effective, and added, Sanders, as the witty and cynical government employee, gives the crisp and believable dialogue his own special style of delivery.
Director: Ronald Neame, Vincente Minnelli (uncredited)
Producer: David Lewis, Sidney Franklin (uncredited)
Screenplay: Karl Tunberg, based on The Painted Veil by W. Somerset Maugham
Cinematography: Ray June
Editor: Gene Ruggiero
Costume Design: Helen Rose
Art Direction: William A. Horning, Daniel B. Cathcart
Music: Miklos Rozsa
Principal Cast: Eleanor Parker (Carol Carwin), Bill Travers (Dr. Walter Carwin), George Sanders (Tim Waddington), Jean-Pierre Aumont (Paul Duvelle), Francoise Rosay (Mother Superior), Ellen Corby (Sister St. Joseph), Judy Dan (Tim Waddingtons wife), Frank Tang (Dr. Ling), Kam Tong (Col. Yu)
by Margarita Landazuri