GenreComedy, Drama ScreenplayBen Hecht WriterBen Hecht LanguageEnglish
Release dateMay 29, 1952 (1952-05-29) (New York City) CastEdward G. Robinson (Maurice Tillayou (Actor's Blood sequence)), Eddie Albert (Orlando Higgens (segment "Woman of Sin")), Marsha Hunt (Marcia Tillayou (Actor's Blood sequence)), Alan Reed (Jerome (J.B.) Cobb (Woman of Sin sequence)), Dan O'Herlihy (Alfred O'Shea / Narrator (Actor's Blood sequence)), Tracey Roberts (Miss Flanagan (Woman of Sin sequence)) Similar moviesNunsense 3: The Jamboree, Birdman, Company, Wonderful Town, Liza in London, The Producers
TaglineWhat goes on when the greasepaint comes off?
Actors and Sin is a 1952 American black-and-white comedy-drama film written, produced and directed by Ben Hecht. The film marks Edward G. Robinson's second film with actress Marsha Hunt. Also known by its section names of Actor's Blood and Woman of Sin, the film debuted in New York City on May 29, 1952. Lee Garmes was co-director and cinematographer, as he was on most of the films Hecht directed.
The film lampoons the Hollywood motion picture industry and is separated into two sections: The first section of the film is Actor's Blood, a morality play about legitimate theater. The second section is Woman of Sin, a send-up of Hollywood greed.
Actor's Blood takes place in New York City. Broadway star Marcia Tillayou (Marsha Hunt) has been found shot dead in her apartment. Her father Maurice (Edward G. Robinson) is himself an actor, and had watched her theater career rise as his own declined. She had let success overcome her, and had thus alienated critics, fans, producers, and her playwright husband (Dan O'Herlihy). She had a few recent stage flops before being murdered.
Woman of Sin takes place in Hollywood. Dishonest agent writer's agent Orlando Higgens (Eddie Albert) has been receiving frantic calls from Daisy Marcher (Jenny Hecht) about a screenplay she had written called Woman of Sin. Thinking they are crank calls, Higgens tells her to never call his office again. He then learns that through a mixup of the mails, her screenplay had been received by film mogul J.B. Cobb (Alan Reed), a man who once passed on Gone With the Wind based on Higgins' advice. Cobb thinks that Higgins sent the script and offers Higgins a lucrative sum for the rights. The problem is that Higgins has no idea where Daisy is, or that she is actually a nine-year-old child.
Actor's Blood sequence:
Woman of Sin sequence:
In speaking toward the film's two sections, DVD Talk writes "Both are light, breezy, and inconsequential, though admittedly written with an expert's ear for dialogue and a knack for clever story twists." They write that both sections "move at an efficient pace", and praise Ben Hecht for the dialog and rhythm of his scripts. They also note that the actors were well chosen, finding flaw only in the child actors used in the Woman of Sin segment. They did have critique about the material itself, noting that while Hecht knew his way around both Hollywood and Broadway, the subject matter comes off as a little "too inside". They were also disappointed in the two stories, finding the plotlines "fairly hokey and predictable". However, and despite the "hackneyed narrative", they found the film overall to be "very watchable", in that Hecht's sense of timing kept the project from being boring.
DVD Verdict wrote that "the most intriguing element" of the film, and not properly promoted by the film's trailer, is that "it is actually two brief films combined in one package." In analyzing Actor's Blood, they wrote that there was "an opportunity for insight and depth in this story, but it would seem that Mr. Hecht wrote the screenplay while in a blind rage." They offered that the material might even have been comedic but for it being "preposterously heavy-handed". They felt that the actors generally spoke each line over-dramatically and floundered, with only Edward G. Robinson "able to make this work within the context of his character". In their analysis of Woman of Sin, they found it to be "reasonably engaging early on as a breezy satire", despite the concept of a story written by a nine-year-old "earning words of praise and adoration from the likes of Jack Warner and Louis B. Mayer". They noted that the cameos by the studio heads were amusing, but that the story was derailed by the use of Ben Hecht's daughter Jenny in the role of child screenwriter Daisy Marcher. They felt that she was "fingernails-on-a-blackboard grating" in this role, in that she "dials up every aspect of precociousness that can afflict a child actor as high as it can possibly go, and her presence effectively destroys any sense of comic momentum that the film had built up to that point," making her use a clear example of the problems inherent in nepotism. They concluded that the film would stand as "an interesting curiosity for Hollywood history buffs, but fails as a cinematic experience."
Upon original release, several theater chains refused to screen the film due to its lampooning of stage and screen. This resulted in a lawsuit by United Artists and Sid Kuller Productions against the A. B. C. Theatres Company.